(UR) Ottawa, Canada — This month the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals undid years of government maneuvering when it effectively killed the Northern Gateway Pipeline, a project of the energy giant, Enbridge. At least for now.
Despite the cautious joy most assuredly felt by environmental groups and First Nations in the immediacy of the ruling, the court’s decision does more than just indicate that government and corporate interests can be deterred, it highlights the continuing colonial nature of the Canadian government, and corporate North America.
Prior to the court of appeals decision, Enbridge was facing a rather harsh deadline: to begin construction by December 31 of this year, according to a motion of extension filled by the company. Given the most recent ruling, and continuing First Nations’ doubts as to the environmental impact of the pipeline, this timeline is now far too short to meet, even without this recent decision.
More is at work here than just profits and resource extraction: This ongoing interaction indicates issues that are buried deeper in Canada’s geography than just fossil fuels.
One of the main motivating factors for this month’s court of appeals decision comes from the lack of First Nation consultation in the pipeline project. First Nations have long been moved, removed, displaced, and ignored in Canada, particularly when it comes to resources and mineral rights. Although these issues tend to be framed simply as related to access to these resources, the willingness and desire for corporations and governments on both the federal and provincial levels points directly to an enduring colonial project.
Resources are, in this case, simply the lens through which the government and its corporate benefactors seek to move the discussion towards the profitability and development of non-Western peoples. Hidden within the discourse, the ongoing repetition that national standards of wealth and growth need to be met and will bring profit to Fourth World populations, lies the continuation of the colonial project. It is this motivation that pushes the swiftness of judicial action in Canada, often creating rulings that support corporate greed while ignoring treaties, land claims, and the cultural and spiritual realities of many First Nations’ views on environmentalism.
By way of reducing First Nations’ relationship to the land to simple legal issues, matters that require decisions from colonial courts, the greater cultural realities and relationships are lost — the semiotics are changed and colonized, re-produced as similar and comprehensible to the colonial majority.
While this judicial victory seems to be a good thing, particularly as the decision invokes First Nations’ rights, that the First Nations’ relationships with the lands of their ancestors are still being decided by colonial courts, using colonial terms and language, does little to reduce the neo-colonization and neoliberal agenda.
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