Jeffrey Simpson and Lazy Writing aka I wrote a letter to the editor

Jeffrey Simpson wrote an interesting article on the politics of tarsands pipelines that had some good insights:

  • Harper lecturing Obama on playing politics is a bit rich
  • The opposition is multi-faceted, not just based on the carbon footprint
  • The opposition is widespread, and opposition is not tarsands specific, but against expanding fossil fuel in a world poised to warm at an ever increasing rate
  • Tarsands oil is dirty oil, and no amount of lobbying can take that away
  • Alterate pipeline routes such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway are not going to be easy to construct given significant First Nations’ opposition

It was on the last point that Jeffrey Simpson’s otherwise useful Op-Ed degenerated into what can be charitably described (by a PR hack) as an “unwise choice of words”.

The route must traverse huge tracts of land claimed by aboriginals who, for a variety of reasons, don’t want a pipeline. Maybe they’re pigheaded. Maybe they don’t want to join modernity.

This is insulting and ignorant to begin with. Surely Jeffrey Simpson does basic research before he writes these columns, and google searches will reveal many many articles, including one in the newspaper that pays his salary that clearly explain the rational reasons behind First Nations’ concerns on pipelines. Simpson seems to have no trouble finding rational reasons to buttress other opposition claims. He says Nebraska’s opposition was due to the pipeline passing over environmentally sensitive areas. He also uses a Royal Society of Canada report judging Canada’s green house gas mitigation efforts as inadequate to make a larger point about the pollution caused by the tarsands and fossil fuels.

However, for First Nations’ concerns alone, he resorts to the irrational, tired and racist tropes of First Nations people being “pigheaded”, or “opposed to modernity”. What exactly is Mr Simpson trying to imply?

I was angry enough to dash a letter off to the Globe and Mail, which they promptly published, thanks folks.

Here’s what they published

Jeffrey Simpson’s column (Pipe-Altering Lessons – Nov. 16) offers some good insights into pipeline politics and government hypocrisy and states accurately that people are opposed to most fossil fuel expansion, not just the oil sands. However, his speculation on First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway project as “pig headed” or not wanting “to join modernity” are offensive and misstate the valid concerns voiced by more than 60 indigenous communities. They are concerned about irreparable damage to the land and salmon migration routes and are well aware how little of the large profits made by energy companies accrues to the First Nations whose land these projects are frequently based on. Their reasons are well founded and well documented by many First Nations, including the Wet’suwet’en.

Here’s what I wrote.

Jeffrey Simpson’s Opinion, Pipeline-altering lessons offers some good insights into oilsands pipeline politics, government hypocrisy and states accurately that people are opposed to most fossil fuel expansion, not just the oilsands . However, Simpson’s speculation on First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway project as “pig
headed”, or “not wanting to join modernity” are offensive and misstate the valid concerns voiced by more than 60 indigenous communities. They are concerned about irreparable damage to their land, and salmon migration routes. They are well aware that little/none of the large profits made by Enbridge and other oil companies accrue to the First Nations whose land these projects are frequently based on. Their reasons for opposing are well founded, and well documented by many First Nations including the Wet’suwet’en.

If Mr Simpson were a little less “pig headed”, or “more willing to join modernity”, he would fire up that marvellous modern invention, the web browser and look up wetsuweten.com. His unnecessary slurs take away from what is a otherwise a sensible and well written article.

They did leave out my rather snarky last paragraph 🙂

Pig picture from jm999uk’s flickr stream used under a creative commons licence.

1 comment for “Jeffrey Simpson and Lazy Writing aka I wrote a letter to the editor

  1. Bruce
    November 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    And they ommitted the specific reference to Enbridge.