There is at least one difference between Americans building up justifications to invade Iraq in order to grab its natural resources and Europeans invading Canada several hundred years ago to harvest the natural resources here. We are significantly more polite about it. Plus, we have decided to forget that we did it.
As I write this, the Ontario provincial police monitoring the stand-off near Sharbot Lake have forsworn violence, despite the fact that a court of law has ruled that the protesters blocking “development” must abandon their resistance, and Frontenac Ventures shall be allowed to explore for uranium.
It’s all very courteous. Nobody is being bombed and civilians are not being abandoned to thuggery and assassination, so it is easy to pretend that a similar crime to that in Iraq is not being committed here. But I wonder if the difference is not mostly due to the length of time that has passed from the initial invasion of Ontario.
Canadians have been resident here for so long that we forget that our ancestors were invaders who colonized the original inhabitants, the Algonquins, against their will, stole the right to exploit natural resources, and imposed what only some people agree is a legitimate governance system — the very actions that many of us criticize the US for.
Nobody has called the US government to account for the fact that there were no promised Weapons of Mass Destruction. And nobody is calling the government of Ontario to account for its ongoing oppression of the two Algonquin communities in Sharbot Lake.
Here are the facts: the Algonquin communities who claim the land in question near Sharbot Lake have never signed a treaty with either British or Canadian governments. They self-identify as a sovereign nation, and their land claim remains outstanding. They do not recognize the legitimacy of the provincial court to make decisions based on the land at issue. Last month, Superior Court Judge Gordon Thomson ordered all signs, vehicles, buildings and other materials erected by the protesters to be removed. Algonquins ignored the order. About 10 days ago, the same judge issued an injunction ordering all representatives and supporters off the land. It also gave Frontenac unfettered access.
So here is where the similarities become striking. How is this different from the Americans installing their own governance in Iraq and pretending it is legitimate? Apart from the unspeakable violence and breakdown of public order, Ontario might be considered worse because it is displacing and dispossessing a people from land they have occupied for thousands of years, even though the province’s ownership of the land is recognized as being in dispute.
It’s not fun to regard non-aboriginal Canadians as invaders. None of my ancestors is a Canadian aboriginal and I prefer not to think of them as invaders. I prefer to think of them as pioneers. I feel that Canada is my home, completely. My great grandfather brought his brood to Edmonton in 1905 and I heard all of my family talk about the guilt they felt over how the Cree living here were treated by the invading governments. They did not mean to oppress other nations, but they benefited from that oppression, as I and every other non-aboriginal Canadian has to this day.
Lots of people have joined the Algonquins in their protest, including environmentalists. This stand-off is about localism versus globalism, capitalism versus environmental stewardship, and aboriginal rights. At its core, it is about who has the right to benefit — or protect — land.
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back