jen preston on the tar sands of canada


Jen Preston, ‘Neoliberal settler colonialism, Canada and the tar sands’ Race & Class 55, 2 (2013).

The Canadian government commenced the treaty-making process with the Indigenous peoples of the Athabasca region in 1870, motivated by the Geological Survey of Canada’s reports that petroleum existed in the area. This, in addition to the discovery of gold in the Klondike region, spurred an influx of unregulated settlement and resource extraction in the north. The trajectory of this history has continued to bring the Canadian settler state – and its oil industry stakeholders – into negotiation with indigenous Nations over the Athabasca tar sands. Currently contested is Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project, which aims to move oil from the Edmonton, Alberta area by way of two massive pipelines covering 1,170km to Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would then be transported to Asia-Pacific markets by super-tankers. This paper examines the widespread criticism of the project from Indigenous and environmental groups, as well as responses to these objections by public/private partnerships between Enbridge, federal and provincial governments and their national security and counter-terrorism forces. It argues that recognising and naming contemporary forms of white settler colonialism, including these types of neoliberal partnerships, is required for new relations to become possible.

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