It’s been a significant 24 hours for the future of climate and Indigenous-rights discussions in Canada.
Last night, Teck Resources announced it was shelving its planned Frontier oil sands mine. That project was due to be be discussed at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, where it would get its final federal approval or rejection. Many MPs in the Liberal caucus were opposed to the project on environmental grounds. The project had not been widely known in national circles before Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said its approval was a litmus test for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to the resources industry.
In the end, the cabinet will not have to make a decision on Frontier. Teck’s CEO, Don Lindsay, said the company pulled the plug on the project because of an uncertain regulatory framework for balancing environmental and economic commitments – and said the company didn’t like having become the centre of that broader debate. Teck says it will post a $1.13-billion writedown for the cancelled project. However, even if the project had been approved, it’s unclear whether it would have been built any time soon because its economic viability relied on the price of oil increasing sharply in the near future. (Business leaders were, not surprisingly, unhappy with the cancellation.)
Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police cleared the blockade at Tyendinaga this morning that had frozen rail traffic in Ontario for weeks. Mohawk protesters said six people were detained, though the OPP has not announced any charges. It’s not clear when rail service will resume or if other protests will pop up along the line.
The Tyendinaga blockade began in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in Northern B.C. who are trying to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural-gas pipeline through their traditional, unceded territory.
The debate in Wet’suwet’en has been complicated by the question of who in the community supports the construction and who does not. The company involved had apparently won the support of elected band councils along the route, but not the hereditary chiefs who look after the sprawling territories.
However, it’s not clear that those chiefs leading the protests actually speak for all those they lead. The Globe and Mail’s Nancy MacDonald has spoken to others in the community, who say they support the project and say the community has not had a proper internal discussion about what to do.
“These five so-called hereditary chiefs, who say they are making decisions on behalf of all Wet’suwet’en, do not speak for the Wet’suwet’en,” Gary Naziel, a hereditary subchief, said.
While Teck Frontier may be done, the Wet’suwet’en protests may not be over any time soon.
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Justine Hunter (The Globe and Mail) on reconciliation in B.C., beyond Wet’suwet’en: “Yet, Indigenous leaders will still be sitting down this week with B.C. government officials, to work on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Because outside of this conflict, there is still progress being made.”
Jennifer Klinck and Madelaine Mackenzie (The Globe and Mail) on the role of protests in the movement to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs: “Freedom of peaceful assembly often operates where law ends and politics begin. Protesting is how marginalized groups can demand to be heard in the face of systemic injustice. For this reason, we should not be surprised to find that simplistic appeals to the rule of law are often unhelpful: the very problem may be unjust laws.”
Blair Stonechild (The Globe and Mail) on the intersection of Indigenous rights and environmentalism: “Academics and philosophers concerned about the trajectory of contemporary society realize there needs to be a major shift in our thinking about development. Endless resource exploitation, economic growth and population expansion are unsustainable. Unfortunately, our current systems do not seem capable of planning for or dealing with such challenges. Our collective failure to deal with climate change is a prime example.”
Douglas Sanderson (Policy Options) on Wet’suwet’en’s style of governance: “And so, in many First Nation communities, there exists two parallel systems of government. One system is thousands of years old and is grounded in the traditions of particular Indigenous communities. The other system is imposed, based in Western political structures, and serves the purpose of acting as a financial and fiduciary conduit between the community and the federal Crown, which ultimately administers these First Nation communities.”
Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz (The Globe and Mail) on energy, the environment and the Conservative leadership race: “What might be more surprising is that in the United States, where rural ridings skew Republican, efforts by President Donald Trump to make coal great again have been rejected by Republican members of Congress who are more interested in opportunities developing wind and solar in their districts.”
Don Braid (Calgary Herald) on the future of resources projects: “Teck is just the latest abandoned project — and maybe the last, because it’s unlikely that anything of this size will even be proposed again.”