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What is this, a pipeline for ants?

A pipeline for ants?

As the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel continues to snake its away across British Columbia, it is difficult not to reflect that this is a hard time to be an environmentalist.

When plans were launched to build a pipeline to carry Albertan oil through Nebraska’s sensitive wetlands, it took an unprecedented amount of criticism and activism to convince President Obama to reject the application. While that decision may soon be reversed, it didn’t take long before some bright entrepreneur suggested an alternative option: why not build a pipeline some place where environmental integrity won’t be an obstacle… say, British Columbia!

…oh joy. Continue Reading »

Settlers in solidarity with Idle No More.

Settlers in solidarity with Idle No More.

Last week I attended a town hall-style panel discussion in Victoria on the future of Idle No More, one that posed the question that’s on everyone’s mind, “Where do we go from here?”

In one of the evening’s poignant moments – there were many – a non-indigenous woman walked up to a microphone to bring attention to something that was upsetting her deeply. A previous speaker had suggested that non-indigenous people would be supportive of the movement just as long as it didn’t personally inconvenience them – a fair statement in itself, only the speaker didn’t use that politically correct appellation, non-indigenous. Continue Reading »

You’ve done this and forgotten about it, and it wasn’t a great record – and twenty-five years later you get a letter…

From the liner notes to "Bunkhouse & Forecastle."

From the liner notes to “Bunkhouse & Forecastle.”

Almost two years ago, a friend and I left drove south from Montreal to a small town snuggled next to the American border. It was the middle of February, and our destination was the township of Hemmingford, QC, a charming but inconspicuous place you’ve probably never heard of. Our aim was to visit Stanley G. Triggs, someone neither of us had met before, and a man whom, had things been only a little different, we’d have probably never heard of either.

Continue Reading »

Royal Proclamation of 1763

“God Save the King”: Royal Proclamation of 1763

Think of the great dates in Canadian history and what comes to mind? Probably 1867, or possibly 1982. I’d even allow 1812 (begrudgingly).

What probably doesn’t come to mind is Oct. 7, 1763, the day King George III issued the proclamation that enshrined aboriginal rights in British North America. In doing so, he helped to spark a revolution and layed the foundations for a distinct political and legal tradition in what would become Canada. It’s kind of a big deal. Continue Reading »

A general observation: most advertisements, sports teams, fashion brands, and movies are about as culturally sensitive as a decolonization is easy. Which is to say, not very. That much will be clear to anyone that’s read the fantastic blog, Native Appropriations. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly suggest you check it out. But I got to thinking the other day, what would it be like if your average market industry was a force for decolonization? We’re a ways off that yet, but, hey, what’s the harm in dreaming. With apologies to Molson, here’s an ad I’m still waiting for: Continue Reading »

About a month ago a pair of white South Africans ignited an international discussion about race and responsibility when they printed 10 t-shirts with the words “I benefited from apartheid” written boldly across the chest.

Those 10 were distributed at an art installation and were spoken for so quickly that another 30 were quickly produced. The gesture, a response to reactionary criticism of a supermarket’s hiring policy, elicited all manner of responses. Some suggested the t-shirt designers were motivated by a misplaced guilt; others felt they were unnecessarily digging up old history better forgotten; still others felt they were appropriating a struggle that whites had little place in.

One thing was undeniable: those 40 t-shirts prompted a debate about race and apartheid, guilt and responsibility. Uncharacteristically, the debate centered on the place of whites within post-apartheid South Africa, asking uncomfortable questions that seldom get asked. To what extent do whites today remain beneficiaries of the apartheid system? To what extent are whites responsible for its ongoing effects? Continue Reading »

The Canadian government’s decision to spend some $28 million on War of 1812 commemorations in a time of apparent fiscal crisis elicited all manner of responses.  For some it represents a baffling use of resources. Others question the prudence of commemorating a forgotten war given the concurrent milestone anniversaries of institutions like Parks Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, CBC Radio and Medicare. There are also those who herald the 1812 commemorations as a long overdue investment into our country’s history.

There is some truth in each of those responses, but what strikes me above all is a sense that we have lost an opportunity here. Continue Reading »