Processes of Remediation, Virtual Edition
Video still. Hag's Taper, 2020, Alana Bartol, HD, 3:07.
Exhibition January 22 - August 26, 2021
"Processes of Remediation: art, relationships, nature" opened January 22nd at University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and runs until Aug 26th. The exhibition explores the past, present, and future of coal mining in the area now known as the Crowsnest Pass, in so-called Alberta. Many of the artworks respond to the proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Project.
I've been getting lots of questions about how to view the exhibition and thank everyone for their interest. Due to public health concerns and restrictions, the exhibition is not yet open to the public but I will keep you updated on when and how to safely visit the gallery in-person.
A video about the exhibition will also be released. In the meantime, you can keep reading below about some of the issues explored in the exhibition and visit past blog posts to learn about the research and ideas behind the exhibition.
The Real Dirt on The Coal Policy
Thanks to growing grassroots efforts, activism, and public pressure, in February 2021, the Alberta government announced that the 1976 Coal Policy would be reinstated and that the public would be consulted on all future changes. The Coal Policy was removed in June 2020 without consulting the public, including First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta. The policy previously protected areas of the Rocky Mountains and foothills from open-pit coal mining. Lands designated category 2 under the Policy contain the headwaters for the Oldman Watershed. This is troubling as water contamination and the amount of water required for for these types of mining operations is a major concern.
Though The Coal Policy has been reinstated there are many questions about what that means as ministerial exemptions could still be made for projects. As the Southern Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) reports, 186,187 hectares of coal leases remain in place, six projects have been exempted from the reinstatement of The Coal Policy, and coal exploration and drilling programs are allowed to continue.
And while the Alberta government stated that there will be future consultation, it is unclear what that consultation process will be including consultation with First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta. On February 8, 2021, Niitsítapi Water Protectors stated in a response to the announcement, "First Nations consultation is lawfully owed and we do not believe that the government has any intention of honouring Treaty Agreements and upholding First Nations water, Treaty or Aboriginal rights". Without consultation with First Nations and the Métis Nation of Alberta, the government is not upholding its responsibility to Indigenous peoples.
Latasha Calf Robe, from the Kainaiwa First Nation (Blood Tribe) and one of the co-founders of Niitsítapi Water Protectors was recently interviewed on Native Calgarian, provided an overview of the issues and that first nations treaty rights have been violated. As Treaty people, settler Canadians (like me) have a responsibility to be accountable to the indigenous peoples, whose land on which we reside. This means holding government (at all levels) to account when Treaty rights and agreements are broken.
The reinstatement of The Coal Policy may do little to halt other coal development projects already being planned in southwestern Alberta. While I can't say exactly which projects, my guess is that they include the Elan South and Isolation South projects (Atrum), the Cabin Ridge Project, and Tent Mountain Mine and the Chinook project (Montem Resources). In addition, Ram River Coal Company was granted an exemption to The Coal Policy under the NDP in 2016 to develop a 20,000 hectare open-pit coal mine in central Alberta (Nikiforuk) and Benga Mining's proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Project (which pre-dates the removal of The Coal Policy) could still move forward. A federal and provincial Joint Review Panel has until June 18, 2021 to complete a report recommending that the Grassy Mountain Coal Project be approved or rejected and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change will be responsible for the final decision.
The petition to halt Grassy Mountain Coal Project initiated by Latasha Calf Robe of Niitsítapi Water Protectors recently closed with 18,333 signatures and will be read in the House of Commons by NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson on March 22nd. Follow the Niitsítapi Water Protectors Facebook page for updates on the time of petition reading. You can learn more on their website where you can also take action and make a donation to support their efforts.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association. "Coal Campaign: Albertans for Coal Free Rockies." Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association website, © 2021, http://cpawsnab.org/coal_campaign. Accessed 10 Mar 2021.
Niitsítapi Water Protectors. "Niitsítapi Water Protectors Statement in response to the February 8, 2021 update by Minister Sonya Savage regarding the reinstatement of the 1976 Coal Policy." Facebook, 8 Feb 2021, 7:26pm, http://facebook.com/NiitsitapiWaterProtectors/photos/a.110629747524379/172146778039342. Accessed 10 Mar 2021.
http://thetyee.ca/News/2020/08/12/Alberta-Environment-Minister-Cheered-Coal-Mining. Accessed 15 Mar 2021.
Nikiforuk, Andrew. "Don’t Be Fooled: Alberta Is Still Playing the Coal Game." TheTyee.ca, 10 Feb 2021, http://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/02/10/Alberta-Coal-Game. Accessed 15 Mar 2021.