Tar Sands for the week (July 2, 2014).

It’s already been a couple of weeks since Gateway was approved and it appears little has changed. Organizing continues on all fronts, and any major attempts to derail other organizing in BC seems to be, so far at least, not affecting fracking campaigns, attempts to block the Kinder Morgan tar sands expansion or other vital work. Let’s hope this continues– but the big ENGO’s have not changed their tack, either.

Christy Clark is touted as the best hope for people who have institutionalized themselves with the establishment. Simply put: People inside the power brokers of the larger green forces in BC have long ago put aide any notion of building real organizing capacity, instead mobilizing people for simple petitions, letter writing and more– with the target to “win over” the powers that be with the grand eloquence of their stated position.

Asked to be spectators by government and corporations to the construction of all manner of industrial over-reach, when this is rejected the next disenfranchisement takes place when people are asked to forego their own contributions to struggle in place of working to support demands that are mere requests, campaigns that are public relations oriented and victories that are anything but.

Organized community is a funny thing: If the “offer” coming from developers and their government-oriented friends is insufficient for the immediate needs of, for example, human and/or water health, then community will not negotiate that point. For this reason ENGO’s, that are completely reliant on funding that comes from getting deals, are more afraid of democratically led environmental movements than they are of actual corporations they ostensibly oppose.

This should be taken at face value from Suncor, no less. Mid-June, the following came out:

“After all, aren’t all ENGOs hell-bent on disrupting and delaying energy infrastructure, publicly attacking consumer brands for their energy choices and persuading investors to ditch fossil fuel company stocks? Well actually, no.”


Followed later on by:

 “While our work with some ENGOs, such as the Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe and the Alberta Conservation Association, is well known, you might be surprised to learn that we also talk with Environmental Defence and even Greenpeace.

Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, in fact, have both toured our operations. The intention wasn’t to have them leave donning Suncor ball caps and singing our praises, but rather to try to increase their understanding of oil sands development and the efforts we go to develop the resource in an environmentally-responsible way because we’re proud of our operations. Their representatives seemed to appreciate the opportunity to visit and we appreciate learning more about their perspective, their concerns, and hopefully, their ideas to address challenges.”

The question should be asked– why would organizations that are supposedly interested in shutting down the tar sands completely be invited to– or have any interest– hearing the Suncor line? I’ll leave that question loaded and unanswerable in the moment, because the mouthful is obvious. There are already clear signs of talks going on, mainly from editorial screeds talking about “greening the tar sands” from people who know better.


Meanwhile, it is an extremely good week to be from the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, in a better but still incomplete ruling from the Supreme Court. This may, in fact, be a case of the SCOC trying to protect the Harper Regime from itself. The roughshod approach to Enbridge and Gateway, while providing a decent cover to try and ram home other developments, now has the added bonus of setting new heights for indigenous legal challenges to succeed. Just as Christy Clark may only ever consider blocking the pipeline if the population is organizing to go far beyond simply stopping one pipe and killing a single line may take some of the air out of the tires of BC organizing.


Am I insane to suggest that the new, higher standard for legal challenges in colonial courts– still not addressing sovereignty– may make tactical sense as organizing at the community level for so many First Nations has rarely been higher in the colonial era called Canada, and the fear of the nations exerting title to land by being on the land means a need to entice elected Indian Act chiefs and more into the courts instead? Now that the world can be shown how well treated FN’s are to be in the future due to this victory (and a massive one, on a relative sale, that few would have hoped for), would it not make it easier to attack other communities– saying “they simply can’t be negotiated with?”


There is a lot invested in Canada’s world image as human rights defender rather than colonial outpost. So much so, in fact, that that veneer is perhaps the best weapon of the Canadian state. Given the refusal to simply disappear from history by the true owners of the lands called Canada these days, this ruling– while forced upon the colonial state by organized resistance– may be the current plan B to create better conditions for industrial resource collection on stolen lands in the near future.


Perhaps with their RCMP and military guns drawn. Let us celebrate with continued struggle, not a step back nor a victory tour.