Attawapiskat’s Problematic Investment Portfolio- And how it conflicts with #IdleNoMore’s values…

Welcome to Attawapiskat...

Welcome to Attawapiskat…

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about Attawapiskat’s investment portfolio. Investments are made in the name of the Attawapiskat Trust- a fund that was setup in 2007 to receive payments from De Beer’s for income from the Victor Diamond Mine. The trust’s documentation is available for download from Attawapiskat website, it’s an interesting read.

There’s been a lot of focus on the amount of money in the trust (almost $9 million in 2011), and on the curiously named $199,826 ‘Elder Recognition Benefit’ disbursement. What’s not been discussed so much are the investments they’ve made- and that’s surprising, because it’s a rather curious mix that conflicts with the principles of Idle No More…

INM was ignited by the introduction of Bill C-45, and Theresa Spence’s partial hunger strike. Bill C-45, and the problems with current treaty negotiations are a big part of INM, but it’s also about the environment. Take this statement from Ryerson University’s Pamela Palmater:

“This movement is also unique in that it includes Canadians as our allies. Just as the early days of contact when the settlers needed our help to survive the harsh winter months, and seek out a new life here, Canadians once again need our help…First Nations represent Canadians last best hope at stopping Harper from unfettered mass destruction of our shared lands, waters, plants and animals in the name of resource development for export to foreign countries like China.” (And many would add the US…)

So, a lot of INM is about environmentalism. This is confirmed by the ‘settler’ partners who have joined in supporting INM. Anti-tarsands protester Dave Vasey helped setup the Sarnia rail blockade, he was accompanied by Sakura Saunders, the leader of, an organization that focusses (curiously) specifically on Barrick Gold. Another Occupy star (and Tar-Sands protester)Taylor Flook, was leading the chants and speaking to the media at the INM blockade of a Ford plant yesterday.

Anarchists Sakura Saunders, Darius "Flagpole" Mirshahi, Dave Vasey & Lana

StopBarrick Gold’s Sakura Saunders (left) and Tar-Sands Crusader Dave Vasey (on right) in Sarnia

Palmater, and most of the people in INM, feel that the First Nations are the strongest possible allies for fixing issues with the environment. Her statement is not untrue- but, equally, it’s not a writ in stone assumption. There are many indigenous people across the country who’d be happy to expand natural resource extraction (though, I believe they are in the minority). Like any nation, people in indigenous communities come from a wide variety of opinions and priorities.

After reading through the Attawapiskat Trust’s chart of investments, it appears their investment board’s priorities aren’t quite in-tune with INM. In fact, the Trust is a direct investor in many of the companies that INM is in direct opposition to. Their portfolio has an ethically challenging company for everyone- mining, oil sands, big pharma, banking, Disney- and something even more sinister.

I’ll start with their investments in the oil sands industry- in many ways, the Trust’s portfolio reads like Dave Vasey’s Rainforest Action Network’s list of evil oil sands companies. They’ve invested in organizations including the Canadian Oil Sands Trust, Baytex Energy, Bonavista, and (of all companies!) Enbridge.

Being a mining town, Attawapiskat has logically made a number of mining investments- with what looks to be a focus on gold. Curiously, one of their larger investments is in a company that Sakura Saunders is quite passionate about- Barrick Gold. If you listen to Saunder’s rants about Barrick Gold, they are the devil incarnate. Saunders claims that Barrick is both an environmental disaster as well as being horrible to their employees and nearby villages of indigenous people.

The People of Vancouver will be disappointed to hear that Attawapiskat is an investor in Canexus- a company that owns the chlorine plant in North Vancouver that threatens 10’s of thousands of people in case of a disaster or earthquake. People from Occupy will be unhappy to hear that the Trust invests in Brookfield- a company that fought to evict Occupy Wall Street, and is preparing to cut-down old growth forests on Cortes Island.

If you thought their portfolio couldn’t have anything more evil than Disney (kidding) and Enbridge (not kidding), there’s one more surprise on the list. They’ve invested in Haliburton- a company that’s widely accepted to be one of the most evil organizations in the world. Haliburton is most famous for its part as a war profiteer in Afghanistan who did shoddy work (that electrocuted soldiers) for enormous payback. Haliburton also made the concrete base that cracked and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with crude oil. Only the most hardcore reactionaries have respect for Haliburton.

Dick Cheney- Former CEO of Haliburton

Dick Cheney- Former CEO of Haliburton

Put simply, if any Canadian university had an investment portfolio that read like the Trust’s does, the students would be marching on the President’s office with pitchforks and torches. In fact, there’s a currently major dispute between student unions and the University of Toronto over the influence of Peter Monk and Barrick Gold.

Theresa Spence made an announcement to INM this week saying that the chiefs were going to gather to discuss strategy. Moments later it was apparent that a schism was brewing- people in INM stepped up and made it clear they were independent from the chiefs. Is the gap between the Trust’s investments and INM’s values an example of what’s causing the split?

Harper’s now agreed to meet with the chiefs, but not with the rank & file. What’s the next step for INM? Perhaps they want to begin with an audit of their chief’s investment strategies…

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  1. It was almost an omen of your article (and this issue) when I passed a semi-trailer with a Haliburton logo on the side of the cab. I made sure to slow down long enough for him to catch a glimpse of my “9/11 Was An Inside Job” bumper sticker! This plus your information here prompted me to ask Saskatoon INM supporters to dialogue about this. So far the response is that it IS worrisome and that this is a movement for the people by the people and they don’t need Chief Spences endorsement. I’ll be interested to see what Dr. Palmater has to say on the issue.

    • The Hammer on January 6, 2013 at 09:38
    • Reply

    Audit of the Chief’s investment strategies? That is kinda how this started. The government wanted the Chief to open her books and find out where the $35 million she is given every year has been going. More importantly, how her people ended up living in squalor. In the end, this is what the protest is about. She went all union on them when they asked her to open the books.

    What is interesting about INM is that it does not seem to have as much support in the actual native community as we have been led to beleive. How many people were in the protest at the Oakville Ford plant? 30 maybe? Oakville is very close to the 6 Nations territory which has a population of about 12,000.

    First Nations people are just like the rest of us. They may not like the current government. But that does not mean they prefer the activistocrat alternative.

    1. Sorry, Hammer… INM started with four women from Saskatchewan who through their work at Station 20 West decided something needed to be done for First Nations people. Station 20 West is located in the poorest neighborhood of Saskatoon which has the highest level of poverty, substance abuse and communicable disease. If anything I’d say that Chief Spence was the opportunist here, taking advantage of (dare I say co-opting) this movement. Luckily people in Saskatchewan (and probably elsewhere) won’t let this issue be about Chief Spence and her hunger strike, it’s about them and they intend on keeping it that way.

    • The Hammer on January 6, 2013 at 12:47
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    Oh I knew Spence was using it. And using her so called hunger strike (which is not even a crash diet) to distract from calls to open the books. Good to hear the movement had honest beginnings. But, much like occupy before it, the movement has been taken over. It is no longer about native issues. It is now another Stop Harper movement about to evolve into a pro-union and pro-NDP movement. It is only a matter of time before we hear them using the word “Austerity” at these protests.

      • Dar on January 8, 2013 at 08:26
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      The movement still has honest beginnings, don’t bash it because Spence happened to start her hunger strike at the same time. Irregardless, Bill C-45 is chalked full of bills that threaten Canada as a whole, Smearing Chief Spence and her band will not turn peoples support from INM – INM founders have even said in print – they will not heed the call of the AFN because they will not take the governmental route to address these issues – The AFN doe not represent Idle No More – yes there are C&C that stand in solidarity however, this movement is all grassroots people – uniting as one – why is a bands finances even in the spotlight? – It has nothing to do with INM. Please stop confusing the two very different issues that happened to coincide and further the movement.

        • Seriously? on January 23, 2013 at 15:10
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        I’ve heard the complaints about C 45 and the lakes and rivers that are no longer protected. It seemed strange to me so I went and read the bill. I realized that the environmental protection act remained intact as did the environmental assessment act. In fact the changes I saw eliminated the ability to go around the environmental assessment act so it seemed to be strengthened to me. When I looked at what had been changed that unprotected the lakes and rivers it was simply the navigation protection act (more formally called the Navigable Waters ACT). That isn’t about the environment. That is about making sure lots of ships can move freely up and down the water. Lots of ships, incidentally, isn’t very environmentally friendly so the ability to impede them on some water systems is probably a good thing. I think this was a fundamental flaw in the INM movement. They championed a cause that was false. The changes to the NWA didn’t put our lakes at risk for pollution. The act that protects them from that is the EPA. Always was and still is.

    • ptehinsilaska on January 6, 2013 at 20:21
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    “There are many indigenous people across the country who’d be happy to expand natural resource extraction. Like any nation, people in indigenous communities come from a wide variety of opinions and priorities.”

    I admire the work you do Greg, but I do take issue with this statement and the tone and purpose of this article. If you can define the Indian Reorganization Act without referring to google…know it that well – what it really means historically and presently….I believe you would not have written the above. IF you would care for me to elaborate, please make it known. I would be happy to really inform with context what is happening in this political theater.

    • Janice Schreiber-Poznik on January 6, 2013 at 21:38
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    Would you please shed light on the investment issues? Divestment from big oil, etc. Decolonize one’s mind, decorporatize one’s mind, emancipate and consume with consciousness so our grandchildren’s granchildren’s grandchildren…. can have a sustainable life in harmony and health with mother earth and all our relations.

    1. I’m not sure what you’re looking for- can you expand?

        • Janice Schreiber-Poznik on January 7, 2013 at 02:24
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        I am wondering if this is quite common. Investment strategies by First Nations in complete discord with Idle No More’s values and the expressed values of the people to protect water, air, soil, etc. I see this quite a lot with Americans who are active and want to be part of the “green revolution” but they live off of or invest in the corporations that are destroying what they proclaim to want to protect. Do you think this is a common challenge/occurance? If so, what needs to happen to shift the consciousness and divest form “Haliburton, Tar Sands Oil and the above mentioned? Why is this not part of the main public discourse? If one continues to feed and nurture the destructive force with funding then systemic change can’t happen can it?

          • Seriously? on January 23, 2013 at 15:15
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          Tar sands development is the best thing that has happened to that land. They’ve taken polluted land that can barely grow anything. Ripped it up, Cleaned it and then they plant it with good, life sustaining vegetation. Activists only show you the area they are working on. Not the ratty crap that it was before or what it becomes after they finish with it. I hear you on the living off corporations comment though. The number of anti oil people who I’ve seen write complaints while using their oil based computer and wearing their oil based clothing is mind numbing.

    • The Hammer on January 7, 2013 at 07:51
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    I was talking to a friend last night who has friends in the Idle No More movement. Actual natives, not non-native activistocrats. Anyway, despite CBC news trying to turn Spence into another Nelson Mandela she has very little credibility in the Native community or the real INM movement. He said “This woman is driving an Escalade and living in a beautiful home while her people are freezing and starving.”

  2. INM has stated emphatically that they do not endorse Spence’s actions that she is acting independently of this movement. People will spin this as suits them, ignoring the facts. The fact that the people recognize this means they will recognize Occupanarchists in their midst as well.

      • Rhino on January 7, 2013 at 14:53
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      Do you have a link to those statements because It looks to me on the INM website and facebook pages that she’s still being heralded as a hero.

    • The Hammer on January 7, 2013 at 15:28
    • Reply

    CBC news has been championing her cause stopping just short of declaring her another Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. It got sickening. Until today that is:

    • CaligulaJones on January 8, 2013 at 13:00
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    No doubt the spinners will have these investments as “you need to own shares if you are going to go to shareholder’s meetings and agitate for positive change”. You know, like how Michael Moore does it…

    1. Well, considering they had over $100,000 of investment in Enbridge, this may be difficult to wiggle out of that way. All it takes is one share…


    What they say: All people are equal, and should be treated the same.

    What they must mean: I’m willing to trade situations with any Inuit or First Nations person at any time.

    What they say: As a taxpayer I resent my hard-earned money going to support First Nations.

    What they must mean: I only want my taxes to go to the traditional stewards of the Canadian environment, like the oil industry, the forestry industry, the airline industry and the automotive industry.

    What they say: If First Nations and Inuit people choose to live way out there in the bush, it’s their problem.

    What they must mean: I wish a lot more First Nations people lived in my town.

    What they say: Aboriginal leaders are corrupt, or incompetent.

    What they must mean: Non-aboriginal leaders are the most honest, effective bunch of self-sacrificing saints ever to walk the face of the Earth.

    What they say: First Nations and Inuit people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

    What they must mean: I never had a single opportunity in my life. My people were downtrodden for a few hundred years, my language was beaten out of me, my family was broken by residential schools, my access to health care was poor, I was economically and socially isolated, I had little opportunity for jobs or education, and yet I became the selfless contributor to society that I am today all by myself.

    What they say: Native people need to get with the times and join the rest of Canadian society.

    What they must mean: A wasteful, polluting materialist culture for everyone!

    What they say: The Indian Act/Treaties should be repealed and special treatment for Native people should end.

    What they must mean: I’m totally awesome at economics, politics, anthropology, sociology, spirituality and geography, and I figured out a new system, that no one’s ever thought of, let alone tried to implement in the past. My idea redresses the problems of the past and creates stepping stones toward a new and profitable future together. I’m willing to spend my lifetime helping put it in place for the good of all. So let’s do that instead.

    There you have it. Canadians are a tolerant people, if you’ll just take the time to try to understand where they’re coming from.

    I seem to have found myself in a very wrong crowd. So goodbye everybody, good luck.

    1. I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head with this statement:

      “What they say: First Nations and Inuit people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

      What they must mean: I never had a single opportunity in my life. My people were downtrodden for a few hundred years, my language was beaten out of me, my family was broken by residential schools, my access to health care was poor, I was economically and socially isolated, I had little opportunity for jobs or education, and yet I became the selfless contributor to society that I am today all by myself.”

      That’s the part I feel the rest of us in Canada have trouble truly understanding. In my experience anger, hatred, and fear breed the fastest. If you tear apart families and communities one minute, you can’t expect the victims and their descendants to happy pick themselves up the next. It’s a very delicate issue with hundreds of years worth of back story.

      When non-First Nations look at it and say “why do they X when I have to work for it?!?” they are overlooking the true extent of it.

      I think things can be made right for First Nation’s peoples in Canada, but it’s not going to be easy. Admittance of the issues is a huge first step and I’m glad for the Truth And Reconciliation Commission. I’m also very hopeful for the Idle No More movement.

  4. One last thing…the experts are always white. That’s why the future’s so bright.

    • Hadji Ramjet on January 8, 2013 at 22:48
    • Reply

    I don’t think the Trust is relatively all that big an issue, in fact it may be one of the few bright (dim?) sparks in a black night. At least they managed to organize a Trust in which to remit the $2 million/year they get from DeBeers, rather than immediately blow it (AB Heritage Trust anyone?). There are questionable expenditures as elsewhere, but it appears the Trust cannot disburse more than it earns, so at least the principle and payments are secure for now. I believe TD manages the Trust and given that Spence et al cannot seem even organize charitable donations, I don’t imagine they pay much attention to where the Trust is invested.

    • Libby on January 9, 2013 at 23:37
    • Reply

    “Put simply, if any Canadian university had an investment portfolio that read like the Trust’s does, the students would be marching on the President’s office with pitchforks and torches.”

    Excuse me? McGill University does business with Barrick Gold.

    1. Yes, and many students are very upset. Here’s an example of one:

    • candice on January 13, 2013 at 23:47
    • Reply

    one doesn’t have to be anti-development or anti-any industry to be against bill-c45. the last two omnibus bills change the legislation which was put in place to assess risks and address environmental concerns, the treaty changes are another matter. You don’t have to be ‘against’ any company or investment to expect the government to commit to responsible development of resources

    1. You’re most certainly right. Equally, the first step to making change is to be the change you want to see…

    • The Hammer on January 15, 2013 at 13:40
    • Reply

    Looks like the activistocrats have sunk their claw’s even deeper into the INM movement. Kystaline Krause is now leading INM in an attack on Sun Media using the old stand by attack of “Racism”. There is a protest planned on Saturday:

    Zach “NoCameco” Ruiter is also high on the guest list. So we can assume there will be heavy censorship on the facebook page. There are also comments that Sun Media condone “Gennocide” of native people. So, It makes me wonder if Kevin Annett or his people may be involved.

  5. You have started from a faulty assumption. The “investment portfolio” in question here is the First Nations Trust account held by AANDC on behalf of the First Nation.

    It is a report on the investments made; The Federal Government appoints the manager (in this case, TD Bank). There are Federal guidelines as to what % of the Trust can be invested in what types of companies. This is the situation across Canada, not just in Attawapiskat.

    Chiefs & councils have NO say in how the money is invested, nor which bank administers the Trust. AANDC makes all of these decisions, either directly or through the Trust Managers. as AANDC signs off on it. Paternalistic enough?

  6. The whole “movement” is a lying, corrupt, twisted, criminal like group who are ruining their People , causing loss of compassion, understanding and trust/respect. The whole strategy is a mishmash of immaturity, hatred, and rewriting of history for their own benefit which, by the way, is of no benefit!!!

  1. […] beings would die from not eating.  Even more curious is how the Attawapiskat are involved in INM, given their stock portfolio, which Greg Renouf provided some analysis of!  I’d have to say their investments are totally […]

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