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Prominent Canadian Artists and Scientists Sign On to Support Neil Young and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Concerns Over Oilsands Expansio

Support Comes Hours After Wildly Successful Neil Young Fundraising Concert Series Nets In Excess of $500,000


CALGARY — 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 (1).


“I applaud Neil Young’s efforts to raise awareness of these critical issues. Further expansion of tarsands 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 tarsands 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  (2) and studies show 30% increase in cancer rates of the residents of Fort Chipewyan.(3). Further south, the Beaver Lake Cree First Nations claim 20,000 treaty violations (4).


The impacts to climate change from oil sands development are plain as well. Greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s oil sands now exceed the total emissions from 85 countries and are are rising. (4) 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 crowdsourced 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. (5)




For more information contact:

Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator 780-903-6598




1. The full text of the open letter is below.


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         



2. http://thefirelightgroup.com/projects/as-long-as-the-rivers-flow-athabasca-river-knowledge-use-and-change/


3. http://www.ualberta.ca/~avnish/rls-2009-02-06-fort-chipewyan-study.pdf


4. http://www.beaverlakecreenation.ca/upload/documents/statementofclaim.pdf


5.. http://www.ec.gc.ca/Publications/253AE6E6-5E73-4AFC-81B7-9CF440D5D2C5/793-Canada%27s-Emissions-Trends-2012_e_01.pdf


6.. http://ec.gc.ca/indicateurs-indicators/default.asp?lang=en&n=F60DB708-1

7. www.drawtheline.ca