"I stand with Neil"-Prominent Canadians backing Young

“I stand with Neil”: Prominent Canadians backing Young on Tar Sands

"I stand with Neil"-Prominent Canadians backing Young
Author Michael Ondaatje, actress Neve Campbell and rocker Gord Downie are all standing with Neil Young

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”



39 thoughts on ““I stand with Neil”: Prominent Canadians backing Young on Tar Sands

  1. I want to see a photo of Neil Youngs’ car and details of how it works. Perhaps others can afford a car like his also. It could make this evolution of transportation everyday reality and more likely help to accelerate and eventually make alternative transport more affordable for us all. Let’s use this focus as a springboard to launch into a sustained movement to wean ourselves off fossil-fuels.

  2. So we will rip the top off of Alberta, do some kind or other toxic process to the TAR SAND to create oil. Then we build pipe lines…or send poison trains through Canada to get this oil to export.
    My government is creating just another Profit centered country. Make your money, spend your money…you barely pay the price…..your grandchildren?
    This is suicide in slow motion……
    I am an old man….I will die before this cancer grows beyond control….but where is the point where the rich, the ones in control say “”OK….I HAVE ENOUGH!” I don’t think I will hear that.

  3. Good for Neil Young to focus on the issue. The Harper government changed treaty arrangements and control of native lands out of their control to push a pipeline through. Why not take it right through North York and destroy 50,000 homes doing it? What’s the difference? Of yes, let’s see. They are native Canadians who don’t have all those votes in North York. When Harper takes your rights away, do you just roll over and say “Gee, that probably is not right?”

    It is past time for Canadians to say that enough is enough and negotiated treaties can not just be taken away with an Omnibus budget.

    1. What rights have you lost since Prime Minister Harper formed government? Are you not able to critical of the Government, do you not still have the right to vote and select those people you wish to represent, can you practice what ever religion you may follow without persecution. So your comments indicate to me, that there has been not very much thought and research go into your rantings.

  4. I am glad that prominent Canadians are joining Neil Young and others who are speaking up for the rights of indigenous Canadians and for protecting the environment. I ask that Neil Young also respect the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and support the artists like Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Elvis Costello and many more that refuse to play in Israel until it respects the human rights of the Palestinians, ends it illegal occupation and Israel ends its apartheid like discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians and the racism exhibited towards the African refugees who have sought asylum in Israel.

    Edward C. Corrigan
    Barrister & Solicitor

  5. I’m happy that this destruction is getting more exposure. I agree with the statement “to a swimmable, drinkable and fishable water future for all.”

  6. Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war correspondent for the New York Times) on Canada’s right-wing neocon Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

    Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada. So he’s the kind of species that rises to political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the expense of the citizenry.

    Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.



  7. My concern is this: since when does the PMO target individual Canadians for expressing their views (e.g., Neil Young)? If one Canadian is targeted, we all are in danger of retaliation. Shame on the Prime Minister for allowing this. He is supposed to protect our freedoms, not endanger them.

    1. That is a very astute and interesting observation… But then, we know that the PMO is the propaganda headquarter of “Harper Oil Inc.”

  8. I’d be with them too… if I were a multi-millionaire who could afford to install geothermal heating to heat my house and solar panels to generate electricity for my house and electric car. I hope most of these celebrities millions of dollars they earn are donated to alternative energy (and an alternative to plastics) so the rest of us common folk can get on board.

  9. I was going to generalize you all in to one group with my comment … Buy this is just my thought…. Really you are worried about the harm on the environment . And the effects for future generations ,, point well takin.. You complain he comes from a state that is a big polluter .. Point takin… Hate to burst your bubbles .. We still have a way bigger problem in japan that will effect us way, way, way more then arguing over what some guy that plays songs on a guitar has to say….I wish you would all be more worried about a bigger threat to our country… And ps.. I don’t aprove of the oils ands .. But that is my opinion ..

  10. Some of you have questioned the lack of scientists on the list, there are at least 3. But if you want the opinions of scientists you hardly have to look far. They have even been staging public protests. Part of the issue is that many government employed scientists have been threatened with losing their jobs if they talk to media. Rather than criticising our artists for speaking up because they don’t have a phD or because they themselves live in an area with a bad pollution record, how about we pay attention to the issues they are using their fame to draw attention to. I for one applaud them for giving voice to those who too often have been ignored in our history in the name of economic progress.

  11. Thank you for your support. It meaning is greatly appreciated. Our voice, the First Nations, seems to go in one ear and out the other but with all of you behind us, perhaps it will start to sink in. We are trying to save Mother Earth so our future generations (all nations) could have good water, land and soil to continue to exist.

  12. On a visit to Japan, traveling by train with a stop-over at Hiroshima, I paused to take a sweeping look over Hiroshima. One could not help but have a feeling like the bottom of your stomach was falling out, and the horror of thousands of people instantly dying swept past you like a living passage through Dante’s Hell. An eerie atmosphere pervades the landscape once leveled in a brief catastrophic stroke of time. Neil Young’s comparison between the ripped up oil sands terrain and the Hiroshima devastation intensifies when the realization sinks in that the eventual consumption of the oil sands may seriously contribute to the destruction of planet earth and lead to the possible extinction of homo sapiens. One thing is certain that the immediate relatively unchecked pollution of the lands, water and air in the proximity of the Tar Sands will cause cancer etc. in the inhabitants of the environment. Do we learn nothing from history? The Canadian Government’s memory is very short: e.g. “… Published on Nov 17, 2012

    Fourteen of the 30 Dene who worked at the Port Radium, N.W.T. uranium mine have died of cancer. Canadian and American governments knew in the early 1940s of the deadly hazards of uranium extraction. Yet for two decades Ottawa failed to warn thousands of miners and natives of the risks they faced daily. …” The Yellow Flow Joe Bayha – YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FlJFNBJueo

  13. I am in support of Neil Young, the Treaties need to be honoured in order to have clean water, and lands to live with for us and our future generations. We the people also need to be taking a page out of Neil’s book and start fighting for each others rights and looking for different sources of energy.

  14. If they can come up with a viable alternative to boost Alberta’s economy, bring it on.

    I’m tired of so called “intellectual celebrities” claiming they know what’s best for people. What’s next? Miley Cyrus has an opinion on caffeine intake, let’s go by her word!

    1. Dear OK,

      As for me, I’m so tired of “non-intellectual not-celebrities” who think that their entitlement to an opinion holds, in itself, any greater worth – by virtue of an honest attempt at examining the data to hand – than that of an “intellectual celebrity”.
      It might be worth reflecting on whether there is a direct link between what “…boosts Alberta’s economy” in the short term (ie. jobs, now, for the boys), and what actually will both boost Alberta’s economy AND enable the boost to last.
      Surely even a non-celebrity knows that the measure of an economy’s success is taken from its overall performance, and not simply by its GDP, which is too single an indicator.
      There are more jobs to be had in taking care of something lastingly, than there are in destroying something.
      Only me, ie. just another non-celebrity like you

    2. Really? Thats the best you can come up with? How about Alberta pull their head’s out of their proverbial butt and realize what is going on in Fort Mac has consequences all around the world.

      I guess it’s ok in your mind to kill some native people so you can have a big truck and make $120k a year?

    3. Well, I would rather that than have the future hi-jacked by folks who think that business is the great arbiter of public good. Do any of us sit on the board of Suncor or are voting shareholders? Do “shareholder rights” trump citizen rights to public or treaty land? Too much decision-making is happening for the benefit of those who own capital here. While salaries are important in this system, would folks honestly argue that one which kills their fellow man, other species, and environment are really worth having? The conversation must continue.

    4. I see. Instead we get our information from corporations, the media they own and Harper’s communications office? Scientists have been muzzled, libraries dismantled.

      You get your message across any way you can. Celebrity works. It gets attention. Celebrities have the opportunity to use their incredible influence in a positive way.

      Neil Young is serious problem for the misinformation camp. The proof is the massive attention he has generated. The blogs are over 90% in support of Neil.

      Nuff said.

    5. Oil boosts the economy of the people working in the Oil field. It however does nothing for all the other millions of people in Alberta that work in tons of other fields. We have an amazing tech economy in Alberta. Alberta produces incredible art and culture. Alberta has the best beef anywhere. Alberta’s tourism industry is huge. I could go on and on about non-oil industries in Alberta.

      Where does this idea that oil is the only thing that Albertans can possibly make money off of come from? Doesn’t it seem a little insulting to suggest that without oil we couldn’t survive? Do the big oil supporters really believe that they are incapable of making a go of it in any other industry? Have faith in yourselves Oil employees. I am sure you are smarter than you think you are.

      P.S. Miley Cyrus is a brilliant entrepreneur. After all, she has you advertising her for free, and you don’t even like her. The same way that Neil Young has you talking about him. I can’t help but think that the Neil Young tour would have flown mostly under the radar if the Oil Supporters hadn’t tried so hard to discredit it. Harper attacking Neil Young was the best thing that could happen for the cause, except for maybe Ezra Levant. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ezra Levant was actually a spy working for Greenpeace who is being paid to make Big Oil look foolish. That Ethical Oil #ignorantindian scandal is either the stupidest move I have seen during this debate, or the smartest.

  15. Bravo to Neil Young for shining the spotlight on Ottawa’s
    reluctance to honour treaties with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations. This involves and impacts all of us.

  16. Kudos to Neil Young for assisting this First Nations group. The treaties must be honoured in order to have a Canada to live in. Prime Minister Harper is putting the needs of industry over the needs of Canadians.

  17. This government will not honor a thing with First Nations. Can you realize no government wants to deal with it because it will go down in history. It hasn’t been dealt with forever now! Environmental workers everywhere try to do the right thing every day, but they go to work and do their reports anyway letting the important stuff slip through….for shame people are made to do this when they spend so much time getting a degree. You get my point….Get on track with the rest of the world before it’s too late.

    1. I find it interesting that he spends so long just attacking the person… I thought Young was trying to say something about a process, a culture that enables the lack of integrity when it comes to treaty rights. Sophistry is alive and well it seems…

    1. Well, if I had my druthers we’d all call it the “Bitumen Sands”, Leigh. It’s certainly not oil, so we can’t honestly call it “oil sands”. And Tar better captures the sludgy, viscous essence of the substance, so it’s probably the better fit.

      Too bad the two terms have become so politicized and polarizing. They’re seen as signifiers of one’s worldview, deployed as adver-speak in the ongoing PR war over Canada’s energy future.

      While we’re on the topic, some interesting revelations about the dangerous properties of bitumen:


    2. Dr. David Suzuki, scientist, Companion of the Order of Canada
      Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada

    3. Leigh, you should have been more specific and said: “scientists who aren’t shills, dupes or wholly-owned puppets of the eco-propagandist/American oil industry lobbyists”.

  18. California where Neil Young has lived for the last 50 years ranks amongst the worst in USA for ground water, soil and air pollution. From his long time home in La Honda California, Neil Young is within short driving distance of Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, San Jose, Stockton and Sacramento municipalities ranking 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 12th respectively in Forbes ranking of the dirtiest cities in America. In fact Time.Com reported 6 of the top ten most polluted cities in America are in California while CNN in the spring of 2013 found that the top 7 most polluted cities in the U.S. were in California and 8 of the top 10. Calgary on the other hand, home to oil sands HQ was just named the cleanest city in the world. http://listtoptens.com/top-10-cleanest-cities-in-the-world/ Extraction is on balance despite environmental negatives that must be mitigated. Environmentalists give the impression that Alberta’s oil sands are the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. They aren’t. U.S. oil production is and always has been at least double that of Canada’s. Since 2008 when American foundations began funding the campaign against Canadian oil, U.S. crude production has increased by 56%. If U.S. foundations and American activists like Neil Young are so concerned about capping oil production and keeping carbon in the ground why don’t they start at home ?

    1. Hmmm…

      Possibly because Canada is Neil Young’s home (birthplace, family, upbringing, passport…)?

    2. John, if you’re so concerned with the issue at hand, why won’t you address it, instead of compiling useless info to try and discredit the messenger? This is an issue that needs clear, unbiassed discussion, not who can slag the other guy the most.

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