Not even a full day after Neil Young’s incredibly successful “Honour the Treaties” Tour, which raised more than half a million dollars to help the Athabasca Chipewyan challenge further tar sands encroachment within their traditional homelands, a noted group of Canadian authors, musicians, and climate scientists released a letter of support to the campaign, noting “the time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies.”
For Immediate Release
Support Comes Hours After Wildly Successful Neil Young Fundraising Concert Series Nets In Excess of $500,000
CALGARY, AB – Not even a full day after Neil Young’s incredibly successful “Honour the Treaties” Tour, which raised more than half a million dollars to help the Athabasca Chipewyan challenge further tar sands encroachment within their traditional homelands, a noted group of Canadian authors, musicians, and climate scientists released a letter of support to the campaign, noting “the time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies.”
The letter was signed by more than 20 notable Canadians, including actor Neve Campbell, writers Joseph Boyden and Michael Ondaatje, dancer and member of the Order of Canada Margi Gillis and climate scientist Dr. Danny Harvey.
“I applaud Neil Young’s efforts to raise awareness of these critical issues. Further expansion of tar sands operations is simply incompatible with our climate obligations and moral responsibilities,” said climate scientist Dr. Danny Harvey.
Young’s tour was designed to draw international attention to the Canadian government’s failure to respect treaties made with First Nations, and to highlight the growing environmental impacts in Alberta from oil sands development. The tour sparked a national conversation that featured Prime Minister Stephen Harper and oil executives criticizing Young but ignoring the issues he raised about the consequences of violating Treaty rights in the pursuit to further exploit the oil sands.
The tour has now raised $500,000 for the Athabasca Chipewyan legal challenges.
“The Federal Government’s continued approval of new tar sands mines such as Shell’s Jackpine mine despite the devastating environmental impacts and inadequate consultation with First Nations is insulting and unlawful. We are encouraged and grateful for all the support we are receiving from across Canada. This is just the beginning, ” said Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.
It is clear that First Nations bear the brunt of environmental impacts from oil sands development. For parts of the year 80% of the traditional territory of the ACFN and Mikisew Cree is inaccessible due to oil sands development and studies show 30% increase in cancer rates of the residents of Fort Chipewyan. Further south, the Beaver Lake Cree First Nations claim 20,000 treaty violations.
The impacts to climate change from oil sands development are striking. Greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s oil sands now exceed the total emissions from 85 countries and are rising. More oil sands growth would make it impossible for Canada to meet its goal of a 17% reduction of carbon pollution from 2005 levels by 2020, meaning that Canada would not meet its international obligations to reduce emissions.
ACFN will use the funds from the concerts and crowd-sourced funds for their legal defense to protect and preserve their homelands north of Fort McMurray. The ACFN recognizes the need for economic development however there is simply a need for true balance and respect of environmental, Treaty and Aboriginal rights in the pursuit of these goals. In 2014, ACFN will likely participate in two hearings — for the Shell Pierre River mine and for the Teck Resources Frontier Mine — and continue their challenge of both the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan and the Jackpine mine decision.
Full text of the open letter:
On his Honour the Treaties tour, Neil Young is doing what poets do – forcing us to examine ourselves. This is hard enough on a personal level and it can be even more difficult when we are being asked to examine the direction in which our country is headed.
The time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies. Or not.
Neil’s tour has triggered the Prime Minister’s Office and oil company executives. They have come out swinging because they know that this is a hard conversation and they might lose. But that should not stop the conversation from happening. Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.
The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?
We are proud to stand with Neil Young as he challenges us all to think about these larger, more profound and humane questions.
Now is the time for leadership and to honour promises that we have made, not personal attacks.
Michael Ondaatje, author, Officer of the Order of Canada
Margi Gillis, dancer, Member of the Order of Canada
Clayton Ruby, lawyer, Member of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Suzuki, scientist, Companion of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada
Stephen Lewis, Companion of the Order of Canada
Joseph Boyden, author
Gord Downie, musician
Sarah Harmer, musician
Naomi Klein, author
Dr. John Stone, scientist
Tzeporah Berman, author
Amanda Boyden, author
Neve Campbell, actor
Wade Davis, author
Dr. Danny Harvey, climate scientist
J.B. MacKinnon, author
Dan Managan, musician
Sid Marty, author
Andrew Nikiforuk, author
Rick Smith, author
John Valliant, author
Ronald Wright, author
“As long as the Federal Government chooses to defang and denude, rather than uphold, our once-strong Environmental Laws – to whittle them down to mere speed bumps in the way of anyone who wants to make a buck at nature’s expense – then increasingly, we must look to the courts for recognition of our treaties, for recognition of our basic human rights, namely our right to a swimmable, drinkable and fishable water future for all.
I stand in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and all Canadians – who find themselves with no voice in our present version of democracy; who are trying to come up with the entry fee that gets them a seat at the table where their pollution future is being discussed. Every community has the right to be heard, to be able to ask, ‘Is this safe, for us?’ We should all watch the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and their struggle very closely and with great interest, for their struggle is coming to us all, if it hasn’t already. The day will come when your community will want to ask for truth from power; ‘Is this safe for us? For our children?’ That day you will want to be ready for the answer power gives you.”
Gord Downie, Singer – The Tragically Hip
“I fully support and stand behind ACFN and all First Nations in our country in what shouldn’t be a struggle to defend their treaty rights made in good faith with our federal government. The direction this current government has taken undermines the very values our democracy is built upon and as a Canadian and an artist I must stand up and make my voice heard. Honour the treaties, Mr. Prime Minister. Canadians are listening and are watching and soon will be voting in the name of justice.”
Joseph Boyden, Writer/Author of “The Orenda”
“I had the honor years ago to fly to Fort McMurray to sit with some of the Cree Miskisew First Nations and to hear their plight. I was appalled to hear how our country has dishonored treaties formed with the Nations 114 years ago. Appalled at the effects the toxins from the tar sands are having on their land, their water and now tragically their health. Appalled that our country has turned a blind eye on these issues and a Nation of people for the sake of greed. I have always been so very proud to call Canada my home, and now as a Canadian I feel deeply ashamed to see that our government has allowed the selfish profiteering of powerful oil companies, and blatantly ignored the health, wellbeing, and lives of our countries First Nations, as well as of the wellbeing of our world’s climate. Surely there must be other ways for us to achieve our countries energy independence without sacrificing the health and way of life of our countries’ people? I fully support Neil Young in his tour to bring attention to these issues.”
Neve Campbell, Actress “Party of Five” and “Scream”