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New matrimonial property laws a slippery slope to reserve land for sale
By Josh Grummett
Originally posted at APTN on 24 January 2014
Laws that protect Canadian couples in the event of a breakup were extended to First Nation communities last month when the Matrimonial Real Property Act (MRPA) came into effect. But critics say it’s just another move toward dismantling First Nation communities.
In pushing this bill to become law, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said, “It is unacceptable in this day and age that people living on reserve are not afforded the same rights and protections as those living off reserve.”
“It’s all just optics. It makes white people feel good about themselves,” said activist and Aboriginal lawyer, Joan Jack.
And she says it’s a slippery slope from the MRPA to privatizing reserve land.
“It’s not about giving people rights, it’s about money. Because there’s no money coming from the federal government for housing for infrastructure. So therefore they need to turn everything into (private) lands so people can borrow money from the bank, build a house, build a driveway and the government doesn’t have to pay for anything,” Jack said. “It’s about assimilation.”
The Harper government began the push towards the MRPA back in 2007. Taking the issue one step further (PDF) was the free-market advocacy think-tank, the Fraser Institute.
“When the Fraser institute recommends matrimonial property rights what they’re saying — and they do go steps further in advocating private property in general on reserves and other Aboriginal lands — they frame it in the sense that this is about empowering Indigenous communities, helping them come into the modern democratic market-driven society,” says Andrew Gavin Marshall, an activist/writer/researcher based in Montreal who manages The People’s Book Project examining institutions and ideas of power.
It’s no coincidence that the Conservative government and the Fraser Institute are interested in property issues on reserves, he says, nor is he surprised that the Fraser Institute’s spokeswoman on Aboriginal issues, Ravina Bains, used to be the director of policy for Aboriginal Affairs Canada under the Harper government.
Author and Simon Fraser University professor Don Gutstein has spent decades scrutinizing the interconnectivity of government, the media, think-tanks and big business. Like Marshall, he questions the motivations of both the Harper government and Fraser Institute when it comes to their property rights advocacy.
“Their mission is to turn everything into markets, and there are obstacles to markets. One obstacle is Aboriginal governance where there’s collective ownership. That has to be gotten rid of — eliminated. So that’s one of the projects they are involved with is to work gradually to undermine band structure and turning reserves into private land that can then be bought and sold by anybody,” Gutstein says.
That the mainstream media runs with the Fraser Institute’s research and doesn’t question why the think-tank is interested in on-reserve property rights, is his biggest beef.
“This is what bugs me about the media: if you’ve gone to journalism school, one of the first things you learn is to follow the money. And they’ve never done that… they report (the research) as news, as if it’s factual, and gradually those ideas become entrenched in the general public or a significant enough portion of the public that it becomes the new reality.”
If you follow the money, you find some deep pockets fund the Fraser Institute. For example, the Aurea Foundation (PDF) it’s the private foundation of Peter Munk, head of Barrick Gold. A gold mining company, one could argue, might be interested in reserve land being privatized so it can be sold. They’re a proud supporter of the Fraser institute. Adding substance to Gutstein’s assertion that media and big business and right-wing think-tanks are too cozy: well-known national affairs columnist Andrew Coyne sits on the board of the Aurea Foundation and has been criticized for citing research done by think-tanks that Aurea has funded, without disclosing his personal connection to the foundation.
Then there are the Koch brothers, of the controversial U.S.-based Koch Industries which makes billions in petroleum, chemicals, energy, and gas sectors, to name a few. U.S. tax records showthey also donate generously to the Fraser Institute.
But who else foots the bill for operations and research at Canadian think-tanks is largely a mystery because they’re not required by Revenue Canada to disclose who donates the cash, only how much is donated.
“To their great discredit, none of these think-tanks give of a list of their funders,” Gutstein says. “That should be a requirement. Transparency would be beneficial to everyone so we could understand what the agenda was.”
Fraser Institute president Niels Veldhuis told APTN Investigates the lack of disclosure is just good business.
“Our competitors who want to emulate us, if they got a hold of our supporters we’ve spent 38 years building, they’d contact every one of them and try to get money from them,” Veldhuis says.
He scoffs at the suggestion that corporations and rich individuals give to the think tank in exchange for research that benefits their business interests.
“Donors give us money because they like the work we have done in the past. They’re not involved in the questions we ask, they have no involvement in our research and in fact our donors see our research at the same time the media sees our research.”
Maybe the donors don’t, but Marshall points out the board of directors of these free-market advocacy think tanks are stacked with people who come from the same business backgrounds as the donors.
“You’re not going to be against that which your power is based,” Marshall says. “If you want to expand and protect your power you’re not going to be undermining it through everything you own.”
Regardless of whether or not big business is funding research as a way to get a foot in the door of reserves across Canada, or if the federal government is in on this private property push, Joan Jack says the Matrimonial Real Property Act won’t help vulnerable Aboriginal women and children as claimed.
“On paper it makes (the government) look really good but when a woman is getting thrown out of her house — whether she’s a band member or not — she’s getting thrown out of her house and she’s going to need RCMP protection, you’re going to need a lawyer and in most communities those services aren’t available to women, period,” she said.
“It’s insulting and it makes me sad that the Canadian government thinks all they have to do is make things look good on paper. Meanwhile they wonder why we’re still killing ourselves.”
Under the MRPA, First Nations can devise their own laws to deal with issues like who gets the house in the event of a breakup, so long as it’s within the guidelines of the MRPA. Federal rules apply as a default.
TransCanada Corporation – Kings of the Keystone Pipeline: Global Power Project, Part 10
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally posted at Occupy.com
TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure.” Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.
If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”
As opposition to the pipeline project increased — and dramatically so in the wake of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill — Girling stated, “There is no way we could have ever predicted that we would become the lightning rod for a debate around fossil fuels and the development of the Canadian oil sands…The pipeline itself is routine. It’s something we do every day. It will be a safe pipeline.”
Canada’s National Energy Board, however, said that TransCanada had failed to meet safety standards for its pipeline within Canada. While the company “considered itself compliant,” a former TransCanada employee blew the whistle on TransCanada’s “culture of noncompliance” of environmental and safety regulations that posed “significant public safety risks,” and referred to the company’s approach as “organized crime.”
In the United States, TransCanada has been suing American citizens who refuse to allow the pipeline to cross their property, threatening to confiscate their lands through the application of “eminent domain,” which allows for the confiscation of private property if “it is judged to serve a larger public good.”
The U.S. State Department was responsible for undertaking an “environmental assessment” of the pipeline to determine whether or not it would be approved. Declassified documents revealed an intense lobbying effort by TransCanada with the State Department, including several officials with the company holding multiple meetings with high-level State Department officials.
TransCanada has hired multiple lobbying firms and individuals, many of whom have direct ties to the Obama administration. This potentially even includes ties to Obama’s personal lawyer as well as to a former campaign adviser. In the first half of 2013, TransCanada spent nearly half a million dollars lobbying the United States on the Keystone project.
In 2013, the Canadian government announced its intentions to fund a massive $16 million PR campaign for the Canadian oil and energy industry in the United States, with a “key part” of the funding going toward promoting the Keystone project. This is part of an agenda decided in March of 2010, when officials from the Canadian federal government and the Alberta government met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” in promoting the tar sands.
By 2013, there were roughly 48 different groups lobbying the U.S. government on the issue of the Keystone project, and all but two appeared to be lobbying in favor of the project. While a good deal of the promotions for the project emphasized that it would create thousands – and potentially tens of thousands – of jobs, these jobs were almost exclusively temporary, and the State Department’s own assessment noted that the actual number of full-time jobs that would be created by the pipeline would be 20.
Then, in early March of 2013, the State Department released a 2,000-page draft report assessing the environmental impact of the Keystone project. The State Department had contracted the writing of the report to “experts” who had previously worked for TransCanada. In fact, TransCanada even paid the consultancy firm to write the report, which was subsequently considered an official government document of the State Department.
Not surprisingly, the Canadian government and the oil industry praised the report, while environmentalists and climate scientists criticized it as “deeply flawed.” Both the EPA and the Department of Interior have subsequently slammed the report as “insufficient” and “inaccurate.”
The government of Canada has, for years, been writing laws and implementing major policies at the direct suggestion of the oil industry, and has increasingly been demonizing those who protest against the policies, especially indigenous and environmental groups.
The Canadian government has been increasingly equating protest groups with “terrorists,” and Canada’s spy agencies have been providing information about protesters directly to energy corporations, and even infiltrating such groups in an effort to disrupt their actions. TransCanada provided training information to police agencies across the U.S. in which they refer to anti-pipeline protests as “terrorism.”
Meet the Elites at TransCanada Corporation
Russell K. Girling is the president and CEO of TransCanada and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), an interest group that consists of Canada’s top 150 CEOs and was the main driving force behind corporate treaty projects like NAFTA. Girling is also a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and the U.S. Business Roundtable, as well as being a board member of Agrium Inc., an agribusiness conglomerate. Girling was also the co-chair of the City of Calgary 2012 United Way campaign.
Derek Burney, who sits on the board of TransCanada, is a senior advisor to the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, chairman of the international advisory board of GardaWorld, a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital, and a member of the board of governors of Ottawa Hospital. Burney is the former chairman of the board of CanWest Global Communications Corporation (formerly Canada’s largest newspaper conglomerate) from 2006 to 2010, former president and CEO of CAE Inc. (1999 to 2004), former chairman and CEO of Bell Canada (1993 to 1999), and was the former lead director of Shell Canada from 2001 to 2007.
On top of that, Burney was the Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993, following two years serving as chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in which time he was a pivotal figure involved in the negotiations of NAFTA. Burney was also the Prime Minister’s personal representative to the G-7 Summits between 1990 and 1992. He is the chancellor of Lakehead University, and was the head of the Conservative Transition Team in 2006 for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after which time he was appointed to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (2007 to 2008). Burney is a distinguished alumni of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and is a member of the distinguished advisory council of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
Richard E. Waugh is a member of the board and CEO of The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a director of the International Monetary Conference (IMC), an international meeting of bankers, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the largest and most influential international banking lobbying group. Waugh is also a member of the Council of the Americas, a member of the international advisory council of The Americas Society, a board member and chair of the Canada advisory board of Catalyst. He is also a member of the advisory councils of the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, as well as being the former campaign chair for the United Way of Toronto, and the current co-chair of the Canada-Brazil CEO Forum.
Members of the board of TransCanada sit on the boards of multiple other energy and oil companies, media conglomerates, military contractors, banks, interest groups and think tanks, as well as having served in top government positions. The elites at TransCanada have the connections to push the Keystone pipeline down the throats of North Americans, to destroy the environment, and make a handsome profit in the process.
As Utah Phillips once wrote, “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
Aboriginals threatened by present, not past
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally published in The Province, 13 August 2013
In a recent article published in The Province, columnist Naomi Lakritz wrote that aboriginal people need to drop “the victimization mantle” and take “individual responsibility.”
The essential idea, as Lakritz elaborated to me in an email exchange, was that aboriginal people should “move on” and stop “wallowing in the past.”
How can people “move on” from history, if history has not moved on from them? Aboriginal people point to their history so that we may learn our own. Our histories are intertwined, and have been so since the first European colonists arrived in this land.
In 1920, Duncan Campbell, Canada’s deputy Indian Affairs minister, declared: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem.” The program of “assimilation” (or “cultural genocide”) was largely undertaken through Indian “residential schools.”
Some five decades after, our government used aboriginal children as lab rats, conducting nutritional and medical experiments on them.
Aboriginal communities across the country lack access to safe drinking water at a much higher level than the rest of Canadians. They face comparably higher levels of food insecurity, unemployment, poor housing, poverty, infant mortality, substance abuse, addiction and suicide, and make up a disproportionately high percentage of the prison population.
Early this year, the Harper government announced “a huge boom in Canadian natural resource projects” over the coming decade, potentially worth $600 billion.
Most of these projects will occur “on or near” aboriginal land (as in, the land we had not previously colonized in its entirety).
Harper’s omnibus bills reduced the amount of protected lakes from 40,000 to 97 and rivers from 2.5 million to 63, paving the way for unhindered corporate extraction and environmental degradation. Whether next to a DeBeers mine in Attawapiskat, or near the tarsands in Alberta, aboriginal communities are directly exposed to the devastating environmental and health costs of our “development” projects.
It was within this context that, in late 2012, aboriginal people across Canada launched the Idle No More movement, taking responsibility not only for their own rights as indigenous people, but for the protection of the environment, linking up with indigenous groups in the United States to oppose pipelines and environmentally destructive projects, with peaceful protests, road blockades and public-awareness campaigns.
The Canadian government passes omnibus bills for the benefit of large resource-based corporations, rapidly accelerating environmental degradation, pushing not only Canada — but the human species as a whole — ever closer to the inevitable extinction faced by any self-destructive organism.
Instead of telling aboriginal people to “quit blaming the past” and take “responsibility,” perhaps the rest of Canada should stop ignoring the past and take some responsibility for the present, to ensure that we may actually have a future, not simply as a nation, but as a species. Perhaps it’s time for the rest of Canada to become Idle No More.
— Andrew Gavin Marshall is a researcher and writer based in Montreal.
A Brief Message for Canadians: Get Over It!
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
CANADIANS: Be ashamed that this newspaper column is what passes for the “public discourse” in this country: a raving, ignorant, arrogant, idiotic and racist rant telling Indigenous people to “get over it” – referring to the state-sanctioned racism, genocide, and imperialism – all of which is still taking place.
Naomi Lakritz wrote a syndicated column for the Calgary Herald on July 31, that First Nations people “need to quit blaming the past” for the circumstances in which they live, because they “have nobody to blame but themselves.” First Nations people, suggested Lakritz, need to drop “the victimization mantle” and instead, start “with the concept of individual responsibility.” In other words: get over it!
No, instead of Canadians acknowledging our history as a nation – the violent destruction, exploitation, domination, murder and discrimination exerted against the indigenous peoples of the land we invaded and occupied – this “journalist” thinks that Indigenous people should “stop blaming their history.”
They are not blaming their history: they are pointing to their history so that we may learn our own. We have a ‘shared’ history, and it has led us to the present. If we – as Canadians – actually looked at our history, and traced its evolution up to the present, we would realize that our ‘colonial’ history has now evolved into a modern state-capitalist imperial present. Our historical injustices imposed upon Indigenous peoples have modern incarnations: the system of domination, exploitation, segregation, discrimination and – yes(!) – genocide, continues today.
If we learned about all that, we might want to change it. We might develop something called ‘empathy’ which can lead to something called ‘solidarity.’ These are very human characteristics, so I understand that they seem challenging to relate to in a deeply dehumanizing society; but remember, we have a shared history and we share the present. Our histories are intertwined and interdependent, and so too is our future.
We might look out at the fact that Indigenous people, not only in Canada but around the world, are rising up in rebellion against the rampant and accelerating destruction of the environment, which will lead the species to extinction. Indigenous people are on the front lines of the global struggle against human extinction and the preservation of the environment and earth we live on. If we looked at all that… we might join them.
Instead, we read articles like this gutter trash, intellectual abortion, which has been published in the Calgary Herald, The Province, Victoria Times-Colonist, and the Edmonton Journal. Interesting how in the two provinces of BC and Alberta where the Indigenous struggle against environmental destruction is currently very active, are the same provinces where this ‘article’ is published in the main newspapers for the four largest population centres… just in case you might get the ‘right’ idea.
Canada’s corporate-owned media wouldn’t want that, would it? Not when the corporation that owns all these newspapers – the largest newspaper company in Canada, Postmedia Network – has a board of directors who are reaping profits and power off of the destruction of the environment, sitting on multiple other corporate boards for banks, energy and oil companies.
Take Jane Peverett, on the board of Postmedia. Jane also sits on the boards of CIBC, the Northwest Natural Gas Company, and Encana, a major energy company. As recently as November, an Indigenous group in BC was taking action against the construction of a major pipeline project partly owned by Encana.
I’m not blaming Jane for this article; I think the author deserves the blame. But Jane – and her compatriots who sit on the boards of Canada’s highly concentrated media system – maintain and wield significant influence over a media institution which promotes articles like this as contributing to the ‘public discourse,’ when all it does is promote ignorance, propaganda, passivity, and protects the interests of the powerful who own it. It’s an institutional function. Jane is merely a cog in a much larger wheel, while Naomi Lakritz can barely be said to be cognizant.
It’s institutional propaganda. Just as the discrimination, exploitation, domination and destruction of Indigenous people is institutional to our society. For a population currently struggling against the rapacious ravaging of the environment, let alone for survival, being told to “get over it,” is another way of saying: “just die, already.” And because the struggle is against the extinction of our species if we continue along our current path, saying, “get over it,” is also like saying, “we’re all going to die, but I don’t want to do anything about it… and neither should you.”
So for those Canadians who think the article above presented a ‘reasonable’ argument (and I KNOW you exist), and for those Canadians who think Indigenous people should stop “blaming history,” take a piece of your own advice: get over it. Learn your history, know your world, find your brothers and sisters and join them in the struggle to save the species and the planet we live on.
When it comes to having people like Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald lower the public discourse – or rather, maintain the public discourse at painful lows – it’s really time that we get beyond this. Naomi Lakritz also thinks pot is a “dangerous drug” and legalization a “bad idea” (because once again, “get over” history, don’t learn, just delude!), and who (shockingly) has problems with immigrants, and it’s too perfect: she wants them to “leave [their] history at home” when they come to Canada… the nation with no history, apparently.
The deranged attempts by Lakritz to support the status quo when it comes to matters of injustice cannot be left as the level of discourse in a country which boasts the title of “the most educated country in the world.” It’s time to start acting like it. So it’s time to stop listening to Lakritz and other ‘rebels against rationality’, and START listening to Indigenous people, who have a great deal that they are trying to teach us about our country, and are showing us ways that we can help change it for the better.
It’s only our fate as a people, species, and planet that is at stake… Get over it.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com‘s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
An Anarchistic Understanding of the Social Order: Environmental Degradation, Indigenous Resistance, and a Place for the Sciences
An Anarchistic Understanding of the Social Order: Environmental Degradation, Indigenous Resistance, and a Place for the Sciences
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
FOR ROUGHLY FIVE HUNDRED YEARS, INDIGENOUS peoples have been struggling against the dominant institutions of society, against imperialism, colonialism, exploitation, impoverishment, segregation, racism, and genocide. The struggle continues today under the present world social order and against the dominant institutions of ‘neoliberalism’ and globalization: the state, corporations, financial institutions and international organizations. Indigenous communities continue to struggle to preserve their cultural identities, languages, histories, and the continuing theft and exploitation of their land. Indigenous resistance against environmental degradation and resource extraction represents the most direct source of resistance against a global environmental crisis which threatens to lead the species to extinction. It is here that many in the scientific community have also taken up the cause of resistance against the destruction of the global environment. While Indigenous and scientific activism share similar objectives in relation to environmental issues, there is a serious lack of convergence between the two groups in terms of sharing knowledge, organization, and activism.
Indigenous groups are often on the front lines of the global environmental crisis – at the point of interaction (or extraction) – they resist against the immediate process of resource extraction and the environmental devastation it causes to their communities and society as a whole. The continued repression, exploitation and discrimination against Indigenous peoples have made the struggle – and the potential consequences of failure – significantly more problematic. This struggle has been ongoing for centuries, and as the species heads toward extinction – as it is along our current trajectory – Indigenous peoples will be on the front lines of that process. Many in the scientific community have been struggling for decades to address major environmental issues. Here, the focus is largely on the issue of climate change, and the approach has largely been to work through institutions in order to create enough pressure to reform. Yet, after decades of organizing through academic and environmental organizations, lobbying governments, corporations and international organizations, progress has been slow and often ineffectual, with major international conferences being hyped up but with little concrete results. Indigenous peoples continue to struggle against the dominant institutions while many in the scientific community continue to struggle within the dominant institutions, though their objectives remain similar.
A major problem and disparity becomes clear: Indigenous peoples – among the most repressed and exploited in the world – are left to struggle directly against the most powerful institutions in the world (states and transnational corporations), while many in the sciences – an area of knowledge which has and continues to hold enormous potential to advance the species – attempt to convince those powerful institutions to profit less at exactly the point in history when they have never profited more. Indigenous communities remain largely impoverished, and the scientific community remains largely dependent for funding upon the very institutions which are destroying the environment: states, corporations and international organizations. Major barriers to scientific inquiry and research can thus be established if the institutions feel threatened, if they choose to steer the sciences into areas exclusively designed to produce ‘profitable’ forms of knowledge and technology. As humanity enters a critical stage – perhaps the most critical we have ever faced as a species – it is important to begin to acknowledge, question, and change the institutional contradictions and constraints of our society.
It seems only logical that a convergence between Indigenous and scientific activism, organization, and the sharing of knowledge should be encouraged and facilitated. Indeed, the future of the species may depend upon it. This paper aims to encourage such a convergence by applying an anarchistic analysis of the social order as it relates to environmental degradation, specifically at the point of interaction with the environment (the source of extraction). In classifying this as an anarchistic analysis, I simply mean that it employs a highly critical perspective of hierarchically organized institutions. This paper does not intend to discuss in any detail the issue of climate change, since that issue is largely a symptom of the problem, which at its source is how the human social order interacts directly with the environment: extraction, pollution, degradation, exploitation and destruction at the point of interaction.
This analysis will seek to critically assess the actions and functions of states, corporations, international organizations, financial institutions, trade agreements and markets in how they affect the environment, primarily at the point of interaction. It is also at this point where Indigenous peoples are taking up the struggle against environmental degradation and human extinction. Through an anarchistic analysis of Indigenous repression and resistance at the point of interaction between the modern social order and the environment (focusing primarily on examples from Canada), this paper hopes to provide encouragement to those in the scientific community seeking to address environmental issues to increase their efforts in working with and for the direct benefit of Indigenous peoples. There exists a historical injustice which can and must be rectified: the most oppressed and exploited peoples over the past five hundred years of a Western-dominated world are on the front lines of struggling for the survival of the species as a whole. Modern science – which has done so much to advance Western ‘civilization’ – can and should make Indigenous issues a priority, not only for their sake, but for the species as a whole. Indeed, it is a matter of survival for the sciences themselves, for they will perish with the species. An anarchistic analysis of the social order hopes to encourage a convergence between Indigenous and scientific knowledge and activism as it relates to resolving the global environmental crisis we now face.
GLOBAL CORPORATE POWER
Corporations are among the most powerful institutions in the world. Of the top 150 economies in 2010, 58% were corporations, with companies like Wal-Mart, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, and BP topping the charts. According to Fortune’s Global 500 list published in 2012, the top ten corporations in the world were: Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, BP, Sinopec Group, China National Petroleum, State Grid, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Toyota Motor. The Global 500 corporations posted record revenues for 2011 at USD 29.5 trillion, up 13.2% from the previous year. Eight of the top ten conglomerates were in the energy sector, with the oil industry alone generating USD 5 trillion in sales, approximately 17% of the total sales of the Global 500. The second largest sector represented in the Global 500 was commercial banks, followed by the auto industry.
A scientific study conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich analyzed the ‘network of control’ wielded through 43,000 transnational corporations (TNCs), identifying “a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.” The researchers identified a ‘core’ of 1,318 companies which owned roughly 80% of the global revenues for the entire network of 43,000 TNCs. Above the core, the researchers identified a ‘super-entity’ of 147 tightly-knit corporations – primarily banks and financial institutions – collectively owning each other’s shares and 40% of the wealth in the total network. One researcher commented, “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 percent of the entire network.”
Writing in the Financial Times, a former US Treasury Department official, Robert Altman, referred to financial markets as “a global supra-government,” explaining:
They oust entrenched regimes where normal political processes could not do so. They force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes. Their influence dwarfs multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. Indeed, leaving aside unusable nuclear weapons, they have become the most powerful force on earth.
The “global supra-government” of financial markets push countries around the world into imposing austerity measures and structural reforms, which have the result of benefiting the “super-entity” of global corporate power. The power and wealth of these institutions have rapidly accelerated in the past three decades of neoliberal ‘reforms’ promoting austerity, liberalization, deregulation, privatization and financialization. Neoliberal ideology was politically championed by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, but was largely imposed upon the so-called ‘Third World’ (Latin America, Asia, and Africa) through major international organizations like the World Bank and the IMF. The results of this massive transfer of wealth and power to an increasingly connected and small fraction of the world’s population have been devastating for humanity and the world as a whole. This process guided by neoliberal dogma has been most often referred to as ‘globalization.’
As the 1980s debt crisis gripped the ‘Third World,’ the IMF and World Bank came to the ‘rescue’ with newly designed loan agreements called ‘Structural Adjustment Programs’ (SAPs). In return for a loan from these institutions, countries would have to adhere to a set of rigid conditions and reforms, including austerity measures (cutting public spending), the liberalization of trade, privatization, deregulation, and currency devaluation. The United States controls the majority shares of both the World Bank and IMF, while the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve work very closely with the IMF and its staff. If countries did not adhere to IMF and World Bank ‘conditions,’ they would be cut off from international markets, since this process was facilitated by “unprecedented co-operation between banks from various countries under the aegis of the IMF.” The conditions essentially opened up the borrowing countries to economic imperialism by the IMF, World Bank, and transnational corporations and financial institutions, which were able to gain access and control over the resources and labour markets of poor countries. Thus, the 1980s has been known as the “lost decade of development,” as many ‘Third World’ countries became poorer between 1980 and 1990. Joseph Stiglitz, a former chief economist at the World Bank, wrote that, “such conditions were seen as the intrusion by the new colonial power on the country’s own sovereignty.”
The structural adjustment programs imposed upon the Third World devastated the poor and middle classes of the borrowing countries, often resulting in mass protests against austerity. In fact, between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF- sponsored austerity measures in 39 different countries, including demonstrations, strikes and riots. The governments, in response, would often violently repress protests. The government elites were often more integrated with and allied to the powerful institutions of the global economy, and would often act as domestic enforcers for the demands of international banks and corporations. For many countries imposing structural adjustment programs around the world, authoritarian governments were common. The IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs also led to the massive growth of slums around the world, to the point where there are now over a billion people living in urban slums (approximately one out of every seven people on earth).
Further, the nations of the Third World became increasingly indebted to the powerful financial institutions and states of the industrial world with the more loans they took. The wealthy elites within the Third World plunder the domestic wealth of their countries in cooperation with global elites, and send their money into Western banking institutions (as ‘capital flight’) as their domestic populations suffer in poverty. The IMF and World Bank programs helped facilitate capital flight through the deregulation and ‘liberalization’ of markets, as well as through the opening up of the economies to unhindered exploitation. Some researchers recently compared the amount of money in the form of aid and loans going into Africa compared to that coming leaving Africa in the form of capital flight, and found that “sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world by a substantial margin.” The external debt owed by 33 sub-Saharan African countries to the rest of the world in 2008 stood at USD 177 billion. Between 1970 and 2008, capital flight from those same 33 African countries amounted to USD 944 billion. Thus, “the rest of the world owes more to these African countries than they owe to the rest of the world.”
The neoliberal ideology of ‘profit before people’ – enforced by the dominant states, corporations, banks and international organizations – has led to a world of extreme inequality, previously established by centuries of empire and colonialism, and rapidly accelerated in the past three decades. As of 2004, one in every three human deaths was due to poverty-related causes. In the twenty years following the end of the Cold War, there were approximately 360 million preventable deaths caused by poverty-related issues. Billions of people go hungry, lack access to safe drinking water, adequate shelter, medicine, and electricity. Nearly half of humanity – approximately 3.1 billion people as of 2010 – live below the USD 2.50/day poverty line. It would take roughly USD 500 billion – approximately 1.13% of world income (or two-thirds of the US military budget) – to lift these 3.1 billion people out of extreme poverty. The top 1% own 40% of the world’s wealth, while the bottom 60% hold less than 2% of the world’s wealth. As Thomas Pogge wrote, “we are now at the point where the world is easily rich enough in aggregate to abolish all poverty,” but we are “choosing to prioritize other ends instead.” Roughly 18 million people die from poverty-related causes every year, half of whom are children under the age of five. Pogge places significant blame for these circumstances upon the “global institutional arrangements that foreseeably and avoidably increase the socioeconomic inequalities that cause poverty to persist […] [policies which] are designed by the more powerful governments for the benefit of their most powerful industries, corporations, and citizens.”
In 2013, Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the richest 100 people in the world over the course of 2012 (USD 240 billion) would have been enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over. An Oxfam executive, Barbara Stocking, noted that this type of extreme wealth – which saw the world’s richest 1% increase their income by 60% in the previous twenty years – is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive […] We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.” A study by the Tax Justice Network in 2012 found that the world’s superrich had hidden between USD 21 and 32 trillion in offshore tax havens, meaning that inequality was “much, much worse than official statistic show,” and that “for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of superrich,” with the top 92,000 of the world’s superrich holding at least USD 10 trillion in offshore accounts.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF INEQUALITY
The human social order – dominated by states, corporations, banks and international organizations – has facilitated and maintained enormous inequality and poverty around the world, allowing so few to control so much, while the many are left with little. This global social and economic crisis is exacerbated by the global environmental crisis, in which the same institutions that dominate the global social order are simultaneously devastating the global environment to the point where the future of the species hangs in the balance.
Just as the dominant institutions put ‘profit before people,’ so too do they put profit before the environment, predicating human social interaction with the environment on the ideology of ‘markets’: that what is good for corporations will ultimately be good for the environment. Thus, the pursuit of ‘economic growth’ can continue unhindered – and in fact, should be accelerated – even though it results in massive environmental degradation through the processes of resource extraction, transportation, production and consumption.
Trading arrangements between the powerful rich nations and the ‘periphery’ poor nations allow for the dominant institutions to exploit their economic and political influence over weaker states, taking much more than they give. These trading relationships effectively allow the rich countries to offshore (or export) their environmental degradation to poor countries, treating them as exploitable resource extraction sources. As the resources of poor nations are extracted and exported to the rich nations, the countries are kept in poverty (with the exception of their elites who collude with the powerful countries and corporations), and the environmental costs associated with the high consumption societies of the industrial world are ultimately off-shored to the poor countries, at the point of interaction. Thus, international trade separates the societies of consumption from the effects of extraction and production, while the poor nations are dependent upon exports and exploiting their cheap labour forces. This process has been termed ecological unequal exchange.
Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, the majority of the world’s non-renewable resources were transferred from poor to rich nations, accelerating in volume over time (due to technological advancements), while decreasing in costs (to the powerful nations). Thus, between 1980 and 2002, the costs of resource extraction declined by 25% while the volume of resource extraction increased by more than 30%. Environmentally destructive processes of resource extraction in mining and energy sectors have rapidly accelerated over the past few decades, resulting in increased contamination of soils, watersheds and the atmosphere. Negative health effects for local populations accelerate, primarily affecting Indigenous, poor and/or migrant populations, who are subjected to excessive pollutants and industrial waste at nearly every part of the process of extraction, production and transportation of resources and goods.
In an examination of 65 countries between 1960 and 2003, researchers found that the rich countries “externalized” the environmentally destructive consequences of resource over-use to poor, periphery nations and populations, thus “assimilating” the environments of the less-developed nations into the economies of the powerful states, disempowering local populations from having a say in how their resources and environments are treated. Rich societies consume more than can be sustained from their own internal resource wealth, and thus, they must “appropriate” resource wealth from abroad by ‘withdrawing’ the resources in environmentally destructive (and thus, more economically ‘efficient’) ways. Apart from ecologically destructive ‘withdrawals,’ the rich nations also facilitate ecologically destructive ‘additions,’ in the form of pollution and waste which cause environmental and health hazards for the poor societies. This is facilitated through various trading arrangements (such as the development of Export Processing Zones), consisting of minimal to no environmental regulations, cheap labour and minimal restrictions on corporate activities.
While Japan and Western Europe were able to reduce the amount of pollutants and ‘environmental additions’ they made within their own societies between 1976 and 1994, they accelerated their ‘additions’ in waste and pollutants to the poor countries with which they traded, “suggesting a progressive off-shoring over the period onto those peripheral countries” not only of labour exploitation, but of environmental degradation. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by transnational corporations has been linked to extensive environmental hazards within the countries in which they are ‘investing,’ including growth in water pollution, infant mortality, pesticide use, and the use of chemicals which are often banned in the rich nations due to high toxicity levels and dangers to health and the environment, and greater levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, between 1980 and 2000, the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the rich countries increased by 21%, while over the same period of time in the poor countries it more than doubled. While forested areas in the rich nations increased by less than 1% between 1990 and 2005, they declined by 6% over the same period of time in poor countries, contributing to soil erosion, desertification, climate change and the destruction of local and regional ecosystems.
According to an analysis of 268 case studies of tropical forest change between 1970 and 2000, researchers found that deforestation had shifted from being directed by states to being directed and implemented by corporations and ‘economic’ interests across much of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This was largely facilitated by the IMF and World Bank agreements which forced countries to reduce their public spending, and allowed for private economic interests to obtain unprecedented access to resources and markets. The rate of deforestation continued, it simply shifted from being state-led to “enterprise driven.”
Using a sample of some sixty nations, researchers found that IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) were associated with higher levels of deforestation than in countries which did not sign the SAP agreements, as they allowed rich nations and corporations to “externalize their forest loss” to poor nations. Further, “economic growth” as defined by the World Bank and IMF was related to increased levels of deforestation, leading the researchers to acknowledge that, “economic growth adversely impacts the natural environment.” World Bank development loans to countries (as separate from structural adjustment loans) have also been linked to increased rates of deforestation in poor nations, notably higher rates than those which exist in countries not receiving World Bank loans.
Military institutions and armed warfare also have significant environmental impacts, not simply by engaging in wars, but simply by the energy and resources required for the maintenance of large military structures. As one US military official stated in the early 1990s, “We are in the business of protecting the nation, not the environment.” While the United States is the largest consumer of energy among nations in the world, the Pentagon is “the world’s largest [institutional] consumer of energy.” The combination of US tanks, planes and ships consume roughly 340,000 barrels of oil per day (as of 2007). Most of the oil is consumed by the Air Force, as jet fuel accounted for roughly 71% of the entire military’s oil consumption.
Nations with large militaries also use their violent capabilities “to gain disproportionate access to natural resources.” Thus, while the US military may be the largest single purchaser and consumer of energy in the world, one of its primary functions is to secure access to and control over energy resources. In an interview with two McKinsey & Company consultants, the Pentagon’s first-ever assistant secretary of defense for operational energy and programs, Sharon E. Burke, stated bluntly that, “My role is to promote the energy security of our military operations,” including by increasing the “security of supply.”
In a study of natural resource extraction and armed violence, researchers found that, “armed violence is associated with the extraction of many critical and noncritical natural resources, suggesting quite strongly that the natural resource base upon which industrial societies stand is constructed in large part through the use and threatened use of armed violence.” Further, when such armed violence is used in relation to gaining access to and control over natural resources, “it is often employed in response to popular protest or rebellion against these activities.” Most of this violence is carried out by the governments of poor nations, or by mercenaries or rebels, which allows for distancing between the rich nations and corporations which profit from the plundering of resources from the violent means of gaining access to them. After all, the researcher noted, “other key drivers of natural resource exploitation, such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and global marketplace, cannot, on their own, guarantee core nation access to and control over vital natural resources.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the United States – and other powerful nations – and the major arms companies within them are the largest arms dealers in the world.
It is clear that for scientists – and anyone else – interested in addressing major environmental issues, the source of the problem lies in the very structure and function of our dominant modern institutions, at the point of interaction. In short: through states, armed violence, banks and corporations, international organizations, trade agreements and global ‘markets,’ the environment has become a primary target of exploitation and destruction. Resources fuel the wealth and power of the very institutions that dominate the world, and to maintain that power, they engage in incredibly destructive activities with negative consequences for the environment and the human species as a whole. The global environmental crisis is intimately related to the global social and economic crises of wealth inequality and poverty, labour exploitation, and ‘economic growth.’ To address the environmental crisis in a meaningful way, this reality must first be acknowledged. This is how an anarchistic understanding of the environmental crisis facing the world and humanity can contribute to advancing how we deal with these profound issues. For the sciences, the implications are grave: their sources of funding and direction for research are dependent upon the very institutions which are destroying the environment and leading humanity to inevitable extinction (if we do not change course). Advancing an anarchistic approach to understanding issues related to Indigenous repression and resistance to environmental degradation can help provide a framework through which those in the scientific community – and elsewhere – can find new avenues for achieving similar goals: the preservation of the environment and the species.
INDIGENOUS REPRESSION AND RESISTANCE
Indigenous peoples in the Americas have been struggling against colonialism, exploitation, segregation, repression and even genocide for over 500 years. While the age of formal colonial empires has passed, the struggle has not. Today, Indigenous peoples struggle against far more powerful states than ever before existed, transnational corporations and financial institutions, international organizations, so-called “free trade” agreements and the global ‘marketplace.’ In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, the struggle for Indigenous peoples to maintain their identity and indeed, even their existence itself, has been increasingly globalizing, but has also been driven by localized actions and movements.
Focusing upon Indigenous peoples in Canada, I hope to briefly analyze how Indigenous groups are repressed, segregated and exploited by the dominant institutions of an incredibly wealthy, developed, resource-rich and ‘democratic’ nation with a comparably ‘good’ international reputation. Further, by examining Indigenous resistance within Canada to the destruction of the natural environment, I hope to encourage scientists and other activists and segments of society who are interested in environmental protection to reach out to Indigenous communities, to share knowledge, organizing, activism, and objectives.
A LEGACY OF COLONIALISM
Historically, the Canadian government pursued a policy of ‘assimilation’ of Indigenous peoples for over a century through ‘Indian residential schools,’ in what ultimately amounted to an effective policy of “cultural genocide.” In 1920, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott bluntly explained: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem […] Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politics and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.”
The segregation, repression and exploitation of Indigenous communities within Canada is not a mere historical reality, it continues to present day. Part of the institutional repression of Indigenous peoples is the prevalence of what could be described as ‘Third World’ conditions within a ‘First World’ nation. Indigenous communities within Canada lack access to safe drinking water at a much higher rate than the general population. Indigenous people and communities in Canada also face much higher levels of food insecurity, poverty, unemployment, poor housing and infant mortality than the rest of the population. Accounting for roughly 4% of the population of Canada (approximately 1.2 million people as of 2006), Indigenous peoples also face higher rates of substance abuse, addiction, and suicide.
Indigenous people – and especially women – make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. Further, as Amnesty International noted, “Indigenous women [in Canada] are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence.” The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented roughly 600 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada, more than half of which have occurred since 2000, while Human Rights Watch reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in northern British Columbia had “failed to properly investigate the disappearance and apparent murders of [indigenous] women and girls in their jurisdiction.”
RESOURCE EXTRACTION, ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Industries seeking to develop land and extract resources are increasingly turning to Indigenous territories to develop and seek profits on the land and environment upon which such communities are so often dependent for survival. At the point of interaction with the environment, Indigenous peoples are left to struggle with the damaging environmental and health consequences caused by state and corporate interests extracting resources and wealth from the land and environment.
The Alberta tar sands (or oil sands) is a primary example of this process. Many environmental, indigenous and human rights organizations consider the tar sands development as perhaps “the most destructive industrial project on earth.” The United Nations Environmental Programme identified the project as “one of the world’s top 100 hotspots of environmental degradation.” The dense oil in the tar sands (diluted bitumen) has to be extracted through strip mining, and requires enormous amounts of resources and energy simply to extract the reserves. It has been documented that for every one barrel of oil processed, three barrels of water are used, resulting in the creation of small lakes (called ‘tailing ponds’), where “over 480 million gallons of contaminated toxic waste water are dumped daily.” These lakes collectively “cover more than 50 square kilometres (12,000 acres) and are so extensive that they can be seen from space.” The processing of the oil sands creates 37% more greenhouse gas emissions than the extraction and processing of conventional oil.
While the United States consumes more oil than anywhere else on earth, Canada is the main supplier of foreign oil to the United States, exporting roughly 1.5 million barrels per day to the US (in 2005), approximately 7% of the daily consumption of oil in the US. The crude bitumen contained in the tar sands has been estimated at 1.7 trillion barrels, lying underneath an area within Alberta which is larger than the entire state of Florida and contains over 140,000 square km of boreal forest. In 2003, the United States Department of Energy officially acknowledged the reserves of crude bitumen in the Alberta tar sands, and elevated Canada’s standing in world oil markets from the 21st most oil-rich nation on earth to the 2nd, with only Saudi Arabia surpassing.
Alberta’s tar sands have attracted the largest oil companies on earth, including Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and Total S.A. Local indigenous communities thus not only have to struggle against the devastating environmental, health and social consequences caused by the tar sands development, but they also have to struggle against the federal and provincial governments, and the largest corporations on earth. The Athabasca River (located near the tar sands development) has been depleted and polluted to significant degrees, transforming the region “from a pristine environment rich in cultural and biological diversity to a landscape resembling a war zone marked with 200-foot-deep pits and thousands of acres of destroyed boreal forests.” Indigenous peoples have been raising concerns over this project for years.
Disproportionate levels of cancers and other deadly diseases have been discovered among a local Indigenous band, the Fort Chipewyan in Athabasca. These high levels of cancers and diseases are largely the result of the enormous amounts of land, air, and water pollution caused by the tar sands mining. One Indigenous leader in Fort Chipewyan has referred to the tar sands development as a “slow industrial genocide.” As pipelines are planned to be expanded across Canada and the United States to carry tar sands oil, this will have devastating impacts for “indigenous communities not only in Canada, but across the continent.”
Between 2002 and 2010, the pipeline network through Alberta experienced a rate of oil spills roughly sixteen times higher than in the United States, likely the result of transporting diluted bitumen (DilBit), which has not been commonly transported through the pipelines until recent years. In spite of the greater risks associated with transporting DilBit, the US agency responsible for overseeing the country’s pipelines decided – in October of 2009 – to relax safety regulations regarding the strength of pipelines. In July of 2010, a ruptured Enbridge pipeline in Michigan spilled 800,000 gallons of DilBit, devastating the local communities in what the government referred to as the “worst oil spill in Midwestern history.” In July of 2011, an Exxon pipeline spilled 42,000 gallons of DilBit into the Yellowstone River in Montana.
IDLE NO MORE: THE RISE OF INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE
In 2009, the Canadian Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development which sought to “improve the participation” of Indigenous people “in the Canadian economy,” primarily by seeking “to unlock the full economic potential of Aboriginal Canadians, their communities, and their businesses.” An updated report on the Framework in 2012 reaffirmed the intent “to modernize the lands and resource management regimes on reserve land in order to increase and unlock the value of Aboriginal assets.” As John Ibbitson wrote in the Globe and Mail, “businesses that want to unlock the potential of reserves, from real estate development to forestry and mining, need the legal certainty that a property regime makes possible.”
In late 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party introduced an omnibus Budget Bill (C-45) which amended several aspects of the Indian Act (without proper consultations with Indigenous groups). Bill C-45 also moved forward to “unlock” barriers to resource extraction, environmental degradation, and corporate profits with an amendment to the Navigable Waters Act, which dramatically reduced the number of protected lakes and rivers in Canada from 40,000 to 97 lakes, and from 2.5 million to 63 rivers.
Following the introduction of Bill C-45 to the Canadian Parliament, a group of four Indigenous women in the province of Saskatchewan held a “teach-in” to help increase awareness about the Bill, quickly followed by a series of rallies, protests and flash mobs where Indigenous activists and supporters engaged in ‘round dances’ in shopping malls, organized through social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. This sparked what became known as the ‘Idle No More’ movement, and on December 10, 2012, a National Day of Action took place, holding multiple rallies across the country. The immediate objectives of the Idle No More movement were to have the government “repeal all legislation that violates treaties [with Indigenous peoples], including those that affect environmental regulations,” such as Bill C-45 and the previous omnibus Bill C-38. The longer-term objectives of the movement were to “educate and revitalize aboriginal peoples, empower them and regain sovereignty and independence.”
Pamela Palmater, a spokesperson for Idle No More and a Ryerson University professor noted that Indigenous people in Canada were opposing Bill C-45 “not just because it impacts their rights, but also because we know that it impacts the future generations of both treaty partners,” referring to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. “The question,” she added, “really should be whether Canadians will rise to protect their children’s futures alongside First Nations.”
Theresa Spence, an Indigenous chief from a northern Ontario community (Attawapiskat) went on a hunger strike for 44 days to support Idle No More and raise awareness about a serious housing crisis in her community. Spence only ended her hunger strike upon being hospitalized and placed on an IV drip. Her community of Attawapiskat had been experiencing a major housing crisis for a number of years, and in 2011, a state of emergency was declared in response to the fact that for over two years, many of the community’s 1,800 residents were “living in makeshift tents and shacks without heat, electricity or indoor plumbing.” James Anaya, a United Nations human rights expert expressed his “deep concern about the dire social and economic condition” of the Attawapiskat community to the Canadian government, which reflected a situation “akin to third world conditions.” The Conservative government of Stephen Harper (which came to power in 2006) blamed the crisis on the internal handling of funds within Attawapiskat, claiming that the government provided CAD 90 million in funding for the community since 2006. However, analysis of the funds revealed that only CAD 5.8 million in funding had gone toward housing over the course of five years. Meanwhile, estimates put the necessary funds to resolve the housing crisis alone at CAD 84 million. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs acknowledged that the government had known about the housing crisis for years, saying that it “has been a slow-moving train wreck for a long time.”
In 2005, the community of Attawapiskat had signed a contract with the international mining conglomerate De Beers to develop a diamond mine 90 km near their community. The mine officially opened in 2008, projecting a 12-year contribution to the Ontario economy of CAD 6.7 billion. In 2005, De Beers dumped its sewage sludge into the Attawapiskat community’s lift station, causing a sewage backup which flooded many homes and exacerbated an already-developing housing crisis, followed by another sewage backup potentially caused by De Beers in 2008. Afterward, the company donated trailers to the community to serve as “short-term emergency shelters,” yet they remained in place even four years later.
As the Idle No More movement took off in late 2012 and early 2013, members of the Attawapiskat community undertook road blockades leading to the De Beers mine. The company sought a legal injunction against the protesters, and the blockade was ended just as a large number of police were headed to the community to “remove the barricades.” After successfully blocking the mine from properly functioning for nearly twenty days, the company announced that it was considering taking legal action against the protesters.
The Idle No More mission statement called “on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water […] Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.” The movement’s manifesto further declared that, “the state of Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit.” As Pamela Palmater noted, Idle No More was unique, “because it is purposefully distances from political and corporate influence. There is no elected leader, no paid Executive Director, and no bureaucracy or hierarchy which determines what any person or First Nation can and can’t do […] This movement is inclusive of all our peoples.”
The Athabasca Chipewyan Indigenous band which had been struggling for years against the tar sands development were further mobilized with the eruption of Idle No More onto the national scene, including by establishing a blockade on Highway 63 leading to the tar sands development. As Chipewyan chief Allan Adam noted, “The way I look at it, the First Nations people are going to cripple this country if things don’t turn out […] Industry is going to be the target.” He also added: “We know for a fact that industry was the one that lobbied government to make this regulatory reform.” Indeed, this was no hyperbole.
THE STATE IN SERVICE TO CORPORATIONS
Greenpeace obtained – through access to information laws – a letter sent to the Canadian government’s Environment minister and Natural Resources minister dated December of 2011, written by a group called the Energy Framework Initiative (EFI), representing the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Fuels Association, and the Canadian Gas Association. The letter sought “to address regulatory reform for major energy industries in Canada” in order to advance “both economic growth and environmental performance.” It specifically referenced six laws that it wanted amended, including the National Energy Board Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Referring to many of these laws as “outdated,” the letter criticized environmental legislation as “almost entirely focused on preventing bad things from happening rather than enabling responsible outcomes.”
Less than a month after receiving the letter, the Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lashed out at activists opposing the construction of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline shipping oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia, stating, “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade… Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.” Oliver went on, saying that such “radical groups” were threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda,” and accused them of using funding from “foreign special interest groups.”
Documents from the energy industry revealed that big corporations advised the Harper government not to amend the many environmentally related acts separately, but to employ “a more strategic omnibus legislative approach,” which resulted in the two omnibus bills over 2012, Bills C-38 and C-45, which included “hundreds of pages of changes to environmental protection laws […] weakening rules that protect water and species at risk, introducing new tools to authorize water pollution, as well as restricting public participation in environmental hearings and eliminating thousands of reviews to examine and mitigate environmental impacts of industrial projects.” The energy industry got virtually everything it asked for in the two omnibus bills, including – as their letter to the Harper government suggested – reforming “issues associated with Aboriginal consultation.”
Documents from Environment Canada showed how the minister informed a group of energy industry representatives that the development of pipelines were “top-of-mind” as the government pursued “the modernization of our regulatory system.” When the new legislation passed, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced that it has cancelled roughly 3,000 environmental assessments, including 250 reviews related to pipeline projects. Other documents showed that at the same time the minister was informing energy corporations that he was serving their interests, he was to inform Indigenous leaders that any “changes to the government’s environmental assessment or project approvals regime” were “speculative at this point” and that they would “respect our duties toward Aboriginal peoples.”
As the Harper government became the primary lobbyist for the Alberta tar sands, documents showed how the government compiled a list of “allies” and “adversaries” in its public relations campaign, referring to energy companies, Environment Canada and the National Energy Board as “allies,” and the media, environmental and Indigenous groups as “adversaries.” The Canadian government even ran an “outreach program” where diplomats would attempt to secure support among American journalists for the Keystone XL pipeline project – taking oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast in the United States.
As the Canadian government revised its anti-terrorism strategy in early 2012, it listed “eco-extremists” alongside white supremacists as a threat to national security. A review of Canadian security documents from the national police force (RCMP) and the Canadian intelligence agency (CSIS) revealed that the government saw environmental activism such as blockades of roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and “national security threats.” Greenpeace was identified as “potentially violent,” as it had become “the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organizations,” noted one analyst.
IDLE NO MORE AND OIL PIPELINES
The government of Canada acknowledged in early 2013 that it expected – over the following decade – that there would be “a huge boom in Canadian natural resource projects,” potentially worth CAD 600 billion, which is foreseen to be taking place “on or near” Indigenous lands. One Indigenous chief in Manitoba warned that the Idle No More movement “can stop Prime Minister Harper’s resource development plan and his billion-dollar plan to develop resources on our ancestral territory. We have the warriors that are standing up now, that are willing to go that far.”
In an official meeting between the Harper government and the Assembly of First Nations in January of 2013, Indigenous ‘leaders’ presented a list of demands which included ensuring there was a school in every indigenous community, a public inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as several other very ‘moderate’ reforms. For the government, the objectives were much more specific, as internal documents revealed, written in preparation for Harper’s meeting with Indigenous leaders. As one briefing memo stated, the government was working towards “removing obstacles to major economic development opportunities.”
For the Idle No More movement, which does not consider itself to be ‘represented’ by the Assembly of First Nations leaders, the objective is largely “to put more obstacles up,” as Martin Lukacs wrote in the Guardian. Indigenous peoples, he noted, “are the best and last defense against this fossil fuel scramble,” specifically in mobilizing opposition to “the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands.”
In March of 2013, an alliance of Indigenous leaders from across Canada and the United States announced that they were “preparing to fight proposed new pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action,” specifically referring to the Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects. One Indigenous leader at the formation of the alliance warned, “We’re going to stop these pipelines one way or another.” Another Indigenous leader commented: “We, as a nation, have to wake up […] We have to wake up to the crazy decision that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”
The territories of the ten allied Indigenous groups “are either in the crude-rich tar sands or on the proposed pipeline routes.” One Indigenous leader from northern British Columbia referred to the Canadian government, stating, “They’ve been stealing from us for the last 200 years […] now they’re going to destroy our land? We’re not going to let that happen […] If we have to go to court, if we have to stand in front of any of their machines that are going to take the oil through, we are going to do that. We’re up against a wall here. We have nowhere else to go.”
Roughly one week after the Indigenous alliance was formed, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Alberta tar sands oil through the United States ruptured in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, spilling thousands of barrels of oil into residential neighbourhoods and the surrounding environment. Exxon quickly moved in with roughly 600 workers to manage the cleanup and sign checks “to try to win over the townsfolk and seek to limit the fallout.” The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) put in place a “no fly zone” over Mayflower, Arkansas, within days following the oil spill. The ‘no fly zone’ was being overseen by ExxonMobil itself, thus, as Steven Horn commented, “any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon’s permission.”
Between March 11 and April 9 of 2013 (in a span of roughly thirty days), there were 13 reported oil spills on three separate continents, with more than a million gallons of oil and other toxic chemicals spilled in North and South America alone. The oil spills included an Enbridge pipeline leak in the Northwest Territories in Canada (March 19), a tar sands ‘tailing pond’ belonging to Suncor leaking into the Athabasca River in Alberta (March 25), a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailment spilling tar sands oil in Minnesota (March 27), the Exxon spill in Mayflower (March 29), oil-based hydraulic fluid spilling into the Grand River from a power plant in Michigan (March 31), a CN Rail train derailment in Ontario (April 3), a drilling leak in Newfoundland (April 3), the Shell pipeline leak in Texas (April 3), a condensate spill at an Exxon refinery in Louisiana (April 4), and a pump station ‘error’ in Alaska (April 9). Another spill took place in June on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia, one of the pipeline extensions being opposed by Indigenous groups.
Meanwhile, Stephen Harper was in New York in May, speaking to the highly influential US think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, where he explained that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline “absolutely needs to go ahead,” adding that it was “an enormous benefit to the US in terms of long-term energy security.” TransCanada, the company aiming to build the Keystone XL pipeline, along with the government of Alberta, hired a team of lobbyists with connections to the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry in particular to pressure the US government to approve the pipeline. In late April, the president of the American Petroleum Institute confidently declared, “When it’s all said and done, the president will approve the pipeline.” In late May, the CEO of TransCanada said, “I remain extremely confident that we’ll get the green light to build this pipeline.”
Leaders from 11 different Indigenous bands in the United States “stormed out” of a meeting in May being held with federal government officials in South Dakota in protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. The leaders criticized both the project and the Obama administration, with one leader commenting, “We find ourselves victims of another form of genocide, and it’s environmental genocide, and it’s caused by extractive industries.” Another Indigenous leader who walked out of the meeting warned, “What the State Department, what President Obama needs to hear from us, is that we are going to be taking direct action.” TransCanada has even been supplying US police agencies with information about environmental activists and recommendations to pursue charges of “terrorism” against them, noting that the company feared such “potential security concerns” as protests, blockades, court challenges, and even “public meetings.”
While Indigenous communities in Canada and elsewhere are among the most repressed and exploited within our society, they are also on the front lines of resistance against environmentally destructive practices undertaken by the most powerful institutions in the world. As such, Indigenous groups are not only standing up for environmental issues, but for the future of the species as a whole. With the rapidly accelerating ‘development’ of the tar sands, and the increasing environmental danger of huge new pipelines projects, resistance to how our modern society treats the environment is reaching new heights. Indigenous organizing – much of which is done along anarchistic ideas (such as with the Idle No More movement) – is presenting an unprecedented challenge to institutional power structures. Thus, there is an increased need for environmentalists, scientists, and others who are interested in joining forces with Indigenous groups in the struggle against environmental degradation and the potential extinction of the species. In Canada, there is an even greater impetus for scientists to join forces with Indigenous communities, for there is a state-sponsored assault upon environmental sciences that threaten to devastate the scientific community in the very near term.
THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Since Stephen Harper’s Conservative government came to power in 2006, there has been a steady attack upon the sciences, particularly those related to environmental issues, as the government cut funding for major programs and implemented layoffs. One major facet of this attack has been the ‘muzzling’ of Canadian scientists at international conferences, discussions with the media, and the publication of research. At one conference hosted in Canada, scientists working for Environment Canada were forced to direct all media inquiries through the public relations department in an effort “to intimidate government scientists.” Under new government guidelines, scientists working for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) cannot publish material until it is reviewed by the department “for any concerns/impacts to DFO policy.” The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) expressed in a letter to Stephen Harper their “deep dismay and anger at your government’s attack on the independence, integrity and academic freedom of scientific researchers.” Hundreds of Canadian scientists marched on Parliament Hill in July of 2012 in what they called a “funeral procession” against the government’s “systematic attack on science.”
One of the world’s leading science journals, Nature, published an editorial in March of 2012 calling on the Canadian government to stop muzzling and “set its scientists free.” Journalists requesting interviews with Canadian government scientists on issues related to the Arctic or climate change have had to go through public relations officials, provide questions in advance, adhere to “boundaries for what subjects the interview could touch upon,” and have a PR staffer “listen in on the interviews.”
Dozens of government agencies and programs related to environmental sciences have had their budgets slashed, scientists fired, or were discontinued altogether. The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria lodged a formal complaint with Canada’s Federal Information Commissioner about the muzzling of scientists, outlining multiple examples “of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to prepackaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.” Natural Resources Canada now requires “pre-approval” from the government before any scientists give interviews on topics such as “climate change” or the “oilsands.”
The attack upon the sciences is part of the Harper government’s 2007 strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, which directed “a major shift away from scientific goals to economic and labour-market priorities,” aiming to focus on science and research which would be directly useful to industry and for commercial purposes. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has been steered by the government “toward industry-related research and away from environmental science.” The government’s minister of state for science and technology noted that the focus for research was to be on “getting those ideas out to our factory floors, if you will, making the product or process or somehow putting that into the marketplace and creating jobs.” Further, the National Research Council (NRC) was “to focus more on practical, commercial science and less on fundamental science” which wouldn’t be as beneficial to corporate interests. The minister of state for science and technology, Gary Goodyear, announced it as “an exciting, new journey – a re-direction that will strengthen Canada’s research and innovation ecosystem for many years to come.” The president of the NRC noted that, “We have shifted the primary focus of our work at NRC from the traditional emphasis of basic research and discovery science in favour of a more targeted approach to research and development.”
As Stephen Harper said, “Science powers commerce,” but apparently to Harper, that is all it should do, even though many scientists and academics disagree. The implications should be obvious: just as society’s interaction with the environment is unsustainable, so too is the dependency of the sciences upon those institutions which are destroying the environment.
Regardless of one’s position in society – as a member of an Indigenous group, an activist group, or within the scientific community – all of human society is facing the threat of extinction, accelerated by our destruction of the environment sourced at the point of interaction (the location of extraction) between the dominant institutions of our world and the natural world itself. Roughly half the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, with billions living in hunger, with poor access to safe drinking water, medicine and shelter, monumental disparities in wealth and inequality, the production and maintenance of unprecedented weapons of death and destruction, we are witnessing an exponentially accelerating plundering of resources and destruction of the environment upon which all life on Earth depends. If there has ever been a time in human history to begin asking big questions about the nature of our society and the legitimacy of the institutions and ideologies which dominate it, this is it.
An anarchistic understanding of the institutions and ideologies which control the world order reveals a society blinded by apathy as it nears extinction. The institutions which dictate the political, economic and social direction of our world are the very same ones destroying the environment to such an extent that the fate of the species is put at extreme risk. To not only continue – but to accelerate – down this path is no longer an acceptable course of action for humanity. It is time that socially segregated populations begin reaching out and working together, to share knowledge, organizational capacity, and engage in mutual action for shared objectives. With that in mind, it would appear to be beneficial not only for those involved – but for humanity as a whole – if Indigenous peoples and segments of the scientific community pursued the objective of protecting the environment together. Acknowledging this is easy enough, the hard part is figuring out the means and methods of turning that acknowledgement into action.
This is again where anarchist principles can become useful, emphasizing the creative capacity of many to contribute new ideas and undertake new initiatives working together as free individuals in collective organizations to achieve shared objectives. This is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. The very future of humanity may depend upon it.
For notes and sources, download the paper here.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com‘s Global Power Pro-ject, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
Cash Hoarding, Tax Evasion, and the Corporate Coup
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The following is Part 3 of my three-part exclusive series for Occupy.com
Corporate profits are good, right? Low taxes on corporations are also good, right? With high profits and low taxes, corporations have large amounts of money to “invest” in new businesses and jobs, meaning everyone else benefits. This is what we are told by politicians, it is what the majority of economists are taught to think, and it’s what corporate executives and their spokespeople say constantly so therefore it must be true…right?
Let’s get a reality check.
With record-breaking profits and record-low taxes, the truth is that corporations around the world have been hoarding record-high amounts of cash while finding legal loopholes to pay less, or none, of their taxes.
Holding trillions of dollars in cash would, in theory, allow corporations to invest in new businesses and create jobs: the old promise of trickle down economics. Instead, corporations have decided to firmly hold on to their cash, perhaps in preparation for the next financial crisis (which their refusal to invest in new opportunities and jobs is helping to create).
Or perhaps the executives are only waiting for our standards of living to decline far enough that austerity and “adjustment” policies produce desirable “investment environments” like those in existence across the “Third World,” where unhindered corporate plundering and exploitation is the norm.
In 2010, Apple recorded roughly $13 billion in foreign profits but paid a negligible $130 million in taxes, par for the course for giant corporations. The result of Apple and other multinationals getting away with tax loopholes means disastrous consequences for governments. Google, for example, is able to move its billions in profits out of Europe, paying almost no taxes there as it deposits the revenues into the company’s administrative headquarters in Bermuda, where there is no corporate income tax.
Tax havens and loopholes allow corporations to move around globally, creating a problem for national governments that seek to tax corporations at higher rates by establishing a “race to the bottom” in competition for reduced corporate taxes. Belgium, for example, with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, at roughly 34%, collects far less from companies due to its own tax loopholes.
The average tax rate for the 50 most profitable companies in Belgium – which totaled some 27 billion euros in profits in 2010 – was a mere 1.04%. Thus, as the government considers establishing a “minimum tax rate” of 12.5% to ensure revenue for the debt-ridden country, others fear that establishing such a rule would simply lead to corporations leaving the country and migrating to other tax havens across Europe.
As reported in Der Spiegel, “[a]n international treaty could prevent corporations from outsmarting countries,” however, “so far not even the European Union has been able to harmonize the rules of its member states.” Obviously, such an endeavor is not high on the priority list for European and international decision makers, which is hardly surprising since their main interest is in serving global corporations and banks.
At the same time that reports emerged last fall about major European and international corporations avoiding taxes, the Wall Street Journal wrote in November of 2012 that the continent’s biggest banks were “continuing to stash more money at central banks” rather than investing it, hoarding a combined total of $1.43 trillion in cash on reserve at several central banks.
Since 2010, the major banks have increased their cash hoarding by 84%. French bank Société Générale reportedly held 81 billion euros ($103 billion) at central banks in the third quarter of 2012.
This hoarding frenzy is happening even as banks across Europe continue to receive national and international bailouts, while demanding that countries further impoverish their populations through austerity measures so as to pay back their bad debts. This is a year after the European Central Bank provided 1 trillion euros to the continent’s banks in short-term cheap loans, supposedly “to jump-start lending to the businesses, individuals and other financial institutions.”
As the Wall Street Journal stated bluntly: “Across Europe, corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash.” Despite their massive reserves of cash, major corporations aren’t spending, and thus “one possible way out of Europe’s economic crisis – a big boost in business investment – is closed off.” According to the Institute of International Finance, the principle international banking lobby, this is common practice across most “mature and emerging economies.” Collectively, corporations in the United States, the Eurozone, the U.K. and Japan held roughly $7.75 trillion in cash, “an unprecedented sum.”
The Centre for European Reform, a think tank in London, reported that the ratio of investment to gross domestic product is at a 60-year low as corporations hoard more cash than ever before — money which, in theory, could facilitate investment. In the Eurozone, corporate cash hoarding reached roughly 2 trillion euros (or $2.64 trillion). Meanwhile, austerity policies in European countries has led to a predictable retraction of growth, which in turn has led to more corporate hoarding.
Moving over to the U.S., it was reported in 2011 that corporations there had been hoarding cash to a larger degree than at any time in nearly half a century, with non-financial companies holding more than $2 trillion by the end of June 2011. This figure only acknowledged domestic cash hoarding by U.S. corporations, and didn’t include their foreign earnings. According to released IRS documents in 2009, major corporations, which held $1.7 trillion in cash from domestic operations, held a total of $5.13 trillion when including foreign cash assets.
As recently as 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported that despite trillions in earnings for corporations, the majority of U.S. and foreign-based corporations doing business in the United States managed to avoid paying any income taxes, with 72% of foreign and 57% of U.S. conglomerates successfully avoiding paying income tax for at least one year between 1998 and 2005.
Between 2008 and 2010, 30 large and profitable U.S. corporations paid no income taxes, even though the U.S. corporate tax rate was officially 35%. Among the companies that avoided paying any taxes were General Electric, PG&E and Boeing. Congress and state governments have encouraged the establishment of “pass-throughs,” allowing corporations to avoid paying any taxes by “passing” the profits along to investors.
This has been an exception given to businesses for decades, though the percentage of nontaxable corporations has rapidly grown, from 24% in 1986 to 69% in 2008, allowing private-equity giants like Blackstone Group and construction firms like Bechtel Group to avoid paying any taxes on their revenue.
In 2011, despite the 35% tax rate for corporations, the ten largest corporations in the United States paid an average federal tax rate of 9%, including companies like Exxon Mobil, Apple, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, and General Electric. Not surprisingly, the eight corporations that spent the most money on lobbying had lower tax rates, including Exxon Mobil, Verizon, GE, AT&T, Altria, Amgen, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing.
In 2010, when General Electric recorded worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, with $5.1 billion coming from operations within the United States, the company – one of the largest in the world – managed to pay no taxes at all, and, in fact, claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. Between 2008 and 2011, 280 of the largest publicly traded American corporations paid an average tax rate of 18.5% on their profits, just slightly over half of what the actual tax rate is and less than most of their competitors in foreign industrialized countries.
Canadian companies have also been hoarding mountains of cash, not to be left on the sidelines by their American and Europe-based counterparts. In fact, it was reported that Canada’s corporations had hoarded more than half a trillion dollars in cash reserves, about $525 billion, by the end of 2011. This amounted to almost a third of the size of the entire economy, with at least 45% of Canada’s biggest corporations hoarding cash instead of investing or creating jobs.
Cash hoarding also allows companies to avoid paying taxes, giving companies further reason to not invest. In the U.K., corporate cash hoarding amounted to roughly $1.2 trillion, about half the size of the British economy — though small compared to the $5.1 trillion hoarded in the United States, an amount larger than the GDP of Germany. An analyst at Ernst & Young stated, “Until these companies stop stashing the cash and start increasing levels of investment and dividends, the economy will remain on the critical list.”
Over the previous 22 years, the biggest American banks created more than 10,000 subsidiaries around the world, “using legal structures to pay lower taxes and escape tighter regulation,” according to figures released from the Federal Reserve. JP Morgan Chase, the largest American lender, had 3,391 subsidiaries, followed closely by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, each with over 2,000 subsidiaries. Citigroup maintained over 1,500 global subsidiaries.
Since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 (which had been put in place in 1933 to avoid another Great Depression), the big banks got even bigger, with even the Federal Reserve admitting that the law’s repeal was the “main catalyst” for the growth in the size of banks, whose assets tripled since that time to $15 trillion.
The combined assets of the five largest banks in the United States in 2011 was roughly $8.5 trillion, equal to 56% of the U.S. economy, compared to five years earlier, before the financial crash, when the total assets of these banks equaled roughly 43% of the American economy. The five banks – JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs – are twice as large now as they were ten years ago.
The facts are in. The reality is this:
Big banks, corporations, and powerful states created the global economic crisis for which the people of the world are forced to pay, and suffer, with declining wages, decreased opportunities, increased debt and expanding poverty. Meanwhile, those who created the crisis make record profits, pay little or no taxes, hoard trillions in cash, and fail to “invest” their revenues.
The question is now, what are we going to do about it?
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
The following is my latest interview from Russia Today
An indigenous movement known as ‘Idle No More’ is gaining momentum in Canada. The First Nations people have promised to bring the country’s economy ‘down to its knees’ if aboriginals’ voices remain unheard.
Having begun with four members in November, Idle No More has now become reminiscent of other grassroots movements like Occupy Wall Street.
Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper has agreed to meet with native chiefs on Friday to discuss disagreements over treaty rights and other grievances. Despite him promising to pay more attention to their demands, the meeting did not resolve any real issues.
Before the meeting, hundreds of indigenous activists protested in front of the Canada’s parliament, demonstrating their frustration, but also highlighting a deep divide within the country’s First Nations on how to push Ottawa to heed their demands.
Mass demonstrations have been sparked by Bill C-45, which was passed by the Canadian government in December. The legislation amends rules about the community’s land and protesters say it undermines century-old treaties by altering the approval process for leasing aboriginal lands to outsiders and changing environmental oversight in favor of natural resource extraction.
“Bill C-45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on the bodies of water we all share from across this country,” Idle No More said in a statement on its website.
“Canada is becoming essentially the world’s No.1 corporate colony,” claimed independent researcher and writer Andrew Gavin Marshall. “Our prime minister has negotiated or is negotiating eight free trade agreements – this is opening up Canada to unhindered corporate plundering of the environment and resources. Indigenous peoples are at the front lines of that because their communities are hit first and they are hit hardest. So they may be facing the final stages of the 500-years genocide.”
In an interview with RT, Marshall said the Idle No More movement puts a spotlight on a broad range of problems within Canada. The movement is a resurgence of indigenous resistance against colonialism and oppression, he explained. Apart from that, it addresses human issues, the environment, the economy and society in general.
“In Canada we have essentially what amounts to apartheid system in how we treat the indigenous population. In their communities they have less access to water, food insecurity.”
Another serious issue is the situation that indigenous women are facing. “We have huge numbers of murdered or missing aboriginal women. The police don’t care. It’s unaccounted for.”
As the movement is gaining moment it is spreading outside Canada with hundreds of protests held across the world, Marshall says.“It’s been spreading globally because indigenous issues are human issues and are relevant everywhere around the world. It can spread in the same way the Occupy spread – largely through social media.”
Canadian society is waking up to the fact that the world has changed, Marshall argues.
“You have a youth movement here in Quebec and now an indigenous movement across the country and spreading.”
“What’s happening is part of the global phenomenon of change. This has no national boundaries, this is about people waking up to the power systems that exist and demanding and fighting for change,” he told RT.
“What aboriginal people in Canada are teaching us is that to protect the environment we have to address empire and that’s the reality that people everywhere are facing. As well as economic injustice – these are all related issues – we can’t deal with them separately. We have to deal with them collectively and we have to act on them collectively.”