D’Arcy Hande: Saskatchewan Uranium’s Collaboration Agreements and the History of Neo-Colonialism

The recent signing of two collaboration agreements between the Cameco/Areva and two northern Saskatchewan communities (Pinehouse in December and English River First Nation in May) has demonstrated the hard-nosed determination of the industry, fiercely backed by the resource extractive agenda of the provincial and federal governments, to get rid of the indigenous people’s traditional way of life and ultimately, it would seem, to dispossess them of the lands they have occupied for countless generations. Environmental reviews and community studies will be rushed through in order to facilitate uranium mining, regardless of the long-term impact it will have on the First Nations and Metis communities they claim to want to assist.

This is all too reminiscent of the experience of the Scottish Highland Clearances in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In that case, the indigenous highland population was removed from the lands they had lived on for generations in order to make room for sheep, turnips and other agricultural crops that would make the highland chieftains wealthy and allow them to join in the ranks of London society. One historian of the business attitudes and practices at play in that situation has written,

It was widely assumed among urban-lowland middle class Scots that the indigenous Highland Gael was not attuned to the labour discipline, work rhythms, commercial spirit and cash nexus of the new industrial order. During the late 1840s and 1850s The Edinburgh Section of the Central Board for the Relief of Destitution in the Highlands and Islands (which counted an Edinburgh accountant among its members) dispensed relief only in return for labour: the “idle and thriftless were dismissed”. The object of providing assistance in this way was to instil “habits of industry, and steady and continuous labour on land, of which the majority were marvellously deficient” . . .

The crofter’s attachment to the soil, his casual and seasonal work routines were translated by Edinburgh accountants as obstinacy, idleness and reluctance to embrace self-help. Those who most displayed these qualities were deemed by trustees as candidates for removal from the estate or relocation to the lead mines, where they would be subject to more rigorous work discipline and integration to a cash economy.

Doesn’t this elitist depiction of the Scottish highlanders from the 19th century sound all too familiar to our modern-day Canadian ears? Author Stephen P. Walker sees close parallels with the present day attitudes towards indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. Those who fail to understand the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

See “CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS AND THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES DURING THE MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY” by Stephen P. Walker (2nd Accounting History International Conference, Osaka, August 2001)

“Accounting and Accountability Relations: Colonization, Genocide and Canada’s First Nations” by Dean Neu (Critical Management Studies Proceedings, 1999)

“‘Presents’ for the ‘Indians’: land, colonialism and accounting in Canada” by Dean Neu (Accounting, Organizations and Society 25 (2000), 163-184).

D’Arcy Hande

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