THIS THING CALLED CANADA is fragile.
A painting by a First Nations’ artist illustrates a point that at first glance looks like a mistake. Imagine a serene wilderness scene. And atop that pristine image of nature, a superimposed Canadian flag rides on top— a flag peeling away from the canvas — paint that will completely flake off over time.
Canada is a work in progress. And it’s the very idea of progress (as we shall discuss in this series of posts) which has put the country in the crosshairs of activists, advocacy groups, and especially our current prime minister.
We believe that if unchecked, ill-defined ambitions for the prairie and the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains will echo a history (and a dreadful one at that) in the name of progress.
IT’S HAPPENED BEFORE
James Daschuk is an accomplished scholar at the University of Regina. In this time of Truth & Reconciliation, we recommend his horrifying history Clearing The Plains (2013). Daschuk describes how the prairies were cleansed with government approval — a sickening policy of disease and starvation — because the Blackfoot and Cree stood in the way of ‘progress’: the building of a transcontinental railway and a settler economy.
From the perspective of the federal government in the late 19th century, the plains Indians, as they were referred to back then, were nomads on a bountiful land that was otherwise going to waste (a sentiment echoed in Australia, for instance, and its concept of terra nullius, whereby, the vast territory was legally nobody’s per se (because natives never owned land), therefore, the government could do as it pleased. And it did).
There are eerie parallels today.
The petroleum economy that once flourished in Alberta & Saskatchewan—the Canadian prairies, the same place previously cleared of indigenous peoples— has been heavily constrained, methodically held back by state-sanctioned climate change goals in the name of progress.
CLEARING THE PLAINS 2.0
The prime minister and his cabinet have created the conditions to once more empty the prairie to make way for a progressive agenda.
The iconic pump-jacks, oil sands development, pretty much anything having to do with the petroleum economy are now an endangered species.
We don’t think Justin Trudeau hates Alberta. Nor is he being spiteful as he strangles the province, and its petroleum twin Saskatchewan. He just imagines a greater good for us in confederation and the world.
THOU SHALT BE A REFUGE
Our prairie home is to be transformed into a pristine state of endless parkland and protected spaces. And where once there was thriving industry and an economy that kept people on the land, well… you’re getting in the way of progress.
We’re not making this up.
By his words and deeds (as we’ve outlined in prior posts), the prime minister is intent on saving the planet from man-made climate change. Western Canada will be renovated. Our land will be purified. And a thriving petroleum industry on the Canadian plains is not part of the plan.
He’s not alone.
“[N]othing else measures up to the rising toll and enormous dangers of climate change. I worry that our children and grandchildren will one day ask us, bitterly, why we spent so much time distracted by lesser matters.”
And yet, clearing the prairies (this time of an oil-based economy) and creating the conditions for our home & native land to be preserved as a safe place, a safe haven, a safe harbour in the event of global catastrophe isn’t a new idea.
And neither is it a progressive one.
The history of this scheme is an eye-opener. There’s the Cold War and the very real threat of nuclear armageddon. And when that didn’t happen, another existential crisis was proclaimed by The Club of Rome; a doomsday scenario inspired by 18th century philosopher Thomas Malthus (bad things happen when humans fight over limited resources) championed by Petro-Canada’s first president Maurice Strong. And when that didn’t happen as prophesied, yet another doomsday scenario was hatched. And failing that, yet another and another… it almost reads like a conspiracy theory if it wasn’t all true! And it’s a history we will unpack in our next post in the series.
This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill.
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