In 2009, the oil sands (or tarsands) company Nexen gave funding to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) to prepare a now-forgotten study called Resource Industries and Security Issues in Northern Alberta. The institute hired Tom Flanagan, a conservative academic often called “the man behind Stephen Harper,” to write it. Flanagan warned of a possible “apocalyptic scenario” if there were ever prolonged and deep collaboration between environmentalists, First Nations, and the Métis people, among other groups. By “apocalyptic,” he meant that industries like oil and gas would have trouble continuing to extract resources and profits in northern Alberta and would no longer be able to flagrantly disregard Indigenous rights. If these groups were to “make common cause and cooperate with each other,” Flanagan wrote, they could form “a coordinated movement with the ability to block resource development on a large scale.”
A lot has changed since then—the think tank CDFAI has been rebranded as the more benign-sounding Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Nexen no longer exists after being bought out by CNOOC Ltd., and Flanagan has largely fallen out of the public eye—but we think his central point is more relevant than ever. In fact, it’s a big part of why we wanted to write this book. Except, from our perspective, “a coordinated movement” between Indigenous peoples, settler environmentalists, organized labour, and many others is the precise opposite of an apocalyptic scenario. We think it’s the one thing that could bring us back from our current slide into climate collapse, colonial genocide, and extreme inequality, and towards a better world where we live in balance with land and life.
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