by The Canadian Press
More than 20 notable Canadians have penned a letter to support musician Neil Young following his concert tour to raise money for a First Nation fighting oilsands expansion in northern Alberta.
The group includes creative and performing artists, authors, scientists, a lawyer, and Order of Canada recipients.
Actor Neve Campbell, Booker-prize-winning author and Officer of the Order of Canada Michael Ondaatje and musician Gord Downie of the rock group The Tragically Hip are among those who have signed the letter.
It says that Young’s tour raised more than $500,000 to help the Athabasca Chipewyan band pay for legal fees to protect its traditional land north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
The letter also says that Canada must decide if it wants to support First Nations rights and protect the environment.
[quote]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.[/quote]
“Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations,” the letter said.
Campbell said in a written statement that while she has always been proud to call Canada her home, “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, well-being, and lives of our country’s First Nations, as well as of the well-being of our world’s climate.”
Downie of The Tragically Hip said, “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.”
Young played in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary, and drew fire from politicians and industry over his comments likening the oilsands to Hiroshima.
Full text of 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”