I’m writing this post fresh off the heals of an action organized by 350.org and our friends from across the Ottawa / Gatineau Region. It was an unsanctioned alternative exhibit in the lobby of the Museum of History putting “CAPP on display”. We wanted to draw into focus the Museum’s ongoing partnership with Canada’s most notorious Big Oil lobby group: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
Our action took place the morning after the Museum of History’s new exhibit, Canadian History Hall, was featured in the New York Times, and it’s clear why. Canadian History Hall is the largest exhibition about Canadian history ever developed, and the content is very unapologetic of the dark times.
It took me three hours to get through just one of the three galleries that makes up this incredible exhibit. During my visit, I walked into a room with the words ‘Idle No More’ in prominent view, and to the Mi’kmaq Honour Song loudly playing in the background. It is a stunning tribute to Indigenous-led resistance to colonial realities like missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and boys and the horrendous conditions on many First Nations reserves.
But I couldn’t help but feel the deep contradictions at play. The massive oil companies that CAPP represents are the culprits of ongoing displacement and disenfranchisement of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. The loss of connection to the land and culture due to the environmental and health impacts on Indigenous communities living near sites of extraction, transportation and refining of fossil fuels is well documented. Not only that, but the Harper-era assaults on environmental protections were aided and abetted by CAPP lobbyists. These attacks were fuel to the fire do the Indigenous sovereignty movement “Idle No More”, which the Museum so prominently displays.
Another display in the exhibit noted the dilemma the Federal government is in by both signing the Paris Climate Agreement and soon after approving two massive tar sands pipelines. They’re referring to Kinder Morgan and Line 3 which, if built, would make meeting the Paris targets impossible. CAPP has been a staunch supporter of both pipelines.
Even with the 1 degree of global warming we are currently experiencing, the impacts of climate change have been devastating, particularly for people in low-lying island nations and in arid regions like sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East. But climate impacts are hitting closer to home to as the crisis intensifies, and CAPP’s fingerprints are all over dangerous climate disasters.
Just this Spring, Quebec and Ontario was slammed with record breaking precipitation, pushing thousands of people out of their homes. In May of last year, the already dry area near Fort McMurray, became drier because of higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snow-melt. The resulting wildfires was nothing short of horrific. While we were demonstrating in the Museum there is a wildfire raging in BC.
If our decision makers continue to give in to demands from Big Oil lobbyists like CAPP, we can expect these impacts to get much worse.
I won’t pretend that I didn’t feel discomfort causing a disruption in the Museum. It’s an institution I have fond childhood memories from, and which I have growing respect for as they show intention to decolonizing their content. Not to mention the fact that the Museum has expressed solidarity with Algonquin people opposing the Kitigan Zibi Condominium development.
Besides that, CAPPs sponsorship is a drop in the bucket in terms of the Museum of History’s total revenues. As the most visited museum in the country, it’s visitors like you and me who contribute the most to the Museum’s pocketbook.
More than that, though I believe that the Museum of History has an obligation to show leadership in the fight for the climate and for the rights of Indigenous people. By cutting ties with CAPP, the Museum’s decision makers would send a strong signal that the era of Big Oil polluting our planet and our politics is over.
The good news is, as Museum’s own CEO Mark O’Neil confirmed at their AGM in April, CAPP and the Museum of History have reached the final year in their sponsorship agreement.
What remains now is a commitment from O’Neil that the Museum of History will not re-enter negotiations with CAPP for future sponsorships.
It’s time to make sure that the Museum stands on the right side of history.
If you want the Museum of History to cut ties with CAPP, sign the petition and talk to your colleagues, family and friends about it.