When I first learned that Neil Young was going to put on four shows to help the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and their legal battles against the damage the tar sands pose, I was excited.
Young has always tried to speak truth to power, from "Ohio" to "Southern Man", to his album about fossil fuels "Fork in the Road". I knew that with his reputation, the concerts would push tar sands issues to the forefront.
What has happened however is going far beyond that.
Over the last few days every major news network has had to talk about treaty rights and the immense impacts the tar sands pose not just for our environment, or the climate, but on First Nations rights and the very foundation of our democracy as well. Social media has lit up and we’ve seen that even in Alberta there is resistance and support for opposing the continuing reckless expansion of the tar sands.
Neil Young is echoing the voice of those we should have been listening to all along. He has reminded us that we are all Treaty people, and that when we break our Treaty promises we don’t just hurt First Nation communities but also denigrate what Canada stands for.
Canada is a First Nation word, just as Ottawa, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and numerous other place names are.
We can’t keep ignoring the damage the tar sands are causing just because they contribute to our current economy. We know investing in alternative energy and energy efficiencies creates more jobs per dollar than investments in fossil fuels do. The Harper government’s obsession with oil production is not just damaging our planet, it’s preventing us from establishing a more sustainable economy.
As Neil Young said at his press conference yesterday, “don’t accept there isn’t another way.”
A better Alberta, a better Canada is possible.
It’s time we lived up to our Treaty commitments. It’s time we stopped supporting the tar sands just because it’s convenient and it’s time we built real economic solutions that help solve our problems rather than make the ones we have larger.
Sign the pledge at: http://www.honourtheacfn.ca/
You can follow Mike on twitter at @mikehudema.