Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

[Enbridge Gateway] Summit aimed for informed decisions

Summit aimed for informed decisions

Published: July 08, 2009 6:00 AM

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and the Alberta oil sands development as a whole were the targets of an All Nations Energy Summit held recently in Moricetown.

Representatives of First Nations from the Athabaskan to Kitamaat were in attendance to voice their opinion about the tar sands and the destruction of their traditional lands.

“Were trying to bring together First Nations from along the pipeline and the tanker rote, as well as non-first nations communities to help learn more about the project itself,” explained Tara Marsden, co-organizer of the summit.

There were a number of workshops and presentations from people directly affected by the development in the tar sands and the possible arrival of oil tankers on the BC coast.

Marsden said one of the problems facing people in the affected regions is their lack of understanding the situation.

Educating the public about the main issues around the pipeline and the tar sands was therefore a major priority for event organizers and speakers.

“Informed decision-making is a right for First Nations. We’re trying to inform and inspire people to have a say in developments like this.”

She also noted this was one of the few such gatherings that has taken place in the Northwest.

“There have been coal-bed methane rallies and meetings that were very similar to this but it was focused only on the Northwest, but this is huge, we’re really bringing a lot of people together.”

Saying organizers couldn’t have asked for a better turn out, Marsden predicted, “I think that gong forward we may have some more gatherings on the coast now that we’ve had one here in the Interior.”

Merran Smith, from Vancouver-based Forest Ethics, said the time is right for change and seeing the number of people at the summit showed they were headed in the right direction.

“There has been a couple hundred people who have come out to hear about not just the pipeline, but the whole story of the impacts, development and expansion of the tar sands, and all the risks involved with this pipeline,” she said.

“We’re at a cross roads. Are we going to chose to continue our addiction to oil? Or are we going to chose to start developing new forms of energy, green energy?”

Smith stressed the fact that Europe has all ready leapt ahead of the world and is effectively taking action to lower their carbon foot print and invest in renewable energy.

“Already in Germany they have created a quarter of a million jobs in the green energy sector. Ontario, here at home, a number of months ago passed the Green Energy Act and has put the funding towards investing and getting the green energy sector off the ground, and they’re predicting 80,000 new jobs.”

Representatives from the Athabaskan and Fort Chipawyan also spoke about their personal experiences.

Lionel Lepine, member of the Athabaskan Chipawyan First Nations said he had been watching closely as development of the oil sands continued to grow at an unprecedented rate.

“If you go to Fort McMurray, Alberta today, you’ll notice that you have every race, colour and creed that you can think of located in that town. Ten years ago you wouldn’t see that, and they call it a boom town, I call it a doom town, because that town is going to fall apart one of these days.”

During the summit one of Lepine’s main issues was what had happened to the land.

Saying it had once been a plentiful land full of clean nutritious food and water, he said now it is a completely different story.

“If you take a fish from that lake, you are risking your life when you eat that fish. And when you eat the berries and eat the animals your taking a risk, whereas 10 years ago you didn’t have those risks, you use to be able to drink the water right from the lake. Now no-one would even think to drink it,” said Lepine.

“This is becoming a global issue fast,” he added. “It’s not just going to be a First Nations issue, pretty soon every human being on earth will be affected by it.”


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