Labrador and Neocolonialism: The Political Ecology of The Lower Churchill Hydro Project

by Christopher Kelly-Bisson

Forward: This post is a throwback from a paper I did a while ago. This is being republished in the context of current struggles over resource development: the ongoing Muskrat Falls project in Labrador, Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, the Site C dam in British Columbia, and many others. It is clear with that the same struggles persist and but are being met with mounting inter-tribal solidarity and political action against the the supposedly more progressive Trudeau government.


These are my notes from a presentation I delivered at panel discussion for OPIRG Ottawa U called “Development at Home: Critical Perspectives of Race, The Environment and the Canadian Response”, as part of International Development Week at the University of Ottawa. February 9, 2012.


We like to think of neoliberal globalization as a rather new phenomenon, but the history of Labrador throughout the 20th century would suggest that this system – where discourses of economic liberalism manifest in the form of market logics at the level of state activity – have in fact been in effect part-in-parcel to the colonial encroachment of the Labrador Peninsula throughout the 20th century.  The elaborate history of the territory has really come to a watershed moment in the current struggle over hydro development.

Theorists of Marxist political economy such as David Harvey discuss the phenomenon of “accumulation through dispossession”, where the commons is enclosed as property and then sold of to private industry for the profit of capitalists.  The history of Labrador goes one further.  There was no recognized commons as such – or at least no foothold for any colonial state to assert sovereignty in the region to justify “development”.  Therefore what needed to occur was the insertion of a state apparatus by other means in order to render a commons for there to steal.  Labrador presents an especially unique history where the collusion of state and private industry were so tightly entangled it was very difficult to tell the two apart.  What resulted was an almost perfect example of the sort of free market capitalist dystopia fantasized in the critique of anti/alter-globalizationists, except that this happened well before people were using the word liberal to begin with.

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Using Silage Tarps in Organic Farming


I haven’t written about the practices on my personal farm yet in this blog, this post will be the first. Now, my business partner Jordan and I are relatively new farmers, so I am not all that confident to share agroecology advice. We frankly have so much to learn. However, this season our use of silage tarp has had noticeable enough of an impact that I felt the need to share what we have discovered.

In this blog post I will be discussing what we learned about the technique, how we used the product, the effects we have seen so far, lessons learned, critical weaknesses, and the state of scientific research on its usage. The main argument of this article is that silage tarp has been really effective for us so far, however we regret the heavy use of plastics, and would like to see more research on silage tarp for the creation of stale seed beds.

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There is A Right Way and A Wrong Way to Talk About Climate Change During a Natural Disaster

Retrieved from:

Evacuees from Fort McMurray, Alta., line up to register at an evacuee reception centre in nearby Anzac, Alta., on Wednesday. Credit: MIKE ALLEN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Recent events in Alberta have been simply horrifying. Watching families lose their homes, livelihoods, and communities is really hard to watch. I start this article by urging everyone to visit the Red Cross’s donation page and giving whatever you can to help the people fleeing the destruction of forest fires and looking for a place to stay, and eventually a way to start rebuilding.

This tragedy has triggered a rather polemic discussion in the media about whether it is “too soon” or ever appropriate to speak out politically on the role of climate change in the particular intensity of this wave of forest fires. On one side you have some folks framing this as some form of retribution, just because the chief industry of the region happens to be oil production from the Athabasca bitumen sands deposit. Lets be clear, this rhetoric is absolutely terrible for reasons I will explain in a second. On the other hand, you have people denying virulently that climate change should be discussed at all in the development of this tragedy.

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2016 Eastern Ontario Hops Survey


The following is the most recent results from the survey as presented at the Two Rivers Food Hub Hops Growing Workshop – March 21, 2015

2016 Eastern Ontario Hops Survey

Green’s Creek Farm

Christopher Kelly-Bisson & Jordan Bouchard

Executive Summary:

Est. Regional Value:          $1,279,200
Est. Regional Quant.:         88,221 lbs
Avg. Value/Brewery*:        $12,175
Avg. Quant/Brewery*:        2,705 lbs
Desired Format:                   Pelletized (100%)

The 2016 Eastern Ontario Hops Survey was conducted in order to better understand the magnitude of Eastern Ontario’s hops consumption, specify what varieties and formats are in demand, and note what supplier qualities and relationship structures are desired. This was done in advance of planning the construction of the Green’s Creek Farm hop yard operation. This study was conducted in conjunction with Just Food Ottawa, the Two Rivers Food Hub, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
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What Federal Agricutlture Spending Should Look Like


Yesterday the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released their annual Alternative Federal Budget (AFB). Basically, it is the folks at the CCPA sit down and try to replicate the budgetary information that the Federal Government will be looking at and design the sort of budget they think will work best in the public interest of Canadians.

This year the agriculture section is particularly spot-on.

With Harper out and Gerry Ritz no longer the Agriculture Minister we no longer need to speculate the upcoming Federal budget as the worst case scenario for ecological growers. Rather, we now have a Liberal regime at the helm, which is far from ideal but at least we can speculate that some progressive changes in fiscal spending is possible.

But that is besides the point, the AFB – regardless of who is in power – is a speculative project meant to show what the Left would ultimately like to see in the budget. The following are some highlights from their agricultural section:

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Ontario 2016 Budget Fails to Address Food Sovereignty Needs


Ontario’s Liberal Government released its 2016 budget yesterday and it really provides little vision for growers and eaters where stronger leadership is needed.

Governance of Canada’s food system falls across all three levels of government, however policy supporting agriculture, land-use, health care, and infrastructure are controlled on the provincial-level. This is why the Government of Ontario has such a large role to play in developing a greater level of food sovereignty in the province.

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On The “Anti-Politics” Politics of #getshitdone

Deep in the backwaters of the sustainable agriculture social media world there is a Facebook group called “Regenerative Agriculture“. It is mostly “moderated” by a guy named Jack Spirko. Spirko runs The Survival Podcast (TSP), which covers a wide range of concerns of interest to those convinced that either the “the Government” is about to pogrom freedom-loving libertarians, or the collapse of oil will descend humanity into some Mad Max fantasy world. Either way it sounds a lot like he kind of, actually wants all these things to happen.

For all the far-fetched politics of TSP, and the nauseating machismo emanating from anything they touch, there is often some very interesting and useful content for people who are interested in DIY sustainable agriculture and land use techniques. So I am not going to try and critique the permaculture chops of Spirko; yeah, he knows what he is doing when it comes to pushing dirt around.

But there is a very frequent – comically ubiquitous – theme that subtexts almost everything that is posted in the Regenerative Agriculture group. For every post about raising quails for eggs or building greenhouses there is a hashtag that punctuates it: #getshitdone.

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Rhizome Breaks Soil: A Permaculture Polemic

This blog that I started in the Winter of 2013 has come and gone in volume, and has shifted and evolved in form. When it began it was a journal on permaculture design in Ottawa. Then as sustainable longterm production of content from a regional base of volunteer writers proved to be rather limited, it was decided that the journal would downgrade its capacity to a yearly online magazine. But my lack of capacity as a new full-time father, home maker, and farmer meant that I had to drop the publication. The site then became an erratic blog to post some of the occasional writing I have done in The Leveller on food politics in Canada. Activity picked-up in between Winter to Fall 2015 (before and after the busy growing season) when I wrote more extensively for the Leveller, but dropped-off again as the demands of beginning my Ph.D. took over every waking second of my life.

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