REGINA – Neil Young says he doesn’t want to see the country “trashed and plundered” for oil money.
The Canadian singer-songwriter gave a news conference ahead of a concert in Regina on Friday to raise money for an Alberta First Nation that lives downstream from the oilsands. He performed in Winnipeg on Thursday and Toronto last weekend making similar comments before each stop. His last stop is Sunday night in Calgary.
“When we look at Canada and our grandchildren are looking at the Canada we left, are we going to leave a huge scar to remind us of how stupid we were? Or are we going to leave this garden that we have now so people in the future can go on for years and for generations and generations and see how beautiful the Earth is?” he asked.
“I don’t want to see it trashed and plundered for oil money, so that people can make a fortune and send the oil to other countries and keep the money for themselves.”
Young says he was taught as a boy to clean up his mess and keep his word. But he says those rules have been broken when it comes to the oilsands and First Nations treaties.
Young has traded barbs on his tour with politicians and oil executives, who say he doesn’t understand the oilsands or their economic benefit.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has called the singer insensitive and ignorant of the facts. Cenovus Energy president and chief executive Brian Ferguson has said Canadians should be outraged by Young’s “baseless” accusations.
Even fellow Canadian musician Jim Cuddy said Young was “grossly exaggerating.”
Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was at the news conference and said oilsands expansion is breaking agreements with aboriginals, who rely on the land.
“There is irreversible and irreparable damage being done to the ecosystems that sustain the First Nations that live within those regions,” said Deranger.
“This is an area that is critical for the survival of caribou, bison, migratory birds, wetland-reliant species. This is not simply some area that should just be designated as a bitumen resource recovery zone. This area is critical to the survival of the Athabasca delta and those that rely on it, that is, our people,” she said.
Young has compared a Fort McMurray industrial site he visited to the atomic bomb devastation of Hiroshima.
He stood by those comments throughout his trip and again Friday.
“This is the edge. We are really on it. We’ll look back in 10 years and you’ll recognize that this was the edge. This is it.”
Also at the news conference on Friday was Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Alan Adam, who wore a sweatshirt with the slogan: “Got land? Thank an Indian.”
The shirt was in the news earlier this week when 13-year-old Tenelle Starr was told by school officials in Balcarres, Sask., that she could not wear it. They relented, but only after meeting with the aboriginal girl’s parents and community members.
The girl has urged people across the country to make and wear the shirt as a reminder of aboriginal land rights.