Naomi Klein Calls Canada Resources Bad Investment on Land Claims

Aug 22, 2014 12:30 am ET

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Anti-globalization author Naomi Klein says global investors should avoid Canadian natural- resource companies because of the growing risk that courts will award more control of land to aboriginal groups, threatening the viability of proposed development projects.

“Any resource investment in Canada right now should be treated as an uncertain investment,” Klein said in an interview yesterday during a social justice conference at the University of Ottawa. “More and more Canadians are realizing that indigenous land rights are the best legal tool to stop projects that are rejected by the majority of residents.”

The Supreme Court in June ruled in favor of British Columbia aboriginals, saying they can be granted legal title to traditional territory no matter how intensively it’s being used. Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. is seeking to build the Northern Gateway pipeline across British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government conditionally approved the project in June over the objections of some aboriginal and environmental groups.

“If the projects are going ahead, they are going ahead because a political calculation has been made by investors that those legal rights will not be enforced by the state,” she said.

The Canadian government estimates that natural-resource companies are planning to invest C$650 billion ($594 billion) in the country by 2022.

‘Incredibly Belligerent’

Klein said Canada’s advocacy for its energy industry and position that its oil production is “ethical” haven’t been persuasive, either in Canada or the U.S., where President Barack Obama has deferred a decision on TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL project to bring Alberta oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

“We have a government that has been incredibly belligerent about pushing through these projects,” she said. “Harper goes to Washington and says about the Keystone XL pipeline that we won’t take no for an answer. These aren’t the words of a democratically elected head of state.”

Canada’s unionized energy workers may form a coalition with aboriginal leaders to reshape how major projects are developed, Klein said in the interview, given between a speech at the university and a rally on Parliament Hill. “These coalitions are really something I think investors need to pay attention to.”

Klein will publish a new book next month, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” She also wrote “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” and “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.”

‘Political Risk’

None of Canada’s major political parties are doing enough to address the concerns of people at the conference, Klein said, citing Harper’s Conservatives, the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party, which has its roots in organized labor.

Building a movement that demands attention is more important than telling people who to vote for in an election scheduled next year, she said.

Investors “are concerned about political risk,” she said, referring to increased resistance to resource projects. “This is the only thing that will get the government’s attention.”

--With assistance from Chris Fournier in Ottawa.