Tremulous Property: On Rents, Enclosure and the Contestation of Financialized Forestlands in British Columbia

Authors: Michael Ekers*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Economic Geography, Resources
Keywords: finance, rent, settler-colonialism, forests
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper asks two relatively simple questions: first, how have three public sector pension plans come to own and manage over a half-million hectares of forestlands on Vancouver Island, located on the west-coast of Canada; and second, how have economic rents been extracted through the financial ownership of some of the most ‘valuable’ forests in North America? As debates on the financialization of nature and land grabs suggest, answering relatively straightforward questions such as these are never simple. In this paper, I suggest that the movement of institutional investors and the appropriation of rents was spurred on by the aggressive assertion of property rights by financial interests in an effort to stave off other claims to the land in question. It is argued that the deployment of property rights by financial actors, as supported by the provincial state, has occurred through repeated reference to a series of rail land grants in the late 19th century that created the largest stretch of private land in BC, which is now largely owned by pension funds. This paper thus argues that emergent forms of rentierism in the context of North America grow out of, and indeed further, the settler-colonial enclosure of land in the face of ongoing Indigenous assertions of title and rights to land. In light of this, and the public sector character of the pension plans in question, this paper points to the tremulous character of so-called private property as the grounds and focus of both Indigenous and settler resistance.

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