FLASHPOINT IN THE FLATHEAD; US-Canada War Looms Over Energy, WaterPosted: November 5, 2007
Bill Weinberg, November 1, 2007, WORLD WAR 4 REPORT -- Washington's new tensions with its northern neighbor and largest trading partner appear to be over perceived Canadian reticence to support US imperial adventures in the Middle East. But the vast resources of Canada itself—made more critical both by instability in the energy-rich Mideast and by shortages of such basic commodities as water brought on by climate change—may be providing a long-term source of conflict between the two giants of North America. While on the economic front all talk is currently of integration and falling trade barriers, battles are already being waged by the grassroots both sides of the border against resource plunder and mega-development schemes. These could eventually mean war between the two longtime allies if a populist government comes to power in Ottawa and tries to turn off the spigot of south-bound resources—and the Pentagon has already drawn up plans for this contingency. Rumbles are already being felt in such unlikely places as the rolling farmlands of upstate New York, the grizzly-haunted pine forests of Montana's wild Flathead Valley, the windswept high plains of northern Alberta, and the remote passages of the Arctic Sea.
Middle East Oil Wars and the Northwest Passage
This summer, global warming for the first time opened the long-sought Northwest Passage, as area covered by sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its lowest level since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. The normally ice-bound passage was now navigable to commercial ship traffic—and will likely become more so in the years to come. A new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that the Arctic Ocean could become nearly devoid of ice during summer as early as 2040.
A navigable route between the Atlantic and Pacific as an artery for trade and resource exploitation had been sought for centuries, and was the elusive goad of the Lewis & Clark expedition. Now that it has been opened—if inadvertently—it will mean easier access to the Arctic and its resources, including oil. Ironically, it could thereby exacerbate global warming. It will likely also exacerbate the geopolitical struggle over the far north. Russian authorities have already announced they will open new ports on the Arctic Sea as major petroleum hubs for the 21st century.
This development comes just as Canada has been asserting sovereignty over Northwest Passage—in an unsubtle message to Washington.
The US Navy has for years sent its nuclear submarines under the ice through the Arctic Sea passage—a route that passes hundreds of Canadian islands, through straits as narrow as 20 kilometers. But when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in Ottawa last year, he immediately announced it must stop. The US said no dice.
Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney said: "Any foreign government should ask permission before entering our territorial waters." Sean McCormack of the US State department retorted: "We believe it is an international strait. It's a longstanding policy of the US government."
Ottawa announced it was dispatching troops to the Arctic to assert tis sovereignty claim: up to 52 soldiers in five snowmobile patrols to cover 4,500 kilometers, building airstrips on the sea ice, installing electronic sensing equipment, and laying the groundwork for two High Arctic bases. Harper's government also proposed to build a new deep-water port for three armed icebreakers on the Arctic Sea.
Ottawa's rift with Washington has been little abated by the switch from a Liberal to Conservative government last year. Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command—where they have sustained more than 70 fatalities, including one in a "friendly fire" incident when Canadian positions were strafed by US jets in Kandahar last September, leaving dozens more wounded. But Ottawa has declined to join Washington's "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. And Canada is considering withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, according to an interim report by the Canadian Senate committee on national security and defense. The report demands more money for the operation and a bigger commitment from other NATO countries within a year. If these demands are not met, Ottawa should reconsider its mission, the head of the Senate committee Colin Kenny said upon release of the report. He asked: "Are Canadians willing to commit themselves to decades of involvement in Afghanistan, which could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars with no guarantee of ending up with anything like the kind of society that makes sense to us?"
President Bush angered some northern neighbors this February when his speech calling for an all-out allied effort against the Taliban failed to mention Canada. Bush singled out for praise the UK, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Greece and Iceland. While the Foreign Affairs ministry was conciliatory ("I'm certain it's just, maybe, a little error," said Minister Peter MacKay), opposition leaders were far less sanguine. "Maybe with Harper leading Canada, he thinks it's become the 51st American state," said Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe. "That might explain it."
In 2005, Liberal PM Paul Martin declined to participate in the missile defense system the US is building for North America. "This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said. Paul Cellucci, the outgoing US Ambassador to Canada, saying he was "perplexed" by the decision, made clear that the US would not respect Canadian airspace in the event of an attack: "We simply cannot understand why Canada would in effect give up its sovereignty—its seat at the table—to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming towards Canada."
A joint US-Canadian "Americas Command" proposed by the Pentagon after 9-11 has also failed to come into fruition, with Ottawa accusing Ambassador Cellucci of undue pressure on Canada to raise its defense budget.
Pressure from below was definitely felt in Ottawa in these matters—and especially from Canada's increasingly restive First Nations. For over six months in 2001, the Dene Suline Indians of Cold Lake, Alberta, reoccupied their traditional territory at the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range in protest of the NATO bombing of their territory. The Dene established a camp at the main entrance of the weapons range, accusing the Canadian government of illegally holding the land in violation of an expired 20-year lease—with Dene burial sites, and hunting and fishing grounds destroyed by daily bombing practice runs, and the Dene reduced to poverty in their own land, with alarmingly high rates of alcoholism and suicide. In June 2001, the Dene Suline also blocked an Alberta Energy Corporation (AEC) access road in the area and established a camp there, re-asserting their title to their homelands under the 1997 Delgamuukw Canadian Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the inherent rights of Native peoples. AEC is exploiting oil in the area, and has access to the Weapons Range, while the Dene do not.
In July 2007, First Nations activists held protests across Canada over the Canada Day holiday weekend in a National Day of Action against the Conservative government emphasizing land claims and other disputes. In Ontario, camouflage-clad Mohawks, some reportedly armed, blocked Highway 401 between Belleville and Napanee for more than 10 hours June 29 and also halted passenger and freight train service along the Canadian National Railway's busiest corridor. Rail service between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa was shut for several hours.
On the face of it, tensions notwithstanding, the trajectory since NAFTA has been all towards integration—in both the economic and military spheres.
This August, Harper, Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Montebello, Quebec, for a third session on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP, or ASPAN in Spanish), an agreement increasing military and police cooperation between the three NAFTA partners. About 5,000 protesters, some dressed as clowns or guerrilla fighters, chanted "Bush go home!" near the Chateau Montebello, where the three leaders were meeting. Riot police, used tear gas, pepper spray and club to drive the protesters back at the gates.
In June, several were arrested at a protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia, against a conference to promote the "Atlantica" free trade zone proposal, with police using pepper spray and electric stun- guns. The Atlantica project, officially known as the International Northeast Economic Region (AINER), envisions new ports, transmission lines and superhighways to integrate Canada's Maritime provinces with New England and upstate New York.
Massive new energy transfers are already planned—and are meeting local opposition both sides of the border.
The US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Oct. 3 finalized designation of two controversial Mid-Atlantic Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. Canadian power developers had been awaiting the Washington's approval to supersede almost unanimous New York and Pennsylvania state and local objections to the corridors. The move was immediately protested by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. "This designation will allow the federal government to pre-empt New York's legitimate oversight and process for reviewing and siting transmission projects within our state borders," Spitzer said in a statement.
Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Secretary of Energy has the power to designate National Corridors, under which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can issue permits for new transmission facilities over the heads of state and local authorities.
At immediate issue is the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI), a proposed 190-mile 1,200-megawatt line of 130-foot pylons linking Marcy to New Windsor, NY, following the Delaware Valley, to deliver Canadian power to the New York City metropolitan area. NYRI Inc., which proposes to build the lines, is a secretive group of private investors headed by a Canadian entrepreneur, R. Muddiman. Much of the right-of-ways for the line are to be seized by eminent domain. NYRI Inc. has threatened to sue New York State over legislation signed by outgoing Gov. George Pataki last year limiting NYRI's use of eminent domain.
When the Marcy Line, the first major link between the New York and Canadian grids, was built in the 1970s following the first big thrust of hydro-electric development in northern Quebec, there were angry protests—especially at the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation straddling the New York-Canadian border of the St. Lawrence River, where Indians blockaded construction equipment. But critics point out that the NYRI would cut far closer to towns and homes than the Marcy Line did.
Also at issue in the Corridor is a plan by Allegheny Power of Pennsylvania to build a 37-mile line through the west of the state, delivering power from its coal-fired generators to out-of-state markets.
The Energy Department additionally approved a Southwest Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor, which will allow a 230-mile transmission line to connect Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear plant to the California grid—over the veto of Arizona state authorities.
But it is in the northern Rockies of Montana and British Columbia that acrimony over planned energy transfers and resource exploitation have resulted in a government surveillance scandal—and alarmingly bellicose cross-border rhetorical sniping by local politicians.
Surveillance Scandal Hits the Heartland
A front-page story by reporter Jessie McQuillan in the Oct. 11 issue of Montana's weekly Missoula Independent reveals that members of the Alberta Energy Utility Board (EUB) this year hired four private investigators who infiltrated meetings and eavesdropped on conversations of landowners and their attorneys as they discussed opposition to proposed new international transmission lines in the region.
The project in question is a new Calgary-Edmonton line proposed by Altalink, Canada's largest electricity transmission company. Altalink says the new transmission capacity is needed to supply Calgary’s power in coming years, but critics believe the line—to be built with taxpayer money but owned entirely by Altalink—would be used primarily to export power to the United States. Opponents have teamed up with other landowners who are organizing against another transmission line—proposed by Montana Alberta Tie Limited (MATL)—that would link Lethbridge, Alberta, to Great Falls, providing the first Canadian link to the Montana grid and a possible connection to the Altalink line.
Landowners had suspected that someone was spying on them during numerous hearings in spring 2007, but both Altalink and the EUB denied it. Finally, activists obtained documents under Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) that revealed that a private EUB investigator posing as a concerned landowner had (at least) joined a conference call between Albertans and Montanans opposed to the Altalink project.
One of the legitimate callers, Katrina Martin, who lives on a farm near Dutton, MT, along MATL's proposed route, told the Independent: "The fact that a quasi-judicial agency would hire agents to do intelligence gathering on citizens engaged in an open, public process is scary and appalling. Obviously that board has decided who the enemy is, and that the people who have audacity to question these issues should be infiltrated and spied upon."
Joe Anglin, president of the 800-member Lavesta Area Group in Alberta that's fighting Altalink's proposal, is among those who filed for the documents under the FOIP. He told the Independent: "We knew they were infiltrating our group from the beginning because we knew everyone in our group... in the middle of a bunch of grandmothers sat some 300-pound ex-RCMP-looking guy eating all the cookies!"
The EUB insists it hired the spies to help ensure security at tense public meetings—at one of which an elderly woman swung (and missed) at an EUB commissioner. But two separate investigations by the Canadian government concluded the EUB's actions were illegal and "repulsive." In September, the scandal resulted in the appointment of a new EUB chairman, William Tilleman, and the disbanding of the agency's security unit. But farmers say EUB commissioners themselves should be held accountable—and on Sept. 30 chairman Tilleman announced it was voiding all the proceedings on the Altalink line. The review process that began in 2004 will start fresh once Altalink reapplies to construct the project.
"This EUB decision is the equivalent of granting a mistrial," Tilleman said in a statement. "Albertans must be confident that this Board acts fairly, responsibly and in the public interest. Mistakes have been made on this file, and I believe the only way to re-establish public confidence is to go back to square one on this process."
Hearings on the MATL line, meanwhile, opened in October at Lethbridge, Alberta—attended by wary activists from the local Citizens for Responsible Power Transmission. Said Lethbridge llama rancher Margaret Lewis: "It will be very difficult for us going into this hearing to forget what happened and to believe we’re having a fair hearing."
And there will be plenty of opportunities for more such political battles in the years to come if the continental energy planners get their way. Energy giant TransCanada is planning a new massive series of power lines collectively known as NorthernLights, to facilitate future power transfers. The NorthernLights project envisions three new 3,000-megawatt arteries: one linking Montana to Los Angeles across the Rockies, a second stretching from northern Alberta down the West Coast to California, and a third connecting the oilfields of northeast Wyoming to Las Vegas, with possible extensions to LA and Phoenix.
While the MATL is being built ostensibly to export wind power, Canada's vast hydrocarbon resources play explicitly into the NorthernLights plan—despite the boast on its website of "environmentally attractive" electricity. The Alberta leg of the NorthernLights project would start in the oil sands boomtown of Fort McMurray. Planned massive expansion of Canadian hydrocarbon exploitation provides another source of trans-border tension.
The Battle for the Flathead
Canada is the USA's largest foreign supplier of energy. In 2006 Canada exported south 2.3 million barrels per day of oil and petroleum products (11% of U.S. supply); 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (16% of US supply); and 41.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (1% of US supply).
The biggest chunk of Canada's energy resources sit directly north of Montana, in Alberta—including 80% of its natural gas and the bulk of its crude supply. The crude, sunk deep in the tar sands below northern Alberta's subarctic boreal forests, were long considered too difficult and expensive to access. But recent soaring oil prices have changed this.
The tar sands contain a thick substance called bitumen—a mix of oil, sand, water and clay—and the northern forests of Alberta are being rapidly razed to get at it. The process means scooping up two tons of tar sands for every barrel of oil that will finally be produced. The process also requires two to three barrels of clean water for each extracted barrel of bitumen, which then must be further refined. Much of the water needed for bitumen extraction is being drained from the Athabasca River. Alberta's Pembina Institute boasts that oil sands production more than doubled to 1.1 million barrels per day between 1995 and 2004. The Alberta government anticipates oil sands production will grow to three million barrels per day by 2020 and five million barrels per day by 2030.
While development of the oil sands centers in Alberta's far north, Montana's Gov. Brian Schweitzer has proposed a series of seven new bitumen refineries for the state to process the imports.
Additionally, where coal is concerned, Alberta's new thrust of energy development is sparking yet another cross-border imbroglio. Gov. Schweitzer himself is aggressively pushing a big expansion of the coal industry within Montana's borders, but a proposed new coal mine just above the Montana line in Alberta is causing controversy—because of its proximity to Glacier National Park, and potential impact on a scenic river that flows south into US territory.
US and Canadian officials met this October in Paris to discuss how the international park on their border could be protected from a proposed coal mine nearby. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated by the UN as a World Heritage site in 1995. The mine, proposed by Canada's Cline Mining Co., would be north of Montana's Glacier National Park, which abuts Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, where the province meets British Columbia. The two parks make up the international park—and topped the agenda at the World Heritage Convention that convened in Paris Oct. 24-25.
Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester have urged that Washington work to add Waterton-Glacier to the UN's list of endangered World Heritage Sites. Of some 850 World Heritage Sites, about 30 are classified as endangered. In a letter to the US Interior Department on the matter, Baucus and Tester said the mining could "contaminate one of the park's most pristine rivers, destroy the habitat of endangered species, and compromise the natural character that makes the peace park a world treasure."
Locals are especially worried about the impacts of the mining on the Flathead River, which flows from British Columbia into Montana. The wild Flathead Valley lies adjacent to Glacier National Park on the west. South of the park it broadens to make up the heartland of the Flathead Indian Reservation, which protects some of the USA's last native bison range. South of the reservation, the Flathead meets the Clark Fork River, a tributary of the Columbia.
Cline Mining is currently seeking British Columbia's approval for a mountaintop mine just above the headwaters of the Flathead's North Fork. The mine would produce an annual 2 million tons of coal per year, to be shipped to China.
Cline is nearly done with the first step in British Columbia's permitting process, outlining the issues that have to be addressed in a formal application. The state of Montana, the US Interior Department, State Department and Environmental Protection Agency have all commented, voicing concerns about potential downstream impacts—but "most of the comments were not included in the [permit] document," according to Rich Moy, chairman of the nonprofit Flathead Basin Commission. That omission prompted Montana's Gov. Schweitzer to draft a letter to the Canadian government calling for a more extensive environmental assessment.
Meanwhile, the grassroots is mobilizing. The towns of Whitefish, MT, and Fernie, BC, are currently considering a joint resolution urging Gov. Schweitzer and BC Premier Gordon Campbell to meet and discuss "trans-boundary issues"—specifically, potential threat to the Flathead River by coal-mining upstream in Canada.
There are indications other, bigger corporate players could be following BP into the Flathead. This year, BP opened an office in Fernie, with an eye towards exploring for oil and coal in the valley.
In February 2007, British Columbia's top mining minister Bill Bennet stepped down amid outrage at his anti-American sentiments—and Montanans who had been negotiating with the province over the controversial coal project were openly happy to see him go. "Mr. Bennett's resignation may clear the way for a more constructive government-to-government discussion," said Whitefish state senator Dan Weinberg, whose district adjoins Bennett's, with only the international boundary separating the two.
In January, Bennett, a provincial lawmaker and who then held the Cabinet-level post of BC minister for mining, received an e-mail from a Fernie constituent, Maarten Hart—a veterinarian, hunter and president of the local Rod and Gun Club—who expressed concern about the coal project, charging that the BC government "bows to the almighty dollar and faces east three times each day (not to Mecca, but to Wall Street.)"
Bennett shot back cybernetically: "Let me be very direct with you, as you were with me. It is my understanding that you are an American, so I don't give a shit what your opinion is on Canada or Canadian residents."
Bennett's response focused on the fact that Hart, as a "landed immigrant," was once a US citizen. He called Hart a "fool," "dumb" and a "self-inflated, pompous, American know-it-all." Bennett wrote he was "not about to take that kind of bullshit from someone who, for all I know, is up here as an American spy who is actually interested in helping the US create a park in the Flathead."
When news of the e-mail was leaked to the Vancouver Sun, Bennett resigned his Cabinet post. Premier Campbell called Bennett's e-mail "unacceptable," and even Bennett admitted it was "stupid and wrong," attributed his "earthy" response to a rough life of bar brawls and knife fights, and of never finishing high school. But Hart responded that Bennett's tirade was inappropriate—especially "for a man who is charged with representing sensitive mining and environmental negotiations with Americans."
Bennett has championed the proposed mine, and repeatedly launched verbal assaults on lawmakers—including Sen. Baucus, who he once said was not welcome in Canada. Weinberg—who went camping in the contested wilderness last summer with a group of Canadian lawmakers—put a positive spin on the flame-out, saying he remained encouraged that "we have a great deal more in common than we have disagreements."
He insisted that recent meetings between Montana and BC officials "showed that an overwhelming majority of local residents agree that the transboundary Flathead Valley is a great place that should not be mined."
But the incident betrays the passions that can be unleashed when fortunes are to be made. And the conflict is likely to be even more impassioned when the resource in question is one which is necessary for life itself: water.
Water levels in the Great Lakes, a key artery for cross-border trade, are dramatically falling, with Lake Ontario about seven inches below where it was a year ago and levels in all five below long-term averages. For every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads by 270 tons. As a result, more ships are needed, adding millions of dollars to shipping companies' operating costs, experts in maritime commerce estimate.
The International Joint Commission, which advises the US and Canada on water resources, is conducting a $17 million, five-year study to determine whether the shrinking of the Great Lakes is a result of climate change.
With almost a third of the Southeast now covered by an "exceptional" drought—the worst drought category—the notion of trans-border water transfers from Canada is likely to be floated once again. This idea, a perennial of Western water-brokers and engineering giants, has for decades been dismissed as technically unworkable—only to be revived in times of water crisis.
In July 2001, President Bush told reporters the United States would be interested in piping Canadian water down to the thirsty Southwestern states and that he would raise the issue with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the upcoming G8 Summit in Genoa. The Canadian government immediately responded by insisting bulk exports of water from Canada weren't on the table.
The Council of Canadians, which has led the campaign against water exports with the support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, expressed outrage at Bush's statement. The Council's chair Maude Barlow accused Chretien of being willing "turn the tap"—despite his denial. "Canadians wanted bulk exports banned and the Liberals are opening the floodgates," she charged.
Judy Darcy, CUPE's national president, raised the prospect of a mass privatization of Canada's water resources. "What is more fundamental to democracy than control over the water we drink?" she asked. "Access for all Canadians to a basic source of life is what's at stake. Multinational corporations are trying to privatize water services in hundreds of Canadian municipalities and turn our water resources into an export commodity. They can't buy the air we breathe, so now they want to buy and control the water we drink. What we are saying is simple: No water for profit."
Journalist Philip Lee, in a series on the global water crisis for the Ottawa Citizen, noted that several Canadian politicians continued to openly push for water exports. A company called McCurdy Enterprises was seeking to export 49 billion liters of water a year from Newfoundland's Gisborne Lake—with the support of the province's Premier Roger Grimes
A California company, Sun Belt Water Inc., took Canada to court to force British Columbia to sell bulk water to the US, and claimed millions of dollars in damages for the business it says it has lost through Canada's refusal to adhere to what it claims are the terms of NAFTA.
The great-grandfather of such proposals was the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), designed by the Southern California engineering firm Parsons in cooperation with the provincial utility BC Hydro in the 1960s. NAWAPA called for reversing the flow of British Columbia's Fraser River and diverting it into the Columbia system, and thence via a series of tunnels and canals to California and the Southwest.
An eastern branch of the scheme was devised in the '70s by then-Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, whose massive James Bay hydro-electric complex was then under development. Bourassa's proposal, dubbed the GRAND (Great Replenishment and Northern Development) Canal, called for damming the mouth of James Bay—a vast southern inlet of Hudson Bay, 100 miles across—and turning it into a giant fresh-water reservoir, fed by the rivers that Hydro-Quebec was already damming for power to be exported to the US Northeast. The GRAND Canal would divert the James Bay water into the Great Lakes, and thence (via a miracle of mega-engineering) into the Missouri River and points west.
The conventional wisdom is that the tide has turned against such hubristic schemes. In 1998 when Ontario granted the private Nova Group approval to export millions of liters of Lake Superior water by tanker to Asia, there was an immediate outcry on both sides of the border. The following year, the Canadian government announced a water export prohibition policy, introducing amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to bar bulk-water removal from the Great Lakes.
The Canadian and US governments asked the International Joint Commission—established by the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909—to prepare a report on the bulk exports issue. After holding public hearings, the commission's report recommended that governments "should not permit any new proposal for removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal would not endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin." The commission said there should be "no net loss" of water from the lakes—and argued that the era of major water diversions and transfers had passed, with dams across the American West being dismantled in the interests of ecological restoration.
The NAWAPA idea was kept alive by such fringe organizations as the far-right Lyndon LaRouche cult. But Bush's 2002 comments indicate the resiliency of the concept in the corridors of power.
Another ominous sign is the revival of mega-scale hydro-electric development in northern Quebec—the so-called "James Bay II" project. The first series of hydro-dams on the rivers feeding James Bay under Bourassa in the 1970s provided the power for export to Con Edison and other Northeast utilities that necessitated construction of the Marcy Line. When Bourassa returned to power in 1984, he immediately announced the next phase of development, which called for damming all the remaining rivers flowing into James Bay, and lined up new contracts with Con Ed for the provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. As Bourassa's book Power From the North made clear, his envisioned next phase would be the GRAND Canal project.
But the contracts were canceled (before the "grace period" ran out) in 1991 following an activist campaign both sides of the border. This was undertaken in solidarity with the Cree and Inuit indigenous inhabitants of the James Bay region, whose traditional lands were inundated in phase one of the project. The Cree had signed on to the first phase in return for economic benefits after the Canadian courts had ruled they could not stop the project, and the provincial government claimed that agreement also covered phase two. The Cree disagreed; the campaign was launched, the contracts axed, and James Bay II put on hold. Now Quebec, under Premier Jean Charest, has announced a downsized version of James Bay II, which calls for diverting the flow of the Rupert River a hundred miles north into the system of phase-one hydro-dams already built on the Eastmain River. While the Cree Grand Council has signed off on the project, the proposal has bitterly divided the Cree nation.
Meanwhile, the already-existing dams and reservoirs conceived as arteries of NAWAPA are sources of cross-border conflict. Lake Koocanusa, behind the US Army Corps of Engineers' Libby Dam on the Kootenai River, a Columbia tributary, straddles the BC-Montana border, and was envisioned by NAWAPA's architects as a key link in their ultra-ambitious scheme. The Kootenai is the next major river to the west of the Flathead, some 50 miles away over the Salish and Whitefish mountains—and also a source of US-Canada tension.
The Columbia River Treaty, negotiated to apportion waters to be affected by the Libby Dam in 1960, had already expired when the dam came online in 1975. Now, with environmentalists demanding sufficient water levels downstream to maintain threatened trout species, British Columbia has complained about insufficient water in the north end of the lake. BC Hydro has even threatened to divert the Kootenai River (spelled Kootenay in Canada) over the divide at Canal Flats into the Lake Columbia, the source of the Columbia River proper—which would leave Lake Koocanusa, the Kootenai and the Libby Dam dry.
Since the signing of NAFTA, Canadian energy exports to the US cannot fall below 1993 levels. Does that include water? Legal scholars argue that once any Canadian water is exported south, it would become a commodity subject to the provisions of the trade agreement. NAFTA guarantees equal access to natural resources on either side of the US-Canadian line. So once the faucet is turned on, it may be impossible to turn it off: it could be a treaty violation and cause for war.
Once infrastructure—and therefore subsistence and survival in a highly organized society—is dependent on imported water, Canadian water resources become a US national security issue. Whether it is oil, electricity or water, any future Canadian effort to re-assert sovereign control over resources could be challenged by Washington as NAFTA-illegal—and, ultimately, a casus belli.
The Canadian press has already reported secret Pentagon contingency plans to use upstate New York's Ft. Drum as a springboard for a US invasion of Quebec. Details were also revealed in the Washington Post of Dec. 30, 2005, in an article amusingly entitled "Raiding the Icebox." It revealed a 94-page document called "Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan—Red," with the word SECRET stamped on the cover. The document calls for a Naval force to capture the port of Halifax, blockade Vancouver and secure the Great Lakes, while a land invasion starts by seizing the Canadian power plants near Niagara Falls. Army columns are then to advance on three fronts—marching up the shores of Lake Champlain to take Montreal, and across the Great Plains to take the railroad center at Winnipeg and the strategic nickel mines of Ontario.
War Plan Red was actually designed for a war with Great Britain. In the 1920s, US military strategists developed plans for a war with Japan (code name Orange), Germany (Black), Mexico (Green) and England (Red). Military theorists imagined a conflict between the US (Blue) and UK over international trade: "The war aim of RED in a war with BLUE is conceived to be the definite elimination of BLUE as an important economic and commercial rival."
Since then, the plan has been repeatedly updated to changing political circumstances—most recently to a War on Terrorism context.
A 2002 study by a Toronto think-tank, the C.D. Howe Institute, warned that the US could use the military to seal the Canadian border if officials fear national security is threatened by loose Canadian immigration policy and policing. Said military historian J.L. Granatstein, author of the report: "Although terrorism poses a real threat, it is not the most serious crisis. The danger lies in wearing blinkers about the United States when it is in a vengeful, anxious mood... The United States is deadly serious about homeland defense. The Americans will act, alone if necessary."
The US has already deployed specially-trained customs agents to detect explosives and unconventional weapons at Canada's three busiest ports: Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver—an unprecedented undertaking that media accounts openly said "would have been unthinkable prior to Sept. 11." US troops have been assigned to northern border posts, and military helicopters patrol what was once hailed as the world's longest undefended border.
Canadian intelligence services warn that at least 50 international terrorist groups—from al-Qaeda to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers—operate in Canadian cities, and officials on both sides of the border now warn Canada is unprepared. "Montreal has a large multiethnic population into which it is easy for North Africans and other Muslims to disappear, but the real attraction is its location right on the Great Satan's doorstep," said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and now chief of consulting firm Insignis Strategic Research. "Until Canada deals with an out-of-control immigration and refugee situation, the situation will deteriorate. We are heavily penetrated...forcing [the US] to take ever more defensive measures at the northern border."
But as in Afghanistan and Iraq—where the facade of opposing "terrorism" and "weapons of mass destruction" has crumbled to reveal a naked grab for strategic oil reserves—designs on Canada’s vast natural resources may be the real imperative that underlies the tensions, militarization and war plans.