By: Ben Rayner
Neil Young kicked off his four-date “Honour the Treaties” tour of Canada on Sunday with some fighting words about the rapid expansion of oilsands development in northern Alberta, saying the Canadian government is ignoring hard science because it’s “inconvenient.”
“To me, it’s a basic matter of integrity on the part of Canada. Canada is trading integrity for money,” said Young. “That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States. It’s lagging behind on the world stage and it’s an embarrassment to Canadians. So, as a Canadian, I felt like I had a chance to do something by bringing this together.”
The expat-Canadian rock ‘n’ roller’s latest outing on the road is aimed at raising money for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s ongoing legal efforts to put the brakes on what they feel are reckless development policies without thought to future consequences by the petrochemical industry. The “Honour the Treaties” tour name refers to the Canadian First Nations communities’ constitutionally enshrined right to be consulted and accommodated when new policies threaten their livelihood on the land or access to cultural grounds.
Prior to his solo show at Massey Hall on Sunday night, Young staged an afternoon press conference in the venue flanked by four in-the-know fellow speakers — including moderator David Suzuki and Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam, who says his community of Fort Chipewyan has, since the oilsands industry moved in upstream, seen wildlife vanish, fish rendered inedible and cancer rates skyrocket to 30 per cent above the general population.
Young didn’t pull any punches, either, labelling the oilsands a “devastating environmental catastrophe” and accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, of selling out their grandchildren’s future for the sake of short-term financial gain.