First Nations lawyer, activist Caleb Behn signs with HarperCollins

Caleb Behn, First Nations lawyer, activist and recently the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Fractured Land, which premiered at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto in April 2015, will see his first book published by HarperCollins in 2017.

Caleb Behn, who is 33 and based in BC, specializes in environmental law and sustainability. His mother’s people come from the Dunne-Za territory in northeastern BC, and his father’s people are Eh-Cho Dene. Several in Behn’s family have been chiefs, including his mother. Behn straddles two worlds: the traditional world of his ancestors, who lived in tune with nature, and the contemporary realities of the petroleum industry.

Behn grew up infused with his family’s traditions, but at the same time his youth coincided with the explosion of commerce in the oil industry in BC and Alberta. His mother is senior in the Canadian oil and gas industry, and his upbringing presented a paradox: how to balance his people’s quest to protect the environment with the world’s relentless need for energy.

“Caleb Behn is one of the most impressive Canadians I’ve met: a lawyer, an activist, a champion axe thrower,” said Jim Gifford, Editorial Director of Non-fiction at HarperCollinsCanada. “His often provocative ideas about how we can improve our relationship with the environment and with each other will make for a compelling book that every Canadian should read.”

Behn’s book, with the working title The Tip of the Spear, will be a truly personal account of his world, giving readers an extraordinary perspective on the state of our country, the consequences of the path we’ve chosen so far, and the possible futures of the world we will leave our children.

“With privilege comes responsibility. I have been privileged to be educated in both the western and the indigenous traditions of my ancestors. This work with HarperCollinsCanada is an attempt to live up to the responsibility intrinsic to that education and experience,” said Caleb Behn. “This work follows protocol. I commit to gifting readers a frank and vulnerable analysis, and I believe that in return they will gift me a chance to change their hearts and minds.

“I commit to being vulnerable and unapologetically honest with readers about what I have seen, what I have done, and concrete ways to address our vicious history and create a just future that isn’t built by ‘decrepit dinosaurs’ above ground sucking up rotting dinosaurs below. Canada will be a lesson for the future of this species. The question is whether we choose to be a lesson never to be repeated.”

“Caleb has such a distinctive voice, and he challenges longstanding opinions at every opportunity,” said Iris Tupholme, Senior Vice President and Executive Publisher at HarperCollins. “His message is supremely important, and he is uniquely situated to write this essential book.”

The deal was arranged by Martha Webb.