I am just back from a wonderful trip north to the Yukon and am reminded again of the amazing legacy of mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and communities that make up our natural heritage in Northern Canada.
This was the first trip North for me since the installation of the Northwest Transmission Line and what an eyesore that is! Quite a gift from the BC Liberals to their Imperial Metals friends at Red Chris mine!
It’s clear that these people see a pristine valley alive with mountain goats, caribou, bear and other wild animals, not as a refuge for the human spirit but as nothing more than a convenient tailings pond in perpetuity.
After all, isn’t it a given that corporate profit is the be all and end all of human endeavour?
I made a point of visiting the site of my first job as the company doctor for United Keno Hill Mines in Elsa Yukon in 1971 and was reminded by the mess and debris of the old town site and the McQuesten River valley plugged with cyanide tailings, of the hollowness of claims by the mining industry that they will put things back and reclaim the natural environment when they move on, as if they could.
On the way home, I stopped in at the old Cassiar asbestos mining site north of Dease Lake.
Where there was once a thriving company town there is a chain link fence, a junk dealer and a literal mountain of asbestos tailings waiting patiently for eternity to restore balance in that beautiful mountain setting.
And when I returned home I listened to federal natural resources minister Jim Carr and Alberta premier Rachel Notley one morning on CBC’s The House.
I was saddened again by the poverty of our national vision.
It seems that all these well-meaning leaders are trying to do is find a better process and a less confrontational way to get to the fossil fuel ‘yes’ that they keep believing is necessary for the economy and magically, just fine for the environment.
But in an overpopulated and increasingly polluted world, the one natural resource we hold uniquely in Canada is a reservoir of wilderness: more precious and of more value to the world than a thousand LNG terminals or a million oil pipelines could represent.
We also have a diverse and well educated population that could, with effort and vision, create a more sustainable, locally accountable and healthier economy than one of simple dependence on big extractive projects.
But we seem to lack confidence in ourselves and so we dress up in our finest clothes and so go on trade missions begging representatives of land and resource hungry countries to come and get it.
When a country with a population as small as Canada’s strikes a free trade deal with a country the size of China, the subtext from Canada’s point of view can only be ‘help yourself’ no matter how we may want to imagine it as a partnership between equals.
I am so tired of this unrelenting view of Canada as a wealth generating hole in the ground.
Until this belief system changes and until we begin to appreciate the value of what we really have, who we really are and what we could offer the world, I suspect that all we are going to get from elected leaders is more of the same.
I hope the politicians are reading the tea leaves wrong.
And I hope that no matter how slickly they manage the process, that Canadian people at the grass roots, led by the wisdom of First Nations will say no – not to jobs, not to the future, but to LNG and bitumen pipelines, oversized mines, energy generating mega schemes, and to the fossilized economic view they represent.
Dr. David Bowering,