The media portrays Canadian first nations people as wise keepers of the land who have the unique ability to live sustainably with their local ecosystems.
Supposedly, all we have to do to ensure land retains its ecological integrity is to put it into the hands of these inherently wise stewards.
Perhaps this concept is born out of imagining how rich in resources the Canadian landscape must have been before European settlement. Before the first wave of non-native settlers arrived, Canada's land was immeasurably more healthy and wealthy with vast virgin forests, pristine lakes, unspoiled ocean coasts and such an abundant variety plants and animals.
However, the relatively pristine state of Canada's ecosystems prior to European immigration is not due to Aboriginal people possessing some inborn instinct to respect ecological limits.
The reason that Canada's land was in such a healthy state before European settlers arrived is because the population of Aboriginals and therefore Canada was low at that time.
These pre-European settlement Aboriginals enjoyed a low population by chance, not by design. They were the first immigrants to Canada. The era of fossil fuel exploitation that brought about rapid population growth through modern agriculture and industrialization had not yet begun in any part of the world.
If Europeans had never immigrated into Canada, logic suggests Aboriginals would have industrialized Canada as soon as technologies became available through globalization. In all likelihood they would have copied Britain, France, USA, Australia, and virtually every other country on earth by allowing massive immigration to grow the population in the name of economic growth.
Therefore, there is no inherent environmental wisdom that is unique to Aboriginal people. In fact saying that there is would be racist. Just as racist as a contention that they are inherently inferior in their abilities to manage competently. The argument here is merely to humanize indigenous peoples and place the blame for eco-vandalism at the foot of all peoples’ historical unwillingness to
set or acknowledge limits.
On January 12 the Michipicoten First Nation people (http://www.michipicoten.com/)south of Wawa, Ontario near Lake Superior received $58 million in tax payers' money and 3000 acres of crown land by the federal government.
They plan to use this land for "Economic Growth" and have set their sights on construction of a major hydro-electric dam, industrial forestry, a new gas station business (along the Trans-Canada Highway) and mining projects.
"Economic Growth" is facilitated by rising population and rising consumption per person. The Michipicoten First Nation uses the term "Economic Growth" on this page as part of their vision statement: http://www.michipicoten.com/content/econo.html
This should raise red flags. How could a people who is supposed to live sustainably with their environment aspire to "Economic Growth"?
On their main page, the Michipicoten state: "TO WALK OUR PATH IS TO EXPERIENCE THE BREATHLESS BEAUTY OF THE WILDERNESS AND TO FEEL AND PARTICIPATE IN OUR ONENESS WITH MOTHER EARTH AND ALL THAT IS."
Does their "oneness with mother earth" include damming her rivers with industrial scale hydro-electric dams for "Economic Growth"?
This land was crown land that any Canadian could go walking or camping on. Not anymore. This 3000 acres of Lake Superior waterfront wilderness is now private property in the hands of "the wise stewards" and is slated for industrial resource extraction.
This is not an isolated incident. All over Canada Aboriginals are teaming up with large multinational corporations. The Aboriginals offer their land and their stamp of approval and the corporations offer the Aboriginals a share of the profits. The government couldn't be happier, since it promotes economic growth, the media's universal measure of well-being where we grow our GDP year after year. This is a dream partnership for corporations and melds nicely with their ongoing PR efforts. Just as nuclear corporations love to have a celebrity “environmentalist” like Patrick Moore speaking on their behalf, and the Royal Bank of Canada, a major engine of environmental destruction, loves to have Nature Conservancy of Canada advertising their mutual collaboration, corporations love to have Aboriginals on board to make the public think they’re running a "green" operation. What better way to bypass arduous red tape like Environmental Assessments and Public Consultations than to get an endorsement by forming a partnership with the First Nations people. After all, the average urban Canadian still believes that if the Aboriginals are involved in land management decisions, the land will be preserved sustainably, leaving ecosystems in the same kind of condition when European settlers first arrived. WRONG! The Aboriginals of today are not the same. First, there are more of them. Second, they have access to technology such as log skidders, chain saws, etc and they often just take a lump settlement of cash and let the multinational corporations bring in the heavy machinery for mining/logging/etc.
Canadian Aboriginals are exploiting land for its natural resources just the same as all other cultures. It should be noted that Aboriginals are apparently the fastest growing demographic in Canada. Elevated rights in our multi-tier Canadian human rights system could provide an explanation for such rampant population growth. What happens when you provide birdseed for only one particular species of bird? That species will have an advantage and consequently grow its population.
Aboriginals do not need hunting or fishing licenses. They can use gill nets for fishing. They can take as many walleye or moose as they can kill in or out of season. According to a brochure I picked up at the local MNR office entitled "Anishinabek Harvesting in Ontario", Aboriginals need not take the hunter safety course and they are even entitled to build a cabin on crown land. In addition they are not required to report their harvest. They also do not pay sales tax, property tax or fuel taxes. These conditions are conducive to a population explosion of Aboriginals, which is precisely what we are experiencing in Canada. In the far north, Aboriginals are still hunting beluga and narwhals and using modern rifles to do so.
Here are 4 more examples:
1) In 2002, the Cree Aboriginals and Quebec Premier Bernard Landry sign the "Peace of the Braves" accord. In return for a $3.5-billion from Quebec tax payers, the Crees agree to construct a massive hydroelectric project on the Rupert and Eastmain Rivers. http://www.vjel.org/editorials/ED10025.html
2) In 2004, 1.3 million hectares of old growth boreal forest are up for clearcutting near Red Lake in NW Ontario beyond the 51st parallel after Aboriginals agreed by accepting monetary incentives.
"...a massive land-use planning study is underway to open up vast expanses of virgin wilderness in Ontario's far North to commercial forestry within the next decade... Aboriginal communities, including Slate Falls, Cat Lake, Constance Lake, Eabemetoong and the Moose Cree, have expressed interest in obtaining Sustainable Forest Licences to start commercial logging in their traditional-use areas."
"...commercial logging in the Whitefeather area is not anticipated to occur until 2009. Timberline Consultants, a British Columbia forest management company, is working with the community to train people in the community to develop a forestry inventory to quantify development opportunities covering 1.3 million hectares of forest."
"The goal of the initiative is to secure commercial forest management tenure, and forestry and protected areas opportunities within the traditional territories of our First Nation. We have now passed a critical milestone in achieving our goal – the completion and approval of a Land Use Strategy for 'Keeping the Land.'" -- The Pikangikum First Nation
3) The Wikwemikong First Nation owning 55,000 hectares of eastern Manitoulin Island have chosen industrial scale logging as a revenue source.
"By the early 1990s, 80 years of unsustainable logging had severely depleted the community's 110,000-acre forest. A dozen people employed sporadically generated $250,000 per year by logging poor quality pulpwood."
4) The Zhiibaahaasing First Nation also on Manitoulin Island decided to make a quick buck by dumping an estimated 1.75 million used tires creating a massive fire hazard and costing tax payers $4 million dollars to remove.
It doesn't matter what people's history you examine. All civilizations have expanded their population to the detriment of the environment, including Canadian Aboriginals.
At 6.7 billion people and with oil production passing peak, the world cannot sustainably support its present population and any further growth comes at the cost of biodiversity and quality of life. In addition, the likelihood of billions of people dying due to the fallout from oil depletion increases as the population grows.
The following data suggests that Canadian Aboriginals are making the same mistakes as all other civilizations:
"Previous censuses have shown that the Aboriginal population is growing much faster than the total population, a trend which will continue through to 2017. The Aboriginal population is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8%, more than twice the rate of 0.7% for the general population. The biggest contributing factor to the more rapid growth is fertility, as the current Aboriginal birth rate is about 1.5 times the overall Canadian rate. According to the medium-growth scenario, the Inuit population will have the fastest rate of growth, about 2.3%, compared with 1.9% for the North American Indian population and 1.4% for the Métis."
In summary, Aboriginal rights have lead to growth of their population. The more rights they get, the more their population grows. The more any population grows, the more environmental damage there is.
No human rights can be guaranteed unless ecological limits are respected. Over time, the overpopulation of human beings can erode every right you hold dear. Our society is supremely flawed with its liberal policy that allows any woman to bear as many children as she is physically able to. As long as we have that policy, nobody's rights can be ascertained including Natives. What kind of natural resource management is the following: A Canadian needs a license to catch a single fish (unless you're a Native), but no license to have 10 children.
Human rights is a two-tiered system in Canada. There's native rights, and then there's the rights of everyone else. Without applying the same rules to everyone, racial equality in Canada is a myth and the biggest discriminator isn't some extremist group wearing white robes and burning crosses, it's the government who chooses not to collect taxes from three races: North American Indian, Inuit and Métis.
There is nothing sustainable about population growth and First Nations people are no exception to that rule. Nothing can grow indefinitely in a finite world.