To Justify Land: Of Coercion, Complicity, and Consent

Changing West, Thomas Hart Benton, 1930-31

To Justify Land was published in a serialized form in Berfrois, and republished in the Media Co-Op. Thank you to Billie Pierre and David Gray-Donald for their close editing of the essays for republication in the Media Co-Op; Shuwei Fang and Berfrois for the first publication of the essays; and Nathan Medema for his support, patience, and encouragement.

link to full article on The Media Co-op:


excerpt from To Justify Land: Of Coercion, Complicity, and Consent

Ethical justification for residential or industrial development projects is often created through a strategic purchasing of participation; that is, a propaganda campaign that celebrates the inclusivity and cultural diversity of workers who are manipulated for the profits of private developers and their investors. It is this ‘inclusivity’ that contributes to the normalization of exploitative practices and development projects, inculcating the idea that a development is acceptable because it meets a certain demographic quota. Conflicts that arise around the acceptability of developments are often reduced to levels in which negotiation occurs only on the unquestionable basis that the development will indeed go forward and be constructed. This means, for example, reducing the Zibi development to a conflict of corporate-approved ‘territory’, where the bargaining chip is the exchange of land between Algonquin people, Ottawa’s municipal government under mayor Jim Watson, Domtar Corporation, and Windmill Development with their realty partners, DREAM Unlimited. In this scenario, the developers mediate factors like which Algonquin people they approve and speak to, whether the land is indeed sacred, and where the margins of this sacredness technically begin and end. If it’s not approved by anyone who is not profiting from the project, it’s blasphemous and standing in the way of progress! By marginalizing the implications of ethical difference that would make their developments both unnecessary and impermissible, companies persuade public opinion in their favour because they flaunt inclusive hiring practices and syphon off money for the benefit of the most collaborative individuals.

There is an important distinction between Indigenous traditional self-governance and government-sanctioned First Nations, which may often differ in their principles in resisting or collaborating with private industry development. Contemporary territorial definitions for First Nations in the eyes of the Canadian state were formed largely following the 1876 “Indian Act,” which dismantled traditional systems of governance and subjected Indigenous peoples to dependence on systems of recognition and authorization from the Canadian government. Colonial-delineated First Nations governance, which is typically decided by an electoral system enforced by the Canadian government, tends to hold concentrated forms of power and wealth that are very different from the leadership structures in traditional governments. First Nations often receive both government and industry funding, and receive protected jurisdictions and rights for land-use. By contrast, autonomous, traditional governments like that of Unis’tot’en, represent a traditional way of life, and tend to exercise inherently anti-capitalist values that respect and protect the earth and water. They may not be officially recognized by the Canadian government, and may be in conflict with the priorities of the Canadian government and the First Nations governments and bands accepting what rewards industry dangles in front of them for compliance, partially filling gaping holes in the meager funding distributed by the Canadian state.

In Canada’s west, for example, oil companies have celebrated the support of First Nations for their projects during the tumultuous phase of approvals and reviews through 2015, to – well, today. The same companies were quick to throw their investments behind the creation of Indigenous-led pipelines. Throughout 2017, the Pacific Trail Pipeline, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project, and Westcoast Gas Connector Project claimed support from First Nations in British Columbia and Alberta. “Frog Lake has built homes, community and senior centres, and helps fund education programmes with oil production dividends” (BBC, Dec. 7, 2016). Despite the protective action of the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (in northern B.C.) against Lions Gate Metals and “seven proposed pipelines from Tar Sands Gigaproject and LNG from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects in the Peace River Region”, there remains a perceived economic incentive for some First Nations to collaborate with extraction companies.

On one hand, the urgency of providing for basic living needs that are denied through systemic colonial oppression will coerce First Nations into the acceptance of bribes offered by extractive companies and the Canadian government (explored in sections 2 and 3). One of the arguments being made for First Nations’ collaboration with oil companies or other extractive industries is that, facing an apparent inevitability of such projects’ approval, First Nations investment would relieve some financial support on the federal government, allowing for communities’ self-determination to be more quickly realized. As quoted in an article in the CBC on the Trans Mountain pipeline, Stephen Buffalo of Samson Cree Nation – president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council of Canada – said, “There’s a lot of money going through those pipes, and First Nations can’t stand to the side and watch it go by” (CBC, Aug. 21, 2017). On the other hand, there are simply inflamed desires for ownership, profits, and participation in the lucrative oil industry, for which identity doesn’t stand in the way of bloating profits. In this case, there are projects like the pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia which was proposed by Eagle Spirit Energy Holding Ltd., intended to be twice as long as the rejected Northern Gateway pipeline. The Eagle Spirit pipeline, under company president Calvin Helin, is Indigenous-led, backed by Suncor Energy Inc., Cenovus Energy Inc. and Meg Energy Corp, and intends to overturn a ban on constructing oil tankers along the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest (Financial Post, Nov. 23, 2017, and Financial Post, Nov. 29, 2016).

The Vancouver Sun quoted Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief Fred Seymor in 2016 saying “As the old saying goes, we’re open for business.” This was portrayed as  representing the support of the First Nation for B.C.’s pipeline projects,(Vancouver Sun, Oct. 7, 2016). The quoted Chief Fred Seymour is an ex officio member of the board of directors for Venture Kamloops, an economic development company in Kamloops, British Columbia. Seymour’s “support” for the oil pipeline appears to fit with the interests of other current members of Venture Kamloops, such as: Margot Middleton (President of Middleton Petroleum Services); A.J. (Tony) Ryan (Domtar Inc.); Greg Munden (President of transportation, forestry and commercial vehicle maintenance company Munden Ventures Ltd.); and Peter Aylen (controlling shareholder of agricultural product company Absorbent Products Ltd.). Oil companies will gladly champion First Nations-led pipelines and celebrate First Nations workers as part of their projects, if it means they will continue to make their ludicrous profits.

In Canada, as abroad, corporate stakeholders get to decide if their projects should continue because they make “significant investments in the country” or “help the area to flourish” – without consultation (gestural meetings staged for the media are equated with consultation), and often at the price of the lives of those who resist. In May 2012, Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nations protested the construction of a condominium over c̓əsnaʔəm, or Great Marpole Midden – a four-thousand year old Musqueam village and burial site in Vancouver, B.C. The Musqueam First Nation succeeded in halting the construction of the condominium, under developer Sean Hodgins with Century Group, by purchasing the land in South Vancouver (Vancouver Sun, Aug. 6, 2012, and CBC, Oct. 2, 2013). In August 2017, Freddy Stoneypoint was arrested for blockading continued oil surveying by Jumex in Gaspé, Québec. In a statement released to his lawyers the same month, he wrote, “As a representative of Bawating water protectors, my only wish is to activate my ceremonial being in defense of land and waters through peaceful means. I am not an activist, I am an Anishinaabe man working to protect the land for future generations” (Camp de la Rivière, Aug. 17, 2017). In July 2015, James Daniel McIntyre was murdered by the RCMP outside of a restaurant in Dawson Creek, B.C., where a BC Hydro-sponsored event was happening for the Site C dam construction (CBC, Jul. 14, 2016). McIntyre was an Anonymous activist, and an outspoken activist against the Site C hydroelectric dam development in the Peace River Valley.

How fast are we to forget the Oka Crisis? Wherein the Mohawk of Kanesatake, Kahnawake, and Akwesasne resisted the expansion of Club de golf d’Oka over Mohawk burial grounds – a resistance that, under Trudeau Senior’s Liberal Government, received a militarized response from Sûreté du Québec (Québec’s provincial police), the RCMP, and Canadian Armed Forces. What exactly do these lives mean for those who only see “a lot of money” and are “open for business”?


The Gangrene, unofficial fragments on The Green Violin

The Gangrene: Unofficial Fragments is published with The Green Violin. Link to publication is here, and below is an excerpted introduction:

On June 16, 1959, La Gangrène was bravely published in France for the first time by Jérôme Lindon for Éditions de Minuit, a French publishing house that operated secretly under the Nazi occupation in 1942. La Gangrène documented the tortures endured by Algerians under the hands of French police. On June 20, the book was confiscated by the French government under President—and Minister of Algerian Affairs—Charles De Gaulle. On June 23, French police smashed the plates intended for printing a second French edition. The following spring, New York author and independent publisher Lyle Stuart re-published the book in English, breaking through a state-imposed silence. In France, it would be followed by Henri Alleg’s book La Quéstion and critical writings by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, both of whom publically denounced state-sanctioned torture. The censorship of La Gangrène also extended to similar works like Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers, which was based on the memoirs of FLN leader Saadi Yacef and was banned for five years after its release in France.

The re-publication of La Gangrène in this form is intended as a kind of commemorative edition, not in time with its original publication, but rather in dialogue with the printing date of November 11, 2018 and the printing location of Montréal, Québec. This date commemorates Armistice Day—exactly 100 years ago in 1918—and echoes with the words, Lest we forget . . . French military general Charles de Gaulle was captured by German forces during the First World War and was released on Armistice Day. During the Second World War, Charles De Gaulle would become celebrated as a leader of French resistance against Nazi Germany, and would emerge as the leader of a “Free France”.

Under De Gaulle, however, a “Free France” incubated its own racism as these testimonies will show, cultivating anti-Semitism among French police, a hatred towards dark-skinned North African immigrants within France and oppression towards Algerians living under French colonial occupation. De Gaulle also remains a figure celebrated historically and today by Québec nationalists—recalling his speech “Vive le Québec libre” that was given on July 24, 1964 and united nationalist sentiment over another form of French colonial occupation in unceded Indigenous land. Under de Gaulle’s government, Algerians fought for independence and attempted a coup, and eventually won their freedom—the universal, basic human right to exist for which, it would seem, the Second World War had been fought.

It becomes even more important to remember narratives such as those of La Gangrène as bigotry and right-wing ideology gain political fervour across Québec and the Americas, police are permitted more abusive powers, and anti-immigrant sentiment becomes policy. So we return to the sentiment that is attached to Armistice Day—what is it we are warned of in the symbolic phrase, lest we forget? We celebrate political leaders as icons of liberation and freedom, we elevate political caricatures and with them discard entire histories.

alethe: texts in Italian translation (Versi Guasti)

alethe is published with Italian e-book publisher, Versi Guasti, an imprint of Kipple Officina. The edition is translated from English into Italian by Valerio Cianci, with an introduction by the editor, Alex Tonelli. The cover is a section of a painting by Francesca Macor.

“Potremmo chiederci da dove arriva la sua scrittura, il connubio caotico di prosa e poesia, il versificare sfrenato e senza condizioni, le trame oscure e confuse, il coacervo di immagini che creano dimensioni al di là della stessa surrealtà. Immaginare che vi sia una fonte di pura creatività dentro la poetessa, un nocciolo profondo di assoluta ispirazione magmatica e incontrollabile, una demoniaca possessione della parola poetica. Ma non sarebbe ancora ciò che andiamo cercando, Lital Khaikin infatti non è una poetessa surrealista, non trae la propria forza espressiva dalla dimensione inconscia del proprio sé, da quel magma che è l’Es freudiano, così potente, però così chiuso in una individualità monadica. Nulla è più personale e non condivisibile dello spazio nascosto che giace in fondo alla seconda topica di Freud.

La poesia di Khaikin non è affatto un viaggio personale alla ricerca dei segreti recessi della sua personalità multiforme: non c’è Breton fra le sue fonti, né l’Eluard più ispirato.”

alethe is now available for under 1 Euro (!) on Kipple Officina’s website, as well as on Amazon.

New publications, Atlantic distribution, and forthcoming for September 2018

Link to original post on The Green Violin:

The Green Violin is printing once again, and expanding distribution! Copies of all Green Violin publications are always available for mail by request. The Green Violin will be distributing a few publications in Vancouver in early October. Special drop-points are also forthcoming in Atlantic Canada (Moncton, Sackville, Halifax, Saint John, and Fredericton), thanks to an H. de Heutz tour late September, and in Trois-Rivières on October 26.

Tour dates are here, go see the show if you want Green Violin publications!

OCT.26.2018 / TROIS RIVIERES : Zenob Cafe-Bar / + Duo Camaro / doors 9:30pm music 10pm $8/pay-what-you-can
SEP.29.2018 / MONCTON : Plan B Lounge / + Usse / 19+
SEP.28.2018 / SACKVILLE (NB) : Thunder and Lightning / + Usse / doors 9pm music 10pm
SEP.27.2018 / HALIFAX : Radstorm / + Secretary, Usse / doors 7:30pm music 8pm ALL AGES
SEP.26.2018 / SAINT JOHN : Taco Pica / + Ophelya, Usse / 9pm $8
SEP.25.2018 / FREDERICTON : Cafe Loka / + Usse, Wangled Teb


More copies of the first run of Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s not meant as poems and ko ko thett’s four poems in Burmese translation will be available through ground and mail distribution later this month (including at the aforementioned Atlantic locations).

New publications are printing now!

A chapbook called Ahn Hak-sŏp #4 by Don Mee Choi is first off the rollers, followed by a broadside titled Prophet Seekers, and other poems by Rethabile Masilo.

Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions! A fragmented look at the Hydro One Board of Directors

Pan-American Lunar Landing, (more accurately, “A Trip to the Moon” by Georges Méliès, 1902).

A republication of To Justify Land #4, originally published with Berfrois, now with some editing by the Media Co-op. The text was originally written a couple years ago, and underwent numerous evolutions to take its present form. Tracklist for this text includes such bangers as: “Of Pensions and Genocide”, “Reasons”, “There Isn’t Much We Can’t Do”, “Happiness Isn’t Measured In Square Feet”, “Might As Well Be Selling Groceries”, “Fiat Is A Terrorist Organization”, and “The Shit Cartel”.

Read the full article here:

And the excerpted introduction here:


To Justify Land /4: Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions! is a project of assemblage and republication without altering the splinters of original text, creating an emergent narrative. The act of re-composing information, or found text, changes the legible context and the experience of reading, assimilating and forgetting information. Journalistic materials and press releases are interpreted outside of their chronological documentation or perceived span of relevance – when the spectacle is discarded and forgotten, and becomes history. This mimics both the parasitic character of most mainstream news sources, as well as spam sites that copy and re-post excerpts or articles in their entirety elsewhere (a venture through the looking glass).

By collaging the found fragments, the project also reflects the prominence of particular sources which are most accessible (or simply reflect certain algorithmic affinities and the speed of their discovery), or which reflect the sources that hold the most interest in reporting these events (and thus tend to influence public perception and policy, or limit the public awareness of corporate developments). As with the earlier, related project A Draft for Asinabka, this section of To Justify Land looks at the rhetoric that is used to represent to the public the interests of multinational corporate ‘entities’, the competency of corporate leadership, and the rhizomatic accumulation that leads towards prosperity.


The framework for this project is the Hydro One Board of Directors, which was announced in 2015 in the same moment as the Zibi development was finally receiving local media traction in the Ottawa-Gatineau region for its purchase of land from Domtar Corporation for condominium development, and the simultaneous launch of Hydro Ottawa-Hydro-Quebec’s $150 million dam upgrade. The articles and news releases clipped in this text mostly reflect 2016 and 2017, at which time this text was written. In the republication of this work, this text has not been updated with headlines from 2018, and does not intend to be a complete, chronological document.

The incestuous entanglements of the Ontario Hydro One Board of Directors reflects the absurdity of the corporatized regime under which the earth continues to be exploited under the motivations of ‘economic prosperity’. The interconnections demonstrate how seemingly disparate crises – such as the privatization of water in Delhi, mining in Brazil, Saudi Arabian ‘special economic zones’, the mergers and contracts of seemingly ‘apolitical’ construction companies, and the construction of a condominium development in Ottawa – are closely related, but often neglected in the context of the innocuous entries and exits of the figureheads who determine these maneuvers.

The absurdity of the relationships (which sometimes appear disconnected or irrelevant) is contextualised with recent news, excerpts, or tangentially relevant bits of trivia that inform their actions. Formally, it’s an experiment with the usefulness of the footnote / annotation as an irritant where footnotes concentrate on ‘derivative facts’, and with the hyperlink for mapping nets of influence. These ‘nets’ are intended to reflect the connections  between the protagonists behind the governance, auditing & oversight, and policy influence of the corporate acquisitions of ‘public assets’. These connections are available to the public – however, due to their displacement and the limited means of their discussion and representation, they remain ‘hidden in plain sight’. In the complex and non-linear operations of an economic climate that is created through collaborative business and relationship building, the relevance is found in repetition. Readers are encouraged to jump between sections to discover for themselves, as if by accident, the many repeating names throughout, or forgo the text entirely and refer to the index included at the end. Here, information leads to more information!

As stated in earlier  ‘To Justify Land’ posts, Ontario’s Hydro One has sold 60% of shares to private investment (though it sees provincial majority as a single shareholder as a redeeming quality). Hydro Ottawa, meanwhile, is seeing through an expansion project on the dam that crosses the Ottawa River, which is part of a condominium development site on Asinabka – a sacred site for Algonquin people. In August 2016, Ontario Hydro acquired a regional power distributor, Orillia Hydro, and Great Lakes Power Electricity Transmission Business from Brookfield Infrastructure. The Natural Capitalist condo developers Windmill and their real estate partners Dream Unlimited are striking a construction deal with a single Algonquin-owned company which remains at odds with the Algonquin contestation against the construction of the condominiums, and damming of the Kichissippi (otherwise known as the Ottawa River).


So it is that the envelope of compromise continues to be pushed to lunatic margins. How far indeed things have gone where we can’t keep track of who owns whom, and who is doing what with whose money! This is the price of our ‘liquidities’, the briberies extended to the poorest people by war-mongers and corporatists, and the perversion of sustainability and environmentalism by capitalist infrastructures – where agendas of exploitation are ‘justified’ through charitable donations, or superficial appearances of concern with ecological sustainability or sourcing renewable energy. The problem returns to the tenets of “Natural Capitalism”, to the very logic that underlies these systems, which fuels private acquisitions and interests – where ‘prosperity’ is seen through an inextricable mesh of corporate mergers and acquisitions, banks, real estate development, and investment in military industries. Where there are donations, there is never the question of rejecting them – where there is financial profit, there is no question about the meaning of ‘progress’. Where an oil company, or a hydro-electric company, can invest some dollars in the right conservation society, or loudly offer construction contracts to Indigenous communities without recourse for the exploitative nature of the very work they do in the first place and how they arrived at their money. Where progress is measured by participation in this system – that reconciliation with people means bankrolling their participation in capitalist infrastructures, and reconciliation with the planet means the most economically viable form of expansion, passed by approval of corporate-sponsored advisory boards. Where exploitation – by donations, by extraction, by economic blackmail – is to always take, and never to leave alone, never to reject the next profitable opportunity. Where bigger is always better, and progress means collaborating at any cost, with anyone, because economic failure is more unbearable than moral bankruptcy.


Capitalism is constructed on a language of nouns – objects, materialities, people and names. Written in 1940, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius imagines a language that is constructed entirely out of verbs. Such a language dematerializes reality – or, perhaps more accurately, interprets a reality that is based on experience, not on ‘object-hood’. Language in Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is nounless, transient.

“To the inhabitants of Tlön, the world is not an assemblage of objects in space but a diverse series of separate acts. The world is sequential, rooted in time rather than space. In Tlön’s putative Ursprache, from which its ‘modern’ languages and dialects stem, there are no nouns but only impersonal verbs, modified by monosyllabic suffixes or prefixes that function as adverbs. For example, there is nothing equivalent to our word ‘moon’, but there is a verb that for us would be ‘to moonrise’ or ‘to moon’. ‘The moon rose over the river’ would be ‘Hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö’ or, literally, ‘Upward behind the lasting-flow it moonrose’. (Xul Solar translates this more succinctly as ‘Upward, behind the onstreaming, it mooned.’)”

Where Tlön’s moon is “mooning”, the river everywhere is “rivering” – existing as such as an ever-becoming entity that is its entanglements, and is irreducible. The uncertainty of this entity means that it cannot ever be fully condensed into a solid state that is quantifiable and derives value. The “mooning” and “rivering” are not just oppositional to capitalism – they totally do not permit the very idea of it, because there is no concrete “moon” to speak of, and it is not possible for there to be “a river” in the sense of a commodity-object.

The text that follows, with its numerous names of people, corporations and figures, is in total opposition to such a concept that considers material reality as ‘relational’ – an uncertain and fluctuating reality that is interpreted from actions and behaviours, and is never static. The text shows instead a sliver of the material-based reality that determines the logics of capitalism. It is an experiment in the anesthetized reflection of journalistic remnants, maybe even humorous reading of journalistic artefacts that have been temporally displaced. This small project within a project is a sort of ‘media archaeology’, a ‘digital forensics’ – simply a reconfiguration or collage of that-which-is-already-there. It is by facing again (and again and again) the materiality of this network – the people and corporations, their ‘products’, acquisitions and values (or, nouns) – towards the doing, the occurrence, the Borgesian verbing of the reality, in which we are offered a new reading of our dim reality, perhaps even something of an incantation, a litany in the form of Network-Oriented Ontology (NOO)! Forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe”, “project”, “expect”, “will likely result”, “strategy”, “plan”, “may”, “should”, “will”, “would”, “will be”, “will continue”, “will likely result” and similar expressions, and the negatives thereof. Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions, are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, the outcomes of which cannot be predicted.

“There will be no greening of the economy, no redistribution of wealth, no enforcement or extension of rights without human dispositions, moods, and cultural ensembles hospitable to these effects.”

-Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter.