Neil Young lashes out at oil sands ahead of Honour the Treaties tour
Rock music icon says the federal government is misleading Canadians
Rock celebrity Neil Young is again voicing his disgust at Alberta’s oil sands. In a televised interview, Young directed his ire at oil sands producers, the Canadian government and – oddly – the government of China.
Speaking ahead of a tour to raise money for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal fund to do battle against Shell Canada’s Jackpine mine expansion, Young denied that any land reclamation has been done in the oil sands and accused the federal government of being in the pocket of Big Oil.
“It is hypocritical, some of the things that are being said by the leaders of this country. It’s embarrassing as a Canadian to have to listen to some of this stuff. It’s all marketing, it’s all big money. This oil is all going to China. It’s not for Canada. It’s not for the United States. It’s not ours. It belongs to the oil companies and Canada’s government is behind making this happen.”
In fact, the Chinese market makes up less than five per cent of Canada’s total exports, and only 3.12 per cent of Alberta’s total exports are currently shipped to China. Only a fraction of that number represents oil exports, and there is currently no natural gas exported to China from Canada.
Young also refused to back away from comments made in September, when he described Fort McMurray as a “wasteland” that “looks like Hiroshima,” though he did try to clarify his message.
“I still stand by what was said about Fort McMurray and the way it looks. Not because the houses in Fort McMurray look like Hiroshima but because Fort McMurray stands for disease that these First Nations people are getting, the pollution…everything that’s happening there.”
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has taken the federal government to court over the approval of the Shell Canada expansion, which was issued before a 35-day period to allow the ACFN to voice their concerns had expired. A National Energy Board panel reviewing the project determined it would cause irreversible environmental damage, including the permanent loss of about 8,500 hectares of wetlands. An ACFN elders council maintains that oil sands development is causing health problems for its people and is ruining their traditional way of life. ACFN Chief Allan Adam threatened on Sunday with a highway blockade should his people be unsatisfied with the progress of the legal proceedings.
Young’s comments come in the middle of a four-city “Honour the Treaties” tour, which will arrive in Calgary on January 19 after stops in Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina.
Young and other celebrities have spoken out against oil sands development in the past, but Honour the Treaties seems to indicate a shift. For the first time celebrities like Young and Diana Krall (who is also touring with Honour the Treaties) are focusing their efforts on protesting a single oil sands project.