Episode 36: Maplewashing — Looking Behind Canada’s Progressive Veneer

Citations Needed | May 9, 2018 | Transcript


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed, a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Adam: (Laughs) Join the team. But seriously we are-

Nima: (Laughing) Hold on, I gotta get this out.

Adam: I’m sorry.

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Nima: So, week after week, as listeners of this show know, we talk a lot about media in the United States and common myths and stereotypes that we see and that are repeated millions of times over about lingering colonial sentiment, racism, imperialism, things of that wonderful nature. But we’ve, we’ve actually heard from listeners of the show that we might be neglecting our neighbors to the North.

Adam: The general ethos of the show, if you will, is that we are very critical of, of the United States because that’s the country where Nima and I are from, it’s where we’re born and raised and we, you know, that’s sort of what we think is the most useful thing for us to go after for reasons that we laid out in several episodes that I don’t need to retread right now. But there’s a white settler colony to our north that we’ve been neglecting that has many similar issues and problems. In a somewhat perverse way it’s kind of liberal or progressive image has shielded it from those criticisms. And I think there’s a lot of frustrated Canadian leftist or Canadian progressives who apparently kind of want to get the quote unquote “Citations Needed treatment” as it were, uh, for what they view as being a kind of artificial or, or at least overblown reputation for being this woke, progressive version of the United States.

Nima: So the way that Canada is really depicted in the United States is this progressive bastion of kindness and free healthcare and low violence and harmony and peace and tranquility, uh, tolerance and especially when it comes to comparing it with the far more right-wing and divisive, uglier aspects of American politics. You know, you don’t hear that much about Canada when a more “liberal politician” is in the Oval Office. And yet when it is someone more right wing, when it’s a Bush, when it’s certainly a Trump, Canada is kind of r envisioned as this shining light above us all. Where if we could only just be like Canada, things would be a lot better. And obviously the truth is not necessarily so. That’s kind of the liberal trope-iness of the Canadian meme in our culture. You know, it’s, it’s why when George W. Bush was running for office, the cries went out, ‘Well, if Bush wins, I’m moving to Canada’ and then when he was up for reelection, ‘If Bush wins again, I’m moving to Canada’ and then you know, you see this, it was McCain, it was Romney, and then certainly Trump and Canada is also the place in the kind of liberal historiography I guess of activism where during Vietnam progressives, liberals, leftists who refused to join the military through the draft would go to Canada because they would oftentimes take people in. Not always, but often.

Adam: Yeah. I think the worst offender of this is Michael Moore, who’s kind of like the worst Canada humper. He even made a movie called Canadian Bacon where he kind of pokes fun at Canada in a way that’s basically very affectionate towards Canada and he’s obviously from, he’s from Michigan, so he has a relationship with Canada. But the general premise of a lot of his movies is that, and this is, this is a thread that we’re going to talk about on another show, which is the trap of fetishizing white socialist countries and Canada in Western Europe, which, you know, that’s a whole different can of worms, but it’s a similar thread I think. I think it’s a similar part of the brain that simulated that there’s this glorious social democracy, a system that is something we should strive for in a way. We want to be clear in this episode that there are things that Canada does that are not, that are measurably better, like for example, universal healthcare or you know, not going to, uh, to Vietnam. Although Canada does help out with a lot of US imperial interests and Canada even did some of the, some of the spycraft during Vietnam. But mostly they sat it out despite what certain right wing pundits like Ann Coulter believe.

[Begin Clip]

Ann Coulter: Discussing the anti-war protesters Canada used to be one of our most, most loyal friends and vice versa. I mean Canada sent troops to Vietnam. Was Vietnam less containable and more of a threat than Saddam Hussein?
Bob McKeown: Actually Canada did not send troops to Vietnam.
Ann Coulter: I don’t think that’s right.
Bob McKeown: Canada did not send troops to Vietnam.
Ann Coulter: Indochina?
Bob McKeown: No. No. Canada, second world war of course. Korea, yes.
Ann Coulter: I think you’re wrong.
Bob McKeown: Vietnam no, took a pass on Vietnam.
Ann Coulter: I think you’re wrong.
Bob McKeown: No. Australia was there, not Canada.
Ann Coulter: I think Canada sent troops. Well I’ll get back to you on that.
Bob McKeown: (Laughs) Okay.
Man: Ann Coulter never got back to us, but for the record, like Iraq, Canada sent no troops to Vietnam.

[End Clip]

Nima: God, I love that clip. It’s so amazing.

Adam: It is so good.

Nima: It’s so good. Right. The right-wing trope really tends to hinge on telling, let’s say, as the City Journal has put it, “The Ugly Truth About Canadian Health Care,” or as The National Review put it, “Canada’s Single-Payer Healthcare System: A Cautionary Tale.” That is the big right-wing fear of Canada. That is what conservatives kind of say about Canada: ‘It’s not this amazing place. It’s not what you think it is,’ but they’re doing it just so that they can tack right when it comes to the things that they care about and never of course having anything to do with the colonial settler history of that society. So to kind of unpack a lot of this, we decided it would be best if we talk to two Canadians today. Uh, the first is Canadian journalist and political analyst, Luke Savage.

[Begin Clip]

Luke Savage: So many people they just kind of consume the news and what they see is mostly a pretty good image of Canada’s liberal government. And they sort of default to the idea that, you know, the country handles these kinds of issues much better than any other country, especially the United States. Um, you know, not being the United States is a big part of Canada’s identity too.

[End Clip]

Nima: And later in the show we will also be speaking with Eriel Deranger, founding member and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action.

[Begin Clip]

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: I don’t have a lot of faith that colonial governments are really willing to take actionable measures to address colonization because in order to address the legacy of colonization in this country also has to address the entrenched white supremacy and dismantling systems of white supremacy in this country that no one wants to talk about.

[End Clip]

Adam: One thing the media likes to do more than any other in the United States is fall over Justin Trudeau, the new young hip prime minister of Canada. He’s been in office for about two years. We will talk about issues with him later.

Nima: And he is obviously the son of a former prime minister, just in case we think that the United States has a kind of monopoly on aristocracy in this continent. We don’t.

Adam: Yeah. I want to read some of the headlines from BuzzFeed, which is, uh, you know, we’ve talked about its weirdly cultish and very positive. Um, I did one article in FAIR where we traced the positive nature of BuzzFeed when it covers, think people like Obama, and apparently it was really, they had a similar crush on Justin Trudeau where 99 percent of their coverage of Obama was friendly or neutral and less than one percent was critical. Trudeau, I think just a back of the napkin-

Nima: It’s, like, downright creepy. (Laughs)

Adam: Yeah. So here are some headlines for when the two met and the editors at BuzzFeed’s, the sort of liberal sycophants at BuzzFeed heads began to explode where they kind of met. And I think at some point Obama and Trudeau melted into each other like Ron Silver from Timecop. Here’s the headline, “Obama and Canada’s Hot Prime Minister Both Made Jokes About Justin Bieber.” By the way, this is straight news reporting. This is not like normal BuzzFeed. This is the actual, this is BuzzFeed News.

Nima: These are not listicles. These are BuzzFeed News reports.

Adam: Right. Um, here’s another headline, “Can You Look At These Photos Of Trudeau And Obama Without Getting All Hot?” “Now kiss” is the sub headline. “Justin Trudeau And Barack Obama Are Having The Most Brotastic State Visit” and the sub headline is, “And Obama said ‘eh’.” Now that’s by Craig Silverman.

Nima: The founding editor of BuzzFeed Canada.

Adam: And the leading expert cited everywhere from The New York Times to The Guardian in Russian propaganda, so take that for what it’s worth.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: And so here’s another one, “Literally Just 12 Steamy Excerpts of Trudeau/Obama Fanfiction.” “15 Instantly Iconic Photos From The White House State Dinner For Justin Trudeau.” “The Internet Is literally Shipping Justin Trudeau And Barack Obama Together.” There’s this kind of liberal obsession with Trudeau as a kind of ersatz Obama since he left, where he sort of this charismatic Kennedy like figure who is the polar opposite of Trump, which is true in some ways, but in many ways, which we’ll get into in greater detail later they’re actually very similar. And I think the similarities are really where you kind of expose the limits of this Canadian fetishization.

Nima: One thing that is often I think ignored when discussing Canada is that it’s not all snow hockey, moose and Molson. There’s also billions of dollars worth of arms sales to dictators around the world. For instance, weapons and heavy artillery, uh, by the billions go to places like Saudi Arabia and even recently Duterte’s Philippines. These are things that get kind of ignored because obviously the amount of weaponry that a place like Canada sends around the world is going to be dwarfed by anything the United States does. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. That doesn’t mean that those aren’t billions and billions of dollars going to these other governments. And, you know, it should be noted that actually the history of Canadian arms trade, uh, has, has not necessarily always been so kind of open to providing artillery and weapons and equipment to governments or groups that would potentially use them for really horrible things. Which, I mean, obviously they are always going to be used for really horrible things. But, uh, if we look back to just after World War II, when Canada took it upon itself to resupply a very depleted western Europe with arms at the time, Prime Minister Mackenzie King noted that, “Great care should be taken with respect to all sales of weapons and supplies of war to foreign governments.” Obviously that’s a platitude that we’d hear from most prime ministers, most government officials everywhere. But actually in 1946, the Canadian cabinet passed legislation basically agreeing to give 6 million .30 caliber cartridges and 4 million magazines to the Dutch army right before the Netherlands was basically going to embark on this colonial war in Indonesia. And the Dutch basically asked for more machine guns to use in Indonesia and they were turned down by Canada. And actually according to a document from the Canadian archives, the reason given was this, “We have no reason to believe that Canadian public opinion would support such a sale, nor would it be in the Canadian interest to make the sale.” So this kind of stuff was happening in the middle of last century. Basically the concept that Canada would not want to provide weapons to, as they said, “The pacification of a native population.” And so they basically didn’t give those arms to the Netherlands. Same thing basically happened with providing arms to Chinese republicans that were fighting Mao’s Communists. They actually did not get weapons that they were hoping for. And yet then by the 1970s, this actually started to change and Canada really started exporting a lot more weapons around the world. There’s one recent analysis that shows that Canada supplied nearly $8 billion worth of arms over the past quarter century to countries that, um, had been classified “dictatorships.” Now granted that classification you can kind of pull apart and its certainly political because this report was done by Freedom House, which has many, many problems, but it kind of goes a long way to show how open to the arms trade and to kind of spreading that sort of western imperialism around the world wound up kind of coming around in the Canadian politic.

Adam: But of course, you know, you and I aren’t Canadians. So, uh, let’s talk to two Canadians about this and let’s get the Canadian perspective that is in much demand from our Canadian listeners.

Nima: Definitely. So first up we will speak with friend of the show journalist Luke Savage. Stick with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Luke Savage, journalist and Canadia expert.

Adam: Friend of the show. Second appearance.

Nima: Friend of the show. Great to have you. I’m very excited to talk about Canada with you Luke, welcome to Citations Needed.

Adam: Repeat offender.

Luke Savage: Hi guys. Thanks for having me back.

Adam: We were talking online about Canada and this came up in the last episode you were on tangentially as well as other conversations we had with our other Canadian guest, Greg Shupak, who we learned after we interviewed him was Canadian otherwise we of course would not have had him on. And it’s a request we’ve gotten for the show several times, which is the gap between how Canada is viewed in the United States, especially by progressives, your kind of Michael Moore left in sort of fetishized versus what the reality is and how oftentimes that reality is, is maple washed, as you call it, can you give us a, a, I guess a general overview of what this pathology is in American leftist liberals and American progressives that looks at Canada as some kind of weird anti United States when in fact there’s obviously much more parallels then I think most people know.

Luke Savage: Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s a really interesting question because I think there’s actually a kind of a symbiotic process going on. I think on the one hand, and it’s sort of a chicken and the egg thing as to where it begins. But, you know, I think generally speaking you could say Canada has a particular view of itself. It has a national mythology, um, that’s kind of built around progressive multiculturalism. And of course, you know, like any or like many national, uh, myths, you know, there are elements of truth to that, but, you know, it’s certainly not the whole picture. And a lot of times it’s used to kind of obscure what the actual picture is. And I think that, you know, so Canada projects that image globally and then what happens is, because that is a comforting story that people like it gets projected back at us, us Canadians that is. Um, Canadians have small country syndrome, you know, we are next to the most kind of powerful and hegemonic country in the world and we’re a country of just over 30 million people. And so Canadians absolutely love that stuff. So it’s a, it’s a very useful relationship. Canadians project this image and then American liberals and others, um, in other countries, you know, kind of project it and even more exaggerated version of it back at us. And we love that, you know, that’s why Justin Trudeau has been, he’s kind of almost the embodiment of that process and maybe we’ll talk about him a little bit more down the line.

Nima: So Luke, following Brexit, and actually in the wake of Trump’s election at the end of 2016, then Vice President Joe Biden actually went to Ottawa and referred to Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister at that point, as well as Germany’s Angela Merkel as what he basically termed last remaining defenders of quote, “The liberal international order.” He did that during like a state visit. A year earlier in 2015 Trudeau proudly declared Canada to be the world’s quote, “First post national state.” Can you kind of like talk about how those labels are so misleading and kind of what harm they do both out in the world and to maybe even Canadian self perception?

Luke Savage: Um, yeah. I mean I think we should also talk about the origins of that kind of nationalism and where those stories come from. I mean, I think it’s, it’s really a product of a few kind of contingent moments. The making of the modern Canadian identity was actually pretty recent. It was in the 1960s. And Canada was obviously aligned with the western block during the Cold War, but it did pursue, you know, a kind of intermittently independent and kind of multilateral foreign policy in some areas and a peacekeeping was invented in that time, invented and credited to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Canada hasn’t contributed in a big way to peace keeping significantly for decades. But that’s still kind of the national image. Another thing that came out of the sixties was like multiculturalism as state policy and as kind of a state building project. Um, so again, it’s not that there aren’t some elements of truth to the story, but you know, Canada is a colonial society just like the United States. It’s a society whose, you know, foreign policy since the 1990s has not been particularly progressive. And you know, there are things that we do better than the United States, our healthcare system being a really obvious example. But I mean, you are raised here. I went to Canadian public school and you’re just raised with this image of a country that you know, is basically a sort of post racial Scandinavia or something, you know, and uh, that’s obviously really harmful because, you know, there are a lot of problems in this country that it’s very hard to talk about because people don’t really believe they exist and you know, that is, there is something about our ruling cultural ethos that’s really adverse to introspection and self critique. Um, and uh, you know, things like that Joe Biden remark that you alluded to, I mean, Canadians just love that. I mean they would rather think about that than the fact that there are reserves with no clean drinking water and etcetera.

Adam: The way you make it sound, it sounds like a country that is basically a kind of smug MSNBC liberal wine dad in Napa Valley, but like manifested as a country like the sort of self-satisfied, California liberal. So let’s talk about what they do things right, because you had mentioned there is actual differences. Healthcare policy. You did not assist in our genocide of Vietnam, you know, that that was, that was nice. Um, although there was, I think, some intelligence assistance in some tangential way. There was no, there was no troops. Right.

Luke Savage: That’s right.

Adam: So, you know, brownie points for that and I think that’s great. But your argument, it seems to be generally that since the two things, (a) it’s a fundamentally white settler colony as the United States is right?

Luke Savage: Yeah. Absolutely.

Adam: And it’s still, it’s still colonizing and oppressing Native Americans to this day probably in a more pronounced way because the native population in Canada is proportionately much higher. And two, that since the ‘90s, the foreign policy has been manifestly liberal hawkish. Um, they obviously sat out the Iraq War, but they partake in the Afghanistan occupation as well as sort of nominal bombings in Syria against ISIS as well. And I know Canadian intelligence has also helped with some of the support of rebels in Syria. So in a way, do you feel like your general argument is that this veneer or this kind of self image makes meaningful critique of them as a white settler or imperial country or at least imperialism light? Especially with their support for Israel, Saudi Arabia, so forth, that it makes any kind of potent critique more difficult is that, that’s your general thesis, correct?

Luke Savage: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I think one way of thinking about Canadian nationalism is that it’s kind of a nationalism that doesn’t think of itself as a nationalism. So, you know, the Canadian identity is sort of almost a negative thing. It’s like having no identity. It’s the absence of identity or at least officially. Um, and the kind of codified identity we do have is just this sort of liturgical celebration of progressive multiculturalism. There are a lot of Canadians that do have kind of progressive attitudes if I don’t have an empirical basis for this, but I think generally speaking, the sort of, you know, median Canadian voter probably has a more progressive bent than the median American voter. But the trouble is that a lot of people, uh, you know, kind of like I said already think that Canada is, you know, sort of a finished project that it already has a kind of Scandinavian welfare state that it’s already sort of a, you know, multicultural, socialist country and um, it’s not even a European welfare state. I mean, there was some parts of it that are sort of getting towards that, um, you know, we’ve had a, some form of sort of labor affiliated parliamentary representation since the 1930s and that, that means that we have a stronger social safety net, a stronger welfare system than the United States. But it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re, uh, you know, some kind of perfect combination of like Switzerland and Sweden or something.

Nima: Right. Do you think that the Canadian politics shifted massively under like the conservative Harper administration, the linkages between Harper and then, uh, you know, the Bush administration kind of like a more neoconservative foreign policy, at least what implications did that have domestically? And were the foreign policies even that, that different from now what the liberal being back in power is doing as well?

Luke Savage: Yeah. You know, it’s a really interesting question because rhetorically, at least, the Harper government really shifted, uh, Canada’s posture internationally. Um, but I think that substantively, you know, I’m not sure, you know, this, this could be a, I mean, this could be a whole discussion in itself, but I’m not sure Harper really radically realigned Canada’s foreign policy all that much. What he did do was talk a lot and much of that had to do with, you know, the conservative domestic strategy, which was in a big way targeting suburbs and was really picking up on kind of these specific, um, you know, international causes. There were a whole bunch of them. Um, and you know, that was, that was kind of an electoral strategy. And I think, uh, it could be debated in detail to what extent Canadian foreign policy changed. I mean, there was the, the Harper people did have contempt for a lot of kind of the existing, you know, just like, I’m sure the Trump people do, a lot of the existing sort of foreign policy establishment and stuff. Um, and, and the, and the public service. Um, but yeah, I’m not sure. I think, you know, the, the Harper, uh, you know, just like, um, you know, Trump for some people I don’t really know why makes Bush look good. You know, Harper kind of inversely, makes anything Justin Trudeau does seem just incredible by comparison and um, you know, it’s, it’s really fascinating the way that we, that election was experienced a few years ago because it really was just the return to power of the same political party that governed Canada throughout most of the 20th century. I mean, one of the most dominant political parties in the western world. Um, but it was treated as a kind of transformational event even though it was the son of a former prime minister, kind of monarchical, uh, you know, becoming, becoming prime minister in his, uh, in his father’s stead. So, um, yeah, all these, all these, all these things kind of make up Canada’s peculiar national pathology and I really, I really don’t know if another country could have an election like that to basically just sort of return the old regime to power and um, have it be kind of celebrated at home and abroad as some, you know, big transformative event.

Adam: I mean, Trudeau is objectively hot. I think this bears mentioning. The press in Canada, kind of treated him like they treated Obama, which is sort of like, I did this article for FAIR once saying that 99 percent of BuzzFeed’s coverage of Obama was uncritical. I literally looked at 100 stories and I think only one was mildly critical, about 65 were um, fawning and about 40 or so were kind of neutral. Now if you look at BuzzFeed Canada for example, which is run out of Canada and run by Canadians, it’s like ten times worse. Its ‘Justin Trudeau’s Woke Bae,’ ‘He took off his shirt here,’ ‘He did this here,’ ‘He talked to a kid.’ I mean it’s, it’s total down the middle Pravda stuff. And in a lot of Canadian liberal media, similar, of course, not all of it, and you see it, you see it to some extent in France as well, but this celebrification of Canadian politics in this glorification as the kind of anti Trump, to what extent is that, especially in foreign policy, to what extent is that a dangerous posture to take for sort of supposed progressives?

Luke Savage: I would ask, uh, people who think that way to, to point to the areas where Trudeau is really substantively breaking with Trump. I mean, in some cases he is rhetorically challenging Trump, but in some cases he’s quite obsequiously courting and engaging with Trump. Canada, you know, definitely has a better policy towards refugees than the United States. But even that’s been kind of exaggerated. I mean, you know, a really good example of how these kind of incorrect narratives can inflect people’s perceptions is those images about a year ago of asylum seekers at the Canadian border being cheerfully greeted by smiling Mounties who are, you know, picking up the children and smiling and stuff. And the photos that nobody saw, or fewer people saw was those same people being handcuffed moments later and take into detention centers because you know, nobody wants to consume images like that. They’d rather just kind of liturgically consume the false image of Canada over and over again. With Trudeau, again, I guess I would just ask, you know, where he’s substantively broken with Trump. He agrees with Trump, it seems like on a lot of issues or is refusing to substantively challenged him on them.

Nima: Yeah, Canada was at the forefront of the um, ‘Hey, let’s send more weapons to Ukraine.’ They approved those sales back in December of 2017. And I think now the Trump administration just, you know, early 2018 is catching up to that.

Adam: So, weapons sales that Obama opposed, by the way.

Nima: Mhmm.

Adam: He’s obviously no, no dove, as it were.

Nima: But right. We previously spoke about Canadian $15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which granted I think was under Harper, but was ultimately approved by the Liberals.

Luke Savage: The export permits were approved by the Liberals who, who, you know, opposed the deal and opposition. And then basically, you know, kind of threw up their hands and said, you know, ‘Oh, we had no choice.’ And then of course it emerged they’d signed the export permits. It’s also emerged that they’re looking to expand arm sales, uh, in the Middle East and elsewhere. So, I mean-

Nima: You just kind of wind up, uh, you know, having reality butt up against the fantasy of Canada and that it’s this jolly, hockey obsessed, maple infused, place to the north, where there’s snow everywhere and everyone’s smiling and you know, says, “eh.” But a lot of the policies are very similar, are very parallel. I mean, Canada had a Japanese interment program after Pearl Harbor.

Luke Savage: Yeah, Canada had a residential school system, which, you know, the explicit aim of which was to, uh, I mean it was, uh, it was, uh, it was a genocidal project. Uh, that was, you know, that aimed to, to eliminate the country’s indigenous population.

Adam: It’s almost like the problem is not “America,” it’s white settler colonialism. I’m noticing a trend. There’s kinder and gentler variations of that. Certainly some are more genocidal than others. But you wrote about specifically how the, you mentioned this earlier, how the national ethos of Canada was codified in this 1982 constitution act. For those of us who are ignorant Americans, theoretically, hypothetical this ignorant American who doesn’t know much and may or may not be named Adam Johnson. Can you kind of explain what that is and how that did codify the national ethos and what that ethos sort of nominally represents?

Luke Savage: Yeah so I mean the making of Canada’s modern identity was really in the 1960s and you know, is people kind of associate it correctly with what was called Trudeau mania, which was the, uh, you know, Trudeau 1.0, which was back in 1968, which was where Pierre Trudeau, a kind of, he became this big, you know, sex symbol. He was kind of a, he was synonymous with kind of, I guess the more liberalizing attitudes at the time. So his government, um, you know, introduced official bilingualism, um, you know, kind of a multiculturalism as national policy and a few other things. And all of that culminated. There was a brief interlude where the conservatives were in power for just a few months in 1979, um, and then lost a confidence vote because they, uh, they forgot how to count and do arithmetic. So Trudeau returned to power and um, uh, and his kind of signature achievement was, this, you know, it’s referred to as the repatriation of the constitution. So the constitution being returned as it were from Great Britain and the constitution is, I mean, it’s actually been interpreted by, uh, you know, the courts in some cases in very progressive ways so for example, um, you know, with campaign financing and things like that. Um, but it’s basically, I think you could say a small ‘l’ liberal constitution. It doesn’t really encroach significantly into kind of economic rights and things like that. It’s, uh, you know, it guarantees civil liberties, you know, at least nominally and things like that. But it’s essentially kind of a small ‘l’ liberal document. But that whole, that whole kind of period from the 1960s through to the 1980s is when this kind of national identity and all of its, uh, its big totems were kind of forged. And um, uh, you know, that’s where it’s that period where this narrative of Canada’s kind of the multilateral multicultural progressive utopia really comes from.

Nima: Something you’ve written about in your really excellent piece that obviously we’re going to link to as part of this episode, “150 Years Of Canadian Maple Washing,” you write that basically Canada was a nation that almost wasn’t. Um, you know, you write, “What is now called ‘Canada’ might easily not have been, or might have been in radically different form.” Can you kind of unpack a little bit of that colonial history for us? We really do like history on this show and so the kind of-

Adam: And you have to assume that most people don’t know any of this shit.

Nima: Yeah, right. Obviously we both know all of this.

Adam: Yeah, this theoretical person again his name may or may not be Shmadam Shmohnson. To this person who doesn’t know it, how would you explain it to them?

Nima: How would you explain this to an idiot…like me?

Luke Savage: Well, I mean North America had a series of European colonies and in what’s now Canada really, the first kind of really successful one was, was, uh, was New France. Um, and if you go to, if you go to Quebec City for example, it really is very different from other parts of the country. It’s much more like a European city, just in the sense that it feels very old because it is. Uh, you know, during, uh, you know, the Seven Years War, uh, old or New France rather was conquered by the British and the French decided in the negotiations that they, uh, they would just give up the colony cause they actually could have retained it, which is interesting. But, um, they just, for various reasons, they didn’t, they didn’t really see it in, uh, as in their interest. So Quebec, which had been a colony of course, um, you know, was kind of almost colonized again by the British. Um, it was a very, uh, it was a very strange kind of society that was, uh, in which the Catholic church kind of ran everything that was really until the 1950s. It was the most conservative and kind of traditional part of North America, um, for a very long time. Um, and, and it’s kind of an awakening in what was called the quiet revolution of the 1950s and 60s, you know, is a big part of a Canada’s kind of national story as well. But I mean, yeah, when I say Canada, you know, could have easily not come to be. I guess I just mean that so much of it’s existence has to do with these, uh, you know, this is kind of geopolitics from kind of the, you know, 18th and 19th centuries. Um, and you know, it just happened to produce something that became this nation state with its different provinces. But that could easily not have happened.

Adam: What year did Canada become Canada?

Luke Savage: 1867 was when, I mean, there, there are, I mean obviously parts of Canada kind of were there before that, but I mean that’s when Canada on paper began.

Adam: Right. I was curious if there was a, in your mind, there was a non ‘on paper’ answer to that question.

Luke Savage: In many ways, uh, the, the settlement of New France is where Canada began. Because that’s when you know, one of it’s two kind of big constituent parts, you know, the French and English colonies, that’s when it took root.

Adam: Right. Let’s shift gears here to, to Native American issues, indigenous issues. The tensions between fossil fuels and the environmental activism on the part of the Native American rights, which is not an abstract or a sort of ethereal question. It’s one of survival. It’s one of, it’s one of maintaining the survival of their culture. These aren’t just happening in the United States. They’re obviously very important in Canada as well and had been going on to I think a much more extreme degree in many ways. Um, to what extent does this maple washing or kind of general attitude about this progressive Scandinavia-like country, does it make it more difficult for Native American activists to get people to care and to be outraged at the government, a government that sort of broadly seen as woke bae with a six pack?

Luke Savage: Yeah.

Adam: And again, I want to state that he is objectively hot. I want to be clear.

Nima: (Laughing)

Luke Savage: I don’t think he has a six-pack though Adam. Citation needed.

Adam: Doesn’t he? There’s that picture of him where he’s boxing, he’s got, oh that was old though.

Nima: That was Putin. (Laughing)

Adam: I want to clarify here that, he is correct. We do not have current empirical evidence that Justin Trudeau has a six-pack. But go on. Sorry.

Luke Savage: Um, you referred to resource development and, and kind of the intersection between indigenous rights and land claims and resource development. And I mean, of course they, you know, much of the west of Canada especially, I mean, uh, you know, one province of Alberta, um, you know, much of its economy, its kind of like Texas, you know, much of its economy is built around the oil industry. Um, and, and so, you know, pipeline politics, uh, you know, frequently kind of override the, you know, sovereignty claims, um, of, you know, the different indigenous peoples that lived there particularly, you know, particularly in the west. Um, but again, as with everything in Canada, it’s just so difficult to raise, um, people’s attention because so many people are under the impression that things are kind of basically okay. Um, and you know, there are, there are basic infrastructural needs in, you know, in a lot of, uh, reserves that are just not being met. Um, you know, the federal government doesn’t fund, if you’re an on reserve child, the federal government does not fund you to nearly the same extent that it would if you, you know, uh, we’re going to school in downtown Toronto in the public school system, say, um, I mean there is, you know, structural racism in that sense, built right into, you know, the whole apparatus of Canada’s system of governance. Um, and yeah, as I said, with, as with everything else, it’s just very difficult to talk about it, especially now with the Trudeau government, which has made, you know, made and has made, um, in the lead-up to election and after, you know, so many really great sounding noises about, you know, kind of a new deal for indigenous people. Um, which, you know, went to the UN, in, I would have been sometime in, I think, you know, the spring of 2016, I may be getting the date wrong. Um, and, you know, announce the, you know, this was a, was a Minister Carolyn Bennett went and announced before the General Assembly, uh, ‘We’re going to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples unequivocally without reservation.’ And then sort of more, a bit more quietly, a few months later the minister of justice said, ‘Well, of course we’re not actually going to adapt it into Canadian a law. We’re going to do something entirely a different.’ Um, you know, and it, and it, you know, it may be that legally speaking-

Adam: Wait, are you suggesting that white people made a deal with Native Americans…

Nima: And then broke it?

Adam: And then reneged on it? No.

Luke Savage: I mean that is, that is almost the entire history of Canada. Um, but I mean it may, you know, and it may be that the UN Declaration-

Nima: Or the world.

Luke Savage: Or the world.

Adam: Let me tell you a little country called the United States.

Nima: And Australia.

Luke Savage: It may be that the, that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, you know, that it can’t, you know, legally speaking, be just perfectly adopted under Canadian law. But that begs the question why they said that it would be or that it should be. And I think so many people, they just kind of consume the news and what they see is mostly a pretty good image of Canada’s Liberal government. And they sort of default to the idea that, you know, the country handles these kinds of issues much better than any other country, especially the United States. Not being the United States is a big part of Canada’s identity too.

Nima: That’s kind of like the big plus. That’s the thing, right? It’s like during the Bush administration, you would, uh, you know, if you were an American traveling abroad, you would put a Canadian flag on your, on your big old backpack and people wouldn’t yell at you. Like, that was the big impression, kind of.

Luke Savage: Oh yeah. And I mean, I was in high school during, you know, in like 2003, 2004 and uh, you know, of course Canadian high school kids always talked about that, uh, and how cool it was to be Canadian abroad. So cool that other people wanted to be us because we weren’t the United States.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: I mean we got a good cop/bad cop thing. We’re so vulgar and so militaristic and so imperial, that Canada will always look better. Um, but in a weird way, it’s almost easier for a lot of leftists and progressives to have a boogie man. And when you don’t have the bogeyman, it almost makes it harder to marshal outrage over many of these things, which seems to be a common thread in what you’re saying.

Luke Savage: Actually, that’s, that’s a really good point. I mean, one thing that Canada really hasn’t had as much of as the United States is a, you know, a feral revanchist reactionary right. I mean the new right kind of the, you know, the sort of-

Adam: You have Rebel TV.

Luke Savage: That’s true. We do have Rebel TV, but I mean, it’s been, it’s, it really is a sort of minoritarian current.

Adam: Yeah. Totally.

Luke Savage: Um, and, and, you know, a lot of its audience I really think is international. Um, and it’s, and it’s, you know, it’s kind of, it’s been kind of struggling a lot lately. So in the, in the 1990s, that’s when the sort of American style, American inflected new-right, really came to Canada. It had a base in the west. Um, and that was in the, it was called the Reform Party. Um, and that’s the closest thing we’ve had to, you know, a kind of Bible belt, you know, socially conservative, Evangelical Christian, um, you know, uh, type political current, um, at the federal level anyway, but I mean, it never, it never formed a government. It, it merged with kind of the, the less reactionary conservative party in the early 2000s to create our modern conservative party. Um, which you know, is, uh, is not, you know, warm and fuzzy, but it’s certainly not, you know, it’s, it’s nothing like the Republican Party in terms of on the spectrum of how horribly reactionary it is.

Adam: Yeah you guys can’t compete with our racism.

Luke Savage: No one could.

Adam: You guys try and we appreciate you to. You’re putting in good work. Let me tell you that you’ve got a lot of anti-Muslim hysteria, a lot of anti-immigrant hysteria I see coming up.

Luke Savage: Oh yeah.

Adam: You guys are coming up, you know-

Nima: You’re getting there. You’re getting there.

Adam: And Double-A, you know, as like Mel Kiper would say, ‘You’re good in a phone booth,’ you know, ‘fluid hips, you’re a good prospect, but you’re not quite there.’

Luke Savage: Yeah, I want, I want to be clear. I’m not saying obviously there’s no far right in Canada or that, uh, the Conservative Party doesn’t have plenty of, you know, total loonies in it, but it’s certainly not as hard to the right as the Republican Party.

Adam: You could pump like Daily Stormer radio into Canada for five years straight, you’d never come close to vomiting out someone like Trump, like that is uniquely, there are differences. Like, you know, right.

Nima: Don’t test them.

Adam: They’re coming up in the world. They’re scrappy. They’re young. All right, well thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate it. This was great. I’m excited because like I said, we’ve had a lot of Canadians who thinks that this is like a thing they want to talk about on the left and it’s such a frustrating thing. So I think you did a great job distilling it all and obviously we’ll link to the articles which get into more detail for those who want to read that.

Luke Savage: Yeah.

Adam: Luke, before you go though you want to promote your wares for our listeners?

Luke Savage: Well, people can follow me on Twitter at, uh, @LukeWSavage. Um, I have a podcast called Michael and Us that I do with my friend Will Sloan, um, and it’s kind of, it started as sort of a novelty Michael Moore podcast, where as people that were kind of raised on Michael Moore in the early 2000s, we went back through his entire back catalog and you’re kind of relived the magic and now it’s kind of more just a podcast about, you know, political cinema and culture generally.

Adam: And now it’s turned into a bitcoin podcast somehow.

Luke Savage: That’s right.

Nima: Well, that’s the obvious trajectory when you’re talking about agitprop. Then you move right into bitcoin.

Adam: And you shift to video somehow. All right, so it’s called Michael and Us.

Luke Savage: You can find it on Soundcloud and on iTunes.

Adam: Thank you so much Mr. Savage for coming on. We appreciate it.

Nima: Yeah. Luke Savage, Canadian journalist extraordinaire, published everywhere good.

Adam: Our token Canadian.

Nima: Obviously we’ll link to plenty of your stuff. It’s so great to talk to you again, Luke. Thanks so much.

Luke Savage: Thanks guys.


Adam: Yeah, it’s always fun to talk to Luke. He’s got a very, um, intense, intense passion for this particular topic. He talks about it on Twitter a lot. He’s probably Justin Trudeau’s most, I would say, consistent in prominent troll, for lack of a better word, but I don’t mean that as a pejorative. I think trolling can sometimes be valuable. I think one of the, one of the great benefits of social media is that it does flatten some of these, uh, power dynamics and telling Trudeau that he’s full of shit because he sells arms shipments to Saudi Arabia while talking about women’s rights is I think an important, uh, and morally sound way to use one’s time.

Nima: Definitely. Speaking of Justin Trudeau, um, shortly after becoming prime minister, he gave this speech in which he said that quote, “No relationship is more important to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples.” Now this is a far cry, I guess, from the 2009 quote from then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the kind of right wing neo-con Bush pal, Stephen Harper, who basically declared to the world that there is quote, “No history of colonialism,” end quote, in Canada. Those are obviously two starkly different ways of approaching the actual history of Canada. And we should point out that Luke kind of mentioned this, Canada not only suffers from the same kind of discrimination of nonwhite populations as does the United States. There’s obviously underfunding of child and family services and First Nations indigenous people far over-represented in prisons, but even a longer legacy further back, what is often not known and that Luke kind of touched on during our interview, is that Canada also has a legacy of this kind of Christian assimilation system whereby the Canadian government set up residential schools where they took indigenous children from their families, move them far from where they’re from, where white settlers lived, where white people lived, and they put them in these schools and they put them with these families to basically assimilate them into white Canadian society and to completely destroy any sort of linkages to their own indigenous native heritage. So there’s actually a lot more to talk about on this topic and I think we have no one better to speak to about that than our next guest. So to dig into this a bit more, we’re going to speak with Eriel Deranger, founding member and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Eriel Deranger, founding member and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. Thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Thank you for having me.

Nima: So broadly, this episode is about the gap between the popular image of Canada as a liberal haven with a far messier and darker reality. Canada basically has a similar trajectory historically to the United States in that power and the influence of fossil fuel companies and polices’ violent relationship with people of color, namely indigenous people, is rampant, is a very real visceral part of the history of this continent. Can you talk a bit about how this popular image makes the education of non Canadians and even maybe some Canadians themselves more difficult about the historical reality?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Well, I mean, you hit the nail right on the head there, um, because we have these governments that couch their relationship with indigenous peoples as in this state of almost euphoria, you know, the Trudeau government really getting elected on this platform of repairing the relations with its indigenous peoples and advocating for the recognition and implementation of UN standards like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and really sort of parading around these “indigenous leaders,” quote unquote through the assembly of First Nations have done a huge disservice to actually really getting to the crux of real problems. We’re not actually addressing the long legacy of historical oppression and marginalization of indigenous peoples in this country. It continues even though we have like this sort of, um, appearance that we’re this country that’s taking all this really great positive action and recourse to sort of do, to address these long histories of oppression. Um, we’re still at the same time not doing anything to actually stop the continued appropriation of lands and territories from indigenous peoples or extractive industries and resources or doing anything for real reform in the justice system to ensure that we don’t see mass incarcerations at a disproportionate level of indigenous peoples in this country. Nothing has actually substantially changed in this country. All we have is a lot of rhetoric with no real tangible action or results. And I guess the question was how does, how does that affect what we could do? So I’m right now I’m in New Orleans at a conference. Um, it, it’s a sort of funders conference, but what that does is I talk that I’m from Canada, and they’re like, ‘oh wow, Trudeau’s doing really great stuff eh?’ And I’m like no, Trudeau is not doing anything great. In fact, right now, he’s talking about taking taxpayers money to support a pipeline that is opposed by First Nations communities and will further exacerbate climate change. He’s doing the opposite of fine. He’s backpedaling on every single election promise that he made and further eroding ingrained indigenous rights. So no, things are not great in Canada at all. It’s tiring. It’s really tiring.

Adam: Yeah. There’s definitely a gap between the, the marketing of Trudeau and the reality. We obviously in the United States saw that some a lot with Obama. I think in Canada it’s almost a little more insidious because I feel like there’s a, Americans are so cynical that it’s not quite as effective, but BuzzFeed Canada tells me he looks great with his shirt off. So I guess that’s, that’s all we really need.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: We just need some eye candy apparently and everything will be great.

Adam: That’s true. We could just start electing eye candy as like a position so we don’t have to. Um, I want to talk briefly about Canada’s history a little bit. I’m going to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the government issued in 2015, if I’m not mistaken? About the use of residential schools for natives and specifically whether or not you think that Canada in general has, has actually adequately addressed its past and attempted to make attempted to make some sort of reparations beyond mere words. Now you address the, the pipeline issue, which appears to me that they really haven’t, since it’s almost uniformly opposed by First Nations. Can you talk about what that report found and what the actual legacy of that report has been since it came out?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: I’m going to be frank, the TRC, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the report came from that, um, is just another iteration of like a bunch of money and resources to spend on creating a document that actually does very little and has really very little tangible outcomes from it. Um, we have RCAP, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, in the, in the, in the early nineties, um, that really set forward a bunch of recommendations on how to repair the long legacy of colonization in this country and address the, this sort of lieu of problems that indigenous communities were facing in the country. Creating a platform for political posturing with very little results. Um, and I agree, like the TRC, yes, of course it came out of some big historical moments like the apology from Prime Minister Harper in 2007. And you know, that sort of falls into this process around truth and reconciliation. But in 2007, I had huge criticisms of the apology. The apology was to residential school survivors as if residential school survivors were the only place in which they had done wrong and it didn’t account for the intergenerational trauma and oppression and marginalization that occurred because of residential schools. The legacy of residential schools is not just to those that survived from residential schools, but is it to the children of those survivors and the and the grandchildren of survivors. Um, you know, I am a child of a residential school survivor as well as a tuberculosis experimental hospital survivor. My dad was experimented on as a child in a hospital. And went to residential schools and the apology, while it was great to hear this apology to, to my father and his generation and the generation before him, there was no apology for me. There was no apology to, to the young people, indigenous people of this country that experienced domestic violence in their communities, sexual violence in their communities. That was part of this intergenerational trauma where there was no support for generations to deal with the impacts of residential schools. And it fell flat for me. It fell flat and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came forward. It still fell flat because it didn’t include truth and reconciliation for the tuberculosis hospital experimentations, it came out during that, but it didn’t include it originally. Um, and, and so we have this sort of history like Canada developed the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Reports, that had recommendations in the nineties, and then apparently we did nothing with those for, for like close to 20 years. And we’re like, okay, well we’ve got to do something else. Let’s, let’s apologize. And then let’s build this new thing called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and come up with a whole new set of recommendations that we’re really going to do nothing with. And that’s basically exactly what’s happening. Um, so I just don’t have a lot of faith that colonial governments are really willing to take actionable measures to address colonization because in order to address the legacy of colonization of this country also has to address the entrenched white supremacy and dismantling systems of white supremacy in this country that no one wants to talk about. And that’s the real thing is like white supremacy of science and knowledge systems, which continue to marginalize indigenous knowledge systems out of the equation, if we are able to marginalize those voices out of those systems, then we can continue to marginalize those voices and maintain systems of power in white systems like Canada’s democratic system, like the United States’ democratic system.

Nima: The idea of kind of living in a white settler society, especially as an indigenous person is obviously routinely oppressive. And you see this in all the ways that you have already mentioned. Also in terms of incarceration rates were indigenous people in Canada are imprisoned at ten times higher a rate than non-indigenous people. So speaking about the quote unquote “justice system” in Canada, can you briefly tell us the story of Colten Boushie, member of the Red Pheasant First Nation and the recent, um, outcome of the trial for the farmer who actually killed him?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Yeah. So, you know, Colten Boushie was a young man, like many young people do in rural country wherever, regardless of where it is, Canada, United States, um, tend to do a lot of things with in the summer where you go out to the lake and you have some drinks with your buddies and you’re having fun and doing young people stupid things. I mean, I, I was a teenager once too, uh, he was a teenager just on the cusp of entering into his early twenties, but he was doing what young people do, which is hanging out with friends, having a little too much fun and they went to a farm house because they got a flat tire and not just like a flat tire, but a blown out flat tire. Go onto this property and the owner comes out because he sees them trying to jump on a quad. And everyone’s like, ‘Oh, well, they were trying to steal,’ like I know because I’ve been in rural country. On the Res, you go somewhere, you go to someone’s house, you, they’re not home and you’re stuck. You’re going to borrow their, their, their quad for a minute. If you can go get help and only one of them fit on that quad. They have no other vehicle to get away. So anyhow, there’s circumstances that led people to believe that these people were criminal. Um, they were used as fodder to say that these people were criminal. The reality was, is they didn’t need much because the second they saw that a car full of young native youth were coming onto their property, they immediately assumed that they were up to no good and that it came from entrenched institutional and societal racism, targeted indigenous peoples as nothing but pariahs to society at large that they were just, you know, tap sucks that we are all just on welfare, that we’re all just drunk, that we’re all just criminals. I mean, that’s reflected in the incarceration rates. That’s reflected in how when we do do things that are against the law, that we are not criminalized, but we are heavily penalized and end up with much larger sentencings than young white folks. And I’ve seen that firsthand in this country. So what happened with Colten Boushie, young people immediately criminalized because of the color of their skin and a man pulls out not just a farm gun, which would be a rifle, but a handgun, and he comes out and pulls this gun on these young people that fled for their lives. Some of them ran and left, but Colten Boushie was still in the vehicle and was shot in the head. Not just the head, but the back of the head. The farmer claims that it was an accident and there was no one really there to really say what happened. There is no one to counter his story except for a young woman who was intoxicated in the back of the car and was dealing with a lot of shock. This farmer was let off. Um, he was not charged because they basically ruled that it was self defense and that he actually didn’t even do anything wrong. Even if, and that he misfired that it was an accident then that he did nothing wrong. There should’ve been criminal negligence charges for even pulling a gun on an unarmed young man and shooting him in the back of the head and I don’t understand how we can let these types of things continue to happen when I know young indigenous men that have done nothing more than, you know, throw a rock at a police officer at a protest and then get like years, like getting charged with assault on a police officer and going to jail for a year just for throwing a rock at a police officer or having some really, you know, much less, um, violent crimes and they’re serving much more time than a man who shot a young man in the head because of his racist, um, assumptions of a young indigenous man on his property. It’s absolutely disgusting and it displayed the continued racism in this country.

Adam: When we talk about tearing down white supremacy and I know the term de-colonization is one we use often on the show, what does that look like to you in general? Is it something that people, uh, including this show have been advocating for in the United States, which is some form of like meaningful reparations like sort of material, transfers of wealth as opposed to just puffy words? What in your mind is one of the first major steps that you’re sort of guilty white liberal party can actually do as opposed to just sort of issuing statements and surveys?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: You know, I get a little bit concerned when we talk about reparations.

Adam: Okay.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: And even the words decolonization. I think absolutely we need reparations, we absolutely need to decolonize, but I think what I get worried about is like how are we interpreting those words and what do they mean to both sides of the party?

Adam: Right.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Um, are the parties, like the different parties. So for me, decolonization is about a return of and connection to land. And that’s really what it is and that it’s not just indigenous people decolonizing, but that’s all of us decolonizing. And connections to land and return of land. When you think about those, those, those two things together, they’re almost in contradiction to one another because to have connection to land would mean that you don’t own it. So there’s this like really hard to reconcile ideology of decolonization and modern society which runs on systems. Not just white supremacy but capitalism and extractivism and so decolonization is also not just about dismantling systems of white supremacy and colonization, but systems of capitalism, systems of extractivism, um, and, and that is much, much more difficult to do. And, and when we talk about reparations, I think a lot of people think it’s about a transfer of wealth and transfer of ownership of land and yes part of it is that, but reparations, like there ain’t no amount of money or land that you can give me that’s going to fix the intergenerational trauma that my people have experienced. And to think that if we just come up with some amount of land and money that would equate an equal real reparations is really problematic. And so I think when we talk about reparations, it’s, it’s not just reparations in the, in the material goods, but it’s reparations of our power in society.

Adam: Right.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: We need to have real reparations that also include representation and decision making processes so that we can move away from these extractivist economies so that we can dismantle systems of capitalism that perpetuate systems as extractivism so that we can put real power back into models of decolonization, which is connecting back to the land and connecting back with one another on a human level so that we can actually start moving towards real true justice, not just for one sector and one peoples, but for all people.

Nima: Eriel, is there anything that your group, that you are the executive director of, Indigenous Climate Action, what are you guys doing? What is the work that is most present for you right now? And what do our listeners need to know and how can they help?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Yeah, that’s a really good. I’m glad you asked me that because it’s really important because, you know, you can get into these really heady academic conversations, you know, controversial conversations as it relates to privacy, capitalism, extractivism, Truth and Reconciliation. But what are people actually doing to address this, um, in real time? Um, and, and I think it comes from real grassroots solutions and that it also cannot be dictated. And so Indigenous Climate Action is an organization, a social movement vehicle in Canada that is an indigenous woman led project that really aims to try to create tools that are working towards building the resiliency and the knowledge and understanding of climate change in its broad spectrum because climate change is one of the most sparked and deep, deeply problematic challenges we face in humanity. And it cuts across everything like you can address gender, justice, colonization, capitalism, you know, extractivism, all of the problems that we’re facing in society really get magnified under the umbrella of climate change. And so we’re working with communities to not just understand the science of, of emissions in the atmosphere, but how climate change intersects with all of the different, um, forms of oppression that our people have faced and how our culture and rights and identities and our ideologies around connectedness to land, which is the foundations of decolonization are the tools and resources we need to begin that process of dismantling these systems and working towards true decolonization. Right now, most people in this country, most indigenous peoples in Canada I should say, are not really involved in the climate justice conversation and what just transition looks like. And that’s because there’s a disconnect. And so we are aiming to build tools and resources that profile indigenous peoples as agents of change and that give them the tools and resources to enter into different avenues of the climate justice discourse. Whether that’s through advocating for renewable energy or grid reform or water protection and conservation or taking direct action by blockading pipelines and high intensity greenhouse gas emitting projects like tar sands or coal or fracking. And that the solutions to the climate justice, uh, or to the climate crisis aren’t just going to come from technological solutions or empirical white scientific solutions but that are going to come from communities that are still connected to the land. And that empowering communities is the best way to finding solutions. Because our knowledge systems don’t just come from ourselves, but we carry intergenerational knowledge that is going to be critical to finding the pathways to solutions to addressing the climate crisis. So, in short indigenous climate, that was a really long answer. I’m going to make it short. Indigenous Climate Action is an organization that really aims to empower indigenous communities to lead the way by giving them the tools and resources they need to be the leaders of their own communities, to develop sovereign indigenous led climate solutions that can tackle some of the most complex problems we face from extractivism to capitalism to white supremacy and colonization.

Nima: So how do the awesome Citations Needed listeners help you do that?

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Well, as a small, new organization with a very small staff, of course we want to grow. We have a national focus in Canada and we want to expand into other places as well, you know, recognizing that the borders between Canada and the United States are a construct of the colonizers. Um, so we do have partners in the US, including IEN, but we need all the support we can get. And we have a really great website, indigenousclimateaction.com, where you can look at five different ways you can support Indigenous Climate Action, including becoming a monthly sustainer or one time donation, or looking for ways to volunteer and get involved with our project. So encourage you to check out our website and see how you might be able to get involved and help us out.

Adam: Thank you so much. That was excellent. Thank you.

Nima: Yeah, this has been amazing. Um, Eriel Deranger, founding member and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. Thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.


Adam: That was great. There’s definitely a lot for our listeners to dissect, especially our many Canadian listeners who, who kind of asked for this, I hope for those who did ask for it, this was a bit of a catharsis.

Nima: That’s right.

Adam: Um, we of course want to be clear that we don’t think Canada is uniquely bad. But we just wanted to knock them just a slight nudge off their smug pedestal. Less so Canadian progressives who I think are pretty hip to this stuff. More so Americans who fetishize Canada.

Nima: That’s right. This wasn’t necessarily a show designed to teach Canadians anything about their country, but rather-

Adam: Well maybe a little bit.

Nima: Ehh, maybe a little bit, little bit.

Adam: Little bit, little bit.

Nima: Just a little. Listen to the indigenous people a little bit.

Adam: A little bit.

Nima: But more so the idea that this kind of wonderful bastion of progressivism to our north also has a seamier side, a darker side that is just as grotesque and just as vicious and just as violent and just as genocidal as its cousin colonial nations, the United States, Australia elsewhere.

Adam: Right. And Canada is, I think, a little bit of a placeholder here for a larger ideological point that I think we’re trying to make, which is that fluffy white, even sort of Bernie progressivism that doesn’t reconcile its position in a colonial context, and I think a colonial settler context is not, we don’t think a sort of complete form of socialism, right? You have to have a, you have to be aware of those things and what your position is in that, in that, you know, a lot of American flag waving and kind of Jingoism and, and even people who are hyper nostalgic about, we’ll say like the past, like the New Deal. They sort of ignore the, the sort of racial and indigenous context to that. I think, that’s sort of what I think some of this is getting at right?

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: We’re kind of the, it’s a little bit of a proxy war.

Nima: Right. Certainly. Eriel made a really great point about reparations and redistribution of wealth or redistribution in general and that its really about reparations and redistribution of power. Not just take this check, it’s not a 40 acres and a mule kind of situation. There needs to be a complete reconciliation by society and certainly not through meaningless kind of symbolic declarations and rhetoric. So yeah, I think that about does it our excellent guests today where Luke Savage and Eriel Deranger, they were great to hear from. And thank you all for listening. Obviously you can follow Citations Needed @CitationsPod on Twitter, like and follow us and share lovely things about us on Facebook, Citations Needed and of course you can always help us out through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. Of course, as always, special thanks to our critic level supporters through Patreon. Thank you for joining us everyone. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our production consultant is Josh Kross. Our research assistant is Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Granddaddy. Thanks again. We’ll catch you next week.


This episode of Citations Needed was released on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.