Quill and Quire review of Blood of Extraction

Blood of Extraction
Canadian Imperialism in Latin America

By Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber  

Despite a recent change in government and the widespread “Canada is back” rhetoric accompanying it, Cauncks travelling abroad may still choose to keep the maple leaf decal off their backpacks after this stinging indictment of Canadian corporate malfeasance and political maneuvering in Latin America.

Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber, university professors who combine diligent research with on-the-ground reporting, present a well-documented overview of the unsavoury role played by Canadian government agencies and mining companies, tourist enterprises, and other corporate entities in displacing indigenous peoples, despoiling the environment, and discarding labour and human rights safeguards in Latin America.

Unlike standard critiques that situate Canada as an American dependency, this analysis invokes a more sinister view of the self-professed honest broker and peaceable nation. Canadian policies that contribute to and enforce inequality in the global south, the authors argue, are a result of a strain of homegrown imperialism characterized by the influence of capital markets as opposed to more traditional physical acquisition of colonies.

Along the way, they analyze the concept of corporate social responsibility, and dissect how foreign aid funds and development policies act as smokescreens for Canadian companies seeking to fatten bottom lines with little regard for the Latin American communities into which they relocate. Gordon and Webber expose the other side of recent free trade agreements touted as panaceas for the problems that have traditionally plagued the region. The authors convincingly show that Canada’s southern footprint — whether in Guatemala and Honduras or Peru and Columbia — is significant, expanding, and largely malevolent.

Thankfully, Blood of Extraction does not wallow in the misery it documents, but instead dedicates significant space to voices of resilience and resistance that, despite centuries of mistreatment, continue speaking out against the conditions being imposed by decision makers thousands of miles to the north.

The only potential downside is the difficulty some readers may experience in accessing the text. The introduction and some sections of the books are weighted in favour of academic language, possibly deterring those unaccustomed to reading postgraduate political science theses. But for those thinking of booking a sunny winter vacation in the regions, this book will provide sober second thought.

— Quill and Quire, September 2016

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