Separating Oil and State

The Alberta tar sands are not called a giga project for no reason.

Their reach extends far beyond a Florida-sized deposit in northern Alberta and inhabit a spider web-like network of expansion pipelines across Canada and the United states. Add this to a transcontinental supply chain for materials and a global financing system and the result is pillars of this system that can be found around the globe.

It should come as no surprise that both Occupy Edmonton and Occupy Calgary are overlooked by head offices of some of the most largest players in the tar sands game. Local organizers are already well tuned to the fact that in the shadows of skyscrapers emblazoned with 'Enbridge,' corporate greed is synonymous with Canada's bitumen merchants.

As one slogan from Occupy Edmonton so concisely tells it, "Just because oil runs your car doesn't mean it needs to run your government." But other camps also lie a stone's throw from lynch pins in this system. Here are two:


Toronto's financial district is probably the closest to a real Wall Street that Canada can muster, but it is one of the largest trading centers for oil and mining companies. The TSX is a hub for corporations involved in fueling climate change and violating the rights of communities around the globe.

The TSX has been linked to financing and promoting extractive corporations forays into regions that would lead to conflict, such as the case of Copper Messa in Ecuador where, according to MiningWatch Canada, the "TSX's decision made it possible for the company, not only to hire the thugs that shot at defenseless campesinos in Junin on December 2006, but that also paid for a number of other illegal and aggressive tactics."

A scan of the list of 543 oil and mining companies -- with a collective market cap of over $1.1 trillion -- listed by the Revenue Watch Institute is like reading a laundry list of land rights, human rights and environmental regulation violators including tar sands frontrunners like Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd and dozens of others. On top of this are known Latin-American human rights violating mining companies like Barrick Gold and more than a handful of companies like Niocan Ltd, currently involved in a fight to build a niobium mine on Mohawk territory near Montreal.

In the fight for a just, sustainable future, the TSX represents the heart of darkness when it comes to financing destruction.


In the public fight over the tar sands, Power Corporation is a seldom heard name, barely uttered outside of Quebec. Power Corporation is the largest individual shareholder in the French oil giant Total, who operate the Joslyn mine project and hold major interests in the Surmont in-situ operation, the Fort Hills and Northern Lights mining operations and the Voyageur Upgrader project.

Not limited to simply profiting off of the tar sands, Power Corp. has been outed as a major political supporter of the project in Quebec. Power Corp. owns major Quebec newspaper, La Presse, which has come to the defence of the tar sands on a number of occasion, including chastizing Quebec Premier Jean Charest for speaking out against the tar sands during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Talks. According to a leaked cable from the United States Department of Energy, links are drawn clearly between Power Corp. and the position taken by La Presse, as well as behind the scenes pressure placed on Charest to quiet down about the tar sands.

Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts

Canada has an economy largely based on the extraction of natural resources. Corporate greed in our nation can be directly connected to the destruction of the natural world, perhaps most visually apparent in the massive open pit mines of the tar sands. If the Occupy movement is going to break corporate control of our lives, we need to start where it is most apparent in our government. We need to "separate oil and state."

The reality is that this flashpoint will not end greed or capitalism, or solve the climate crisis. The Occupy encampments are not the endgame but the opening salvo in a conflict that will play out in the coming years. But this flashpoint offers us a chance to hit the most destructive corporations in Canada where it counts and to force them to reckon with the simple fact that infinite growth does not work in a finite system.

It's time to put our mouths, and our bodies where their money is, because unlike these banks and corporations, nature doesn't do bailouts.

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