Canada's lack of leadership on climate issues alarming


Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Crystal Lameman, Eriel Deranger, for CBC News –

Date of publication: 
22 September 2014

Alberta First Nations activists in New York to ‘stop oilsands at the source’

We are in New York City to unite with indigenous people across North America and the world, to join our allies fighting oilsands expansion and remind our host country that importing oilsands oil has destructive repercussions on thousands of lives and millions of hectares.

We are coming from the front line in Alberta with one clear message, “Stop oilsands at the source.”

It is a message the Canadian government refuses to hear even as more people in aboriginal communities get sick, as more people die, as drinking water remains contaminated and as air fills with toxic plumes with the stench of crude oil.

More than 300,000 people met in New York City on Sunday for the largest climate march in history just before the UN Climate Summit and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples got underway.

Youth, elders, indigenous people, members of the faith community, labour union members, renewable energy advocates, students and many others gathered as a part of the Tar Sands Free bloc at the march behind communities impacted by climate disasters like Hurricane Sandy.
Alarm bells needed

We must continue to raise the alarm bells as our homeland gets hedged in by ever expanding oilsands tailing ponds, massive new mines the size of Washington, D.C., and ongoing unstoppable in-situ spills.

In fact, the lack of leadership on climate issues and the irresponsibility of the federal government to ensure a safe, protected future for First Nations and all Canadians has become one of the few clear legacies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s time in office.

Canada’s carbon emissions are set to soar 38 per cent by 2030 mainly due to expanding oilsands projects, according to the federal government’s own projections, but Harper refuses to participate in the international climate talks, much less take a leadership position.

Canada is turning its back on the rest of humanity by refusing to address climate change, even though people around the world experience climate impacts like droughts, floods, fires and massive storms.
People ask ‘How do you still have hope?’

It’s not surprising we get asked, “How do you still have hope?”

It is hard to answer some days, especially when we face a violation of our treaty rights and now a suite of legislation that dismantles environmental protections amounting to the complete erasure of virtually all legal protections of our surface fresh water systems.

But what is different now is that more people are listening to indigenous peoples and with real concern. More people than ever are asking for information from front-line communities in Alberta to share what we know.

While we are in New York, we will be bringing the message of oilsands destruction to a wide and influential audience. We will have open and honest dialogue on indigenous peoples right to self-determination — our right as per the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — and our right to free, prior and informed consent — something this government is wilfully ignoring.

We are among 100 women worldwide invited to speak at the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice and UN Women Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action.
The world isn’t buying the PR

Some of us will be providing testimony at the Peoples Climate Justice Tribunal, which is taking place at the Church Center for the United Nations.

We have also been invited to participate at the International Foundation for Indigenous Philanthropy.

Our government may continue to duck and cover while gutting Canada’s environmental laws and telling the world that oilsands are managed responsibly.

Where we derive hope is that the world isn’t buying the PR. We’re the real story — the truth.

And that is one thing we have that industry and this government will never have. And of course we will be solidifying our connections with national, bi-national groups, indigenous peoples and many of our allies such as unions and landowners.

The People’s Climate March taking place in a major world centre like New York is proof that a new unity is building among people impacted by the extraction of carbon pollution industries like oilsands and fracking, and it’s proof that the movement is not going away.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a member of the Lubicon Cree Nation and a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Crystal Lameman is a member of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation and climate campaigner with Sierra Club Alberta. Eriel Deranger is communications co-ordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.