If the current Environmental Assessment Act is sufficient to protect all lakes and rivers, why did the government deem it necessary to include a small list of both key and posh waterways in the new Navigation Protection Act for special attention?
Even the Oldman River’s process and final ruling was ignored by the Alberta government, who pushed through the building of the dam in 1992 under the watches of Don Getty, Ralph Klein and Brian Mulroney – big “C” Conservatives all. I do not blame the Conservatives alone, federally, though they have to carry the can for Alberta, having been in power there for soooo long. The fact sadly remains that, no matter what Punch and Judy show we have going on in Ottawa for the amusement and seduction of Joe Couch Potato, the environmental legislation we have now has not succeeded broadly enough in protecting the environment against powerful domestic and, increasingly, foreign interests.
If the Athabaska River flowed south to Calgary instead of north, it would have been protected because of, frankly, the non-native electors who live there. We conquered the First Nations, forcing them to share much, but not all, of their lands with us. We have since pushed our way onto enough unsurrendered land (vast amounts of BC, for example) to create enormous hardship and ruin the hunting and fishing grounds for those that still try to live in a sustainable balance with nature. Now the Harper government is continuing and accelerating a divide and conquer approach by making it much easier for a Treaty Band to vote in favour of the legal surrender of yet more land. This change is dealt with in omnibus bill C-45 in changes to the Indian Act.
This divide and conquer approach is often justified by arguing that “modern” First Nations peoples should have the right, as individuals, to sell off their land if they want; they call this “democracy.” In actuality the result will be the end of the traditional way of life and culture of the First Nations. They, divided and individualized like the rest of us, will be absorbed into our unsustainable way of life.
We devalue the ancient values of community and oneness – held by, admittedly, a diminishing number of native peoples. Wade Davis points out that we consider them to be “failed attempts to be us,” as if our way of life is the only one that makes sense. The #idlenomore movement is creating an, as yet vague, awareness that these ancient values need to be respectfully incorporated into the current national and world context if our activity on this planet is to become sustainable before it degenerates further into wars of scarcity.
Accelerated development and deregulation in Canada is quickly making it impossible for its Native Peoples to continue their, once dignified and sustainable, way of life. It is increasingly being seen worldwide as perhaps the final step in the centuries-long cultural genocide against our First Nations, whose insight will be sorely needed if our future is to become sustainable.