The South Dakota Legislature enacted two laws this year empowering the state to use its investment clout to fight genocide, terrorism, and other crimes against humanity. Senate Bill 21 directs the State Investment Council to comply with federal divestiture enactments against companies doing business in countries that are up to no good. The Legislature called for the first enactment of this new law in HCR 1012, a resolution protesting the atrocities in Sudan. Senate Bill 134 directs the State Investment Council to pull money out of certain companies doing business in Iran.
I approve of both bills, but it is worth noting that the companies targeted under these new laws are only middlemen to evil. We invest in Shell, Shell drills for oil in Iran, Shell pays Iran fees and taxes, Iran uses that money to build weapons for terrorists, terrorists kill our soldiers—Shell is still culpable, but not directly. Divesting in Shell is somewhat like punishing the gun shop owner for selling a gun to a felon, or fining the bartender for selling one too many drinks to the drunk who gets behind the wheel and causes a wreck.
If that level of culpability for atrocities in Sudan and Iran can provoke our Legislature to withdraw state investments, how was the Legislature able to authorize continued tax breaks for Canadian oil company TransCanada, whose actions in northern Alberta have directly contributed to Canada's continued abuse and decimation of the Lubicon tribe?
Overlooked when a treaty was signed with other aboriginals in 1899, the Lubicon were promised a reserve 40 years later that never materialized. They never ceded their ancestral lands or signed a treaty with Alberta or Canada.
Industry laid siege and during the past 25 years, billions of dollars of oil and gas and timber have been taken from their traditional lands, leaving the Lubicon decimated with a compromised water supply, third-world diseases, birth defects and an epidemic of suicides and other social ills.
With unwavering government support, it is proving easier and vastly more profitable for industry to simply continue the siege and wear them down over time than to sincerely negotiate. Yes, a slow genocide-by-attrition is taking place in our so-called "civilized" neighbor of Canada.
A couple years ago, TransCanada Corp. joined the fray with a proposed 42-inch natural gas pipeline across unceded and disputed Lubicon land. It would supply natural gas to cook the vast tar sands for oil - the most environmentally destructive project on Earth. The Lubicon were denied standing before the Alberta Utilities Commission, which ultimately issued the license.
A political-business duopoly rules Alberta, supported for the most part by a compliant Judiciary. Advisors to the Lubicon have their telephone calls monitored, mail opened and e-mails diverted. With the deck stacked against them, the Lubicon appealed to the United Nations.
Three separate U.N. bodies (U.N. Human Rights Committee, U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the U.N. Special Rapportuer on Housing) have told TransCanada to cease and desist and respect international covenants [William M. Cox, "Sever All Ties with TransCanada," Juneau Empire, 2010.03.31].
Review this detailed timeline of the trickery and abuse heaped on this small First Nations group by Canadian industry and by the governments of Alberta and Canada.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has more than once declared that Canada's unfair policies and industrial exploitation of Lubicon land constitutes a violation of fundamental human rights. Amnesty International notes that oil extraction has had enormous impacts on wildlife and in just one generation has ruined the ability of the Lubicon to provide for themselves through hunting. The World Council of Churches recognized in 1983 that such destruction of traditional economy and violation of legal rights by the Alberta government and several multinational oil companies "could have genocidal consequences."
And here is TransCanada, building a big pipeline right across Lubicon land with little regard for the wishes or legal rights of the people who live there. Hmm... sound familiar, neighbors?
TransCanada does acknowledge the Lubicon land claim... with two sentences:
TransCanada is aware the Lubicon Nation has outstanding land claim issues in the region of the project. While we continue to support and encourage the Lubicon Nation and all levels of government to reach a resolution to the land claim issue, we have no authority to resolve the issue ["North Central Corridor Pipeline Project," TransCanada.com, last updated 2010.02.02].
Nice. They claim no authority to resolve the land claim "issue"... but they'll happily exercise authority to exacerbate it by building a pipeline right across the disputed land.
So South Dakota plans to hand over millions of dollars in tax refunds to TransCanada, a company directly participating in environmental destruction and human rights abuses that some have gone so far as to call genocide. Perhaps our legislators should review the social investment laws they passed this winter. Perhaps they should consider this weekend's conversation about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Perhaps we should think about the moral obligations we have to all native peoples in the spirit of the Year of Unity declared by our governor.
If we will pull money from companies contributing indirectly to human rights violations by generating revenue for evil governments in Iran and Sudan, we should act with stronger revulsion to withhold our money from an oil company committing direct human rights violations with its business practices.
Legislature, call a special session and revoke TransCanada's tax refunds. Public Utilities Commission, reject the lighter conditions TransCanada wants for Keystone XL... and while you're at it, revoke their permit.