Canada's Strategic Critical Minerals:
Integration of Quebec's Northern Regions into U.S. War Economy
Weekly explained in February how Canada and Quebec are being
further integrated into the U.S. imperialist economy and war machine
through the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals
A recent Quebec government announcement reveals that the next step is
to build infrastructure to guarantee a supply chain to ship these
critical minerals to the United States.
of the Eeyou Istchee Cree First Nations and the Quebec government met
in Montreal on February 17 to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The office of the Premier of Quebec termed the MOU, "La Grande
Alliance, [a] collaborative, long-term, balanced economic development
in a spirit of respect for Cree values in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay
Abel Bosum, Grand
Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and Chairperson
of the Cree Nation Government, signed the MOU on behalf of the Eeyou
Istchee while Premier François Legault signed for the Quebec
The website of La Grande Alliance says,
"La Grande Alliance is an agreement for collaboration and consolidation
of socio-economic ties between the Cree Nation and Quebec government to
connect, develop and protect the territory."
project will cover "Eeyou Istchee, the Cree land that represents nearly
30 per cent of Quebec (450,000 square kilometres)." It is "a
comprehensive plan to extend the transportation network (rail, road,
port and airport), improve living standards (housing, electricity and
internet) and guarantee the long-term protection of the territory
The project is presented as "a 30-year infrastructure program"
estimated at $4.7 billion to be carried out in three phases. The first
phase begins in 2021 in the south around Matagami in Abitibi, extends
north to Whapmagoostui and east to Schefferville to connect the Cree
territory with the rest of Quebec. The project "aims at developing
infrastructure to facilitate the transport of people and goods,
increase the value of natural resources by reducing travel costs and
ensuring protection of First Nations land by creating a protected
corridor for flora and fauna."
As reported in a previous issue of TML Weekly, the
protection of the natural environment is an issue of concern to the
Cree people who oppose the further encroachment on their ancestral
land, as many of them still depend on it for trapping and for their
Infrastructure for Extraction of Strategic
MOU signing ceremony, Premier Legault noted, "[Northern Quebec] is full
of potential and presents possibilities in certain strategic minerals
that are very attractive for the Americans and the Germans who, at
present, are very dependent on China. Whenever there is a mining
project, there must be acceptance on the part of the Indigenous
communities. This Memorandum of Understanding proves that it is
possible to work together on ambitious socio-economic development
projects and take advantage of Northern Quebec's vast mining potential
for the benefit of both our nations, in a spirit of respect for the
environment, the territory and Indigenous values."
The Cree and the Legault government have
agreed to share the costs of a feasibility study on Phase 1 of the
Grande Alliance, valued at $1.5 billion. This entails the construction
of a railroad from Matagami to Waskaganish, which is infrastructure
needed to serve four lithium mining projects currently at the
environmental assessment stage.
According to the World Bank and the Australian Institute for
Sustainable Futures, global demand for minerals such as lithium,
graphite, cobalt and nickel is set to explode by 2050, with expected
increases ranging from 300 to 8,000 per cent, according to the various
scenarios analyzed. Already the effect of this mineral boom is palpable
in Quebec with a 50 per cent increase in mining investment for graphite
and a 789 per cent increase for lithium between 2013 and 2018.
showing the location of potential mines and those already in production
in relation to strategic and critical minerals (click to
Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources acknowledged in a February
2020 statement, "Critical minerals have significant economic importance
in key sectors of the economy, present a supply risk, and have no
commercially-available substitutes. Strategic minerals have strategic
importance for states. They are needed to implement Quebec's economic
policies, such as the 2030 Energy Policy and the future 2020-2030
Electrification and Climate Change Plan.
already makes a major contribution to the supply of critical and
strategic minerals, since it produces nickel, niobium and graphite and
has mining projects under development for lithium, vanadium, rare earth
elements and tantalum."
Railway Network -- Part of
Strategic Minerals Supply Chain
U.S. War Economy
Three-phase extension of road and railways in Northern
Quebec under the Memorandum
of Understanding (click to
enlarge). (La Grande Alliance)
Phase 1 of the MOU includes the construction of a railway from
Matagami to a deep-water port at Whapmagoostui 700 km north on Hudson
Bay. CN rail currently serves the Abitibi region. It has a rail
interconnection between Matagami, the gateway to James Bay and the
territory of the Cree Nation, and the transcontinental railway that
links Canada from coast to coast.
Minister Marc Garneau introduced Bill C-49, the Transportation
Modernization Act, in the House of Commons on May 16, 2017.
The act contains measures to amend the Canada Transportation
Act with regard to air and railway transportation. It was
given Royal Assent on May 23, 2018.
Weekly pointed out in 2017:
Liberal government said at that time the direction it wants to take 'to
grow Canada's economy' is to modernize it by introducing further
deregulation and privatization. This direction is not new by any means,
and was also the policy of the former Harper Conservative government.
Bill C-49 consolidates the Harper government's direction in the service
of foreign monopoly corporations in the transportation sector. They
profit from Canada's network of transportation corridors that
facilitate the international trade they dominate."
Bill C-49 created a new mechanism called long-haul
interswitching (LHI) to replace the system of temporary extended
interswitching, which is managed through regulations. According to
Minister Garneau's rationale, LHI was needed to provide a "competitive
alternative" for captive shippers who have access to only one railway.
This measure was clearly intended to further deregulate rail transport
to benefit the railway monopolies operating mostly in the U.S., as it
further expanded their access into the Canadian railway network.
An article in Workers'
Forum explained, "[S]hippers of products like lumber, iron
ore, grain or consumer goods in Canada's most remote regions, often
served by only a single rail line, [are left] with few transportation
options. With interswitching, the railway company picks up the cars
from a customer and hands them off to another carrier that performs the
line haul. The line haul includes the majority of the linear distance
of the overall railway movement."
legislation prior to Bill C-49, interswitching was available to
shippers located 160 km from a recognized interchange point. Bill C-49
extends this distance up to 1,200 km. "This deregulation measure
favours the railway monopolies now operating mostly in the U.S., as it
will increase their access to the Canadian railway network," the
article pointed out.
Amending the Canada Transportation Act
also brought a change affecting foreign ownership of airline and
railway companies. The maximum percentage of foreign voting interests
in Canadian air carriers increased from 25 per cent to 49 per cent with
a single person able to control up to 25 per cent of the voting
interests in that corporation, such as Air Canada and WestJet.
Specifically regarding the operation of the Canadian National
Railway Co., an amendment to the CN
Commercialization Act in 2018 increased the maximum voting
shares that can be held by one person, from 15 to 25 per cent. Already
in 2017, Microsoft oligarch Bill Gates was CN's biggest shareholder,
with 13.3 per cent through his holding company. He also controlled
another 2.3 per cent through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
More Pay-the-Rich Schemes to Further Integrate Quebec
into U.S. War Economy and Supply Chain
evening before Legault signed the MOU with the Eeyou Istchee Cree First
Nations, Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec's Minister of the Economy and
Innovation appeared on the Radio-Canada weekly talk show Tout le monde en parle.
Fitzgibbon spoke excitedly about the Government of Quebec's $30 million
investment, through Investissement Québec, in a company
based in France called "Flying Whales." The French company plans to
build airships capable of transporting payloads equivalent to those
transported by two semi-trailer trucks.
"It is an airship that takes a 60-tonne payload. We could transport
houses to the far north; we could extract minerals, rare earths. It is
a French group, which includes the Paris airport, Boeing, large French
companies. We are investing 20 million euros. We have the rights in the
Americas. And the French will invest the equivalent of what we invest
in research and development here in Quebec. Here, we have a very
efficient industrial cluster in aerospace, artificial intelligence,
[and] our engineers. We anticipate that the project will be operational
in 2022-2023. We can think of places in the far North, the James Bay
territory, where there are no roads and airships that can carry 60
tonnes are more useful than putting billions into the construction of
roads and railways. These airships will be complementary to our
strategy to develop northern Quebec. This system will complement the
traditional transport system."
Such airships have
been available since the late 19th and early 20th centuries until the
Hindenburg disaster undermined public confidence in them, and brought a
definitive end to their "golden age." The government of Canada with
such vast northern territories has not seen fit to put them to use for
the delivery of goods to the north until now when mining interests have
a direct stake.
Taken together, the ensemble of
reports reveals how the Canadian and Quebec economies are being prepped
to participate in the increasingly vicious inter-monopoly and
inter-imperialist competition over control of sources of raw materials,
markets and spheres of interest. Canada's transportation
infrastructure, along with its human and natural resources, mainly
serves the U.S. imperialist striving for domination, its war
economy and insatiable demand to suck as much private profit as it can
from wherever it is allowed to operate. But it also integrates the
Europeans into the North American market, an advantage Quebec milks to
the maximum when it comes to relations with France and the European
Union. This disastrous path under the control of oligopolies and their
cartels and coalitions which both collude and contend at one and the
same time stands in opposition to building a self-reliant diverse
economy under the control of the people and serving their needs and
well-being and the necessity to humanize the social and natural
The Cree and all Indigenous peoples
are entitled as a birthright to a life they choose for themselves at
the highest standard of living this modern age produces. Transporting
goods to northern communities by airship whose payload is many many
times greater than that of a plane should reduce the cost of
food and all other things imported from the south many times
over, but will it?
The direction of the
Legault and Trudeau governments must not pass. The people cannot and
will not accept such a direction for the economy that is not under
their control and inevitably leads to crises and war.
1. "No to
Canada's Integration into the U.S. Imperialist War Economy!" by Fernand
Deschamps, TML Weekly,
February 1, 2020.
Government Announces 'Grand Alliance' with Cree While Calling for
Police Intervention to End Blockades," TML Weekly,
February 22, 2020.
Paper: Review of Quebec's Role in the Development of Critical and
Strategic Minerals," Energy and Resources Quebec," February 2020.
and Deregulation in Service of Financial Oligarchy and Empire-Building
Is Not Modernization," by Louis Lang, TML Weekly, June 3,
7. "The Real Aim of
Bill C-49," by Pierre Chénier, Workers' Forum,
September 28, 2017.
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 40 - October 24, 2020
Canada's Strategic Critical Minerals:: Integration of Quebec's Northern Regions into U.S. War Economy - Fernand Deschamps