Promised fossil fuel subsidy phase-out allows RCMP C-IRG violence against Indigenous land defenders to continue
Video: Sleydo’ and Gitxsan land defender Shaylynn Sampson arrested at gunpoint by the RCMP C-IRG unit on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 19, 2021.
On Monday July 24, environment minister Steven Guilbeault announced that the Canadian government would be phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
CTV reports: “A government official, speaking on background, said government programs that could be affected by the guidelines control about $1 billion in public money.”
While “about $1 billion” is a significant amount of financing that “could be affected”, proportionally it is about one-twentieth of current support.
Environmental Defence has calculated that Export Development Canada (EDC) provided about $19 billion in financing for fossil fuels in 2022.
Significantly, CBC reports: “Much of that support comes in the form of commercially viable loans. The current policy doesn’t consider those loans a subsidy.”
Notably, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has also reported: “Canadian governments have provided [to three pipelines] over CAD 23 billion in government support [from 2018 to 2021]. Of this, over CAD 11 billion is in loans, and at least CAD 10 billion is loan guarantees or liabilities.”
The report notes that $500 million went to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline, $15.4 billion to the Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline, and $7.5 billion to the Keystone XL pipeline.
In response to yesterday’s announcement, Greenpeace Canada senior energy strategist Keith Stewart comments: “We’d like to remind the federal government that there are no ‘efficient’ subsidies for fossil fuels in an era of both record-breaking climate disasters and oil industry profits, and especially not for unproven technologies like carbon capture.”
Environmental Defence national climate associate director Julia Levin adds: “These new rules have a glaring omission: they won’t apply to public financing funded through Export Development Canada and other crown corporations.”
Her organization has previously argued that the funding of the RCMP community-industry response group (C-IRG) is a fossil subsidy.
The RCMP C-IRG as a fossil fuel subsidy
The Environmental Defence report PAYING POLLUTERS: Federal Financial Support to Oil and Gas in 2020 (April 2021) highlighted: “A particularly egregious form of fossil fuel subsidy are investments made into policing Indigenous land defenders opposing fossil fuel infrastructure. For example, over $13 million was spent last year on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ‘protect’ the Coastal GasLink pipeline – which took the form of harassing Wet’suwet’en Nation community members who oppose the pipeline.”
In January 2023, CBC News journalist Brett Forester reported that RCMP C-IRG spending totalled $3,535,542.00 in relation to the Trans Mountain pipeline (on Secwepemc territory) and $27,645,711.00 on policing related to the Coastal GasLink pipeline (on Wet’suwet’en territory) between April 1, 2017, and July 31, 2022.
Even though the C-IRG disproportionately (and explicitly) benefits the fossil fuel sector and could be considered a “financial contribution” that benefits “the recipient” (thus arguably meeting the two criteria to be deemed a fossil fuel subsidy), it is unlikely to have been one of the 129 potential subsidies the environment minister says the government reviewed.
Yesterday, the Canadian government listed six exceptions to the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, including if the subsidy supports “Indigenous economic participation in fossil fuel activities”. As such it would appear that while Indigenous participation may be subsidized, Indigenous resistance will continue to be repressed.
As the Government of Canada now promises to “identify current public financing by 2024 and announce by fall 2024 the implementation plan to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector”, we support the call by the Abolish C-IRG coalition to immediately suspend and then abolish this controversial police unit.