The list of celebrities who officially back Neil Young's fight against the oilsands just got much longer.
Actress Neve Campbell, The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, dancer and member of the Order of Canada Margi Gillis, Alberta author and poet Sid Marty, writers Joseph Boyden and Michael Ondaatje, and 18 others, on Monday signed an open letter encouraging Canadians to ask themselves what kind of Canada they want to live in.
The letter was issued in support of Neil Young's "Honour the Treaties" tour, which ended in Calgary on Sunday, and that aimed to raise awareness of what Young calls violations of First Nations treaty rights by the federal government, and which raised awareness of what the rocker called the 'ugliness' of the Alberta oilsands. The tour raised more than half-a-million dollars, money which will go towards Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's fight against oilsands expansion.
"The Federal Government's continued approval of new tar sands mines such as Shell's Jackpine mine despite the devastating environmental impacts and inadequate consultation with First Nations is insulting and unlawful," said Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam regarding the new support.
"We are encouraged and grateful for all the support we are receiving from across Canada. This is just the beginning."
On his Honour the Treaties tour, Neil Young is doing what poets do - forcing us to examine ourselves. This is hard enough on a personal level and it can be even more difficult when we are being asked to examine the direction in which our country is headed.
The time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies. Or not.
Neil's tour, which also included Canadian jazz Singer Diana Krall has triggered the Prime Minister's Office and oil company executives. They have come out swinging because they know that this is a hard conversation and they might lose. But that should not stop the conversation from happening.
Instead of focusing on Neil Young's celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.
The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?
We are proud to stand with Neil Young as he challenges us all to think about these larger, more profound and humane questions.
Now is the time for leadership and to honour promises that we have made, not personal attacks.
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Other signatories include Michael Ondaatje, author, Officer of the Order of Canada; Clayton Ruby, lawyer, Member of the Order of Canada; Dr. David Suzuki, scientist, Companion of the Order of Canada; Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada; Stephen Lewis, Companion of the Order of Canada; Joseph Boyden, author; Sarah Harmer, musician; Naomi Klein, author; Dr. John Stone, scientist; Tzeporah Berman, author; Amanda Boyden, author; Wade Davis, author; J.B. MacKinnon, author; Dan Mangan, musician; Sid Marty, author; Andrew Nikiforuk, author; Rick Smith, author; John Valliant, author; Ronald Wright, author; and Dr. Danny Harvey, climate scientist.
"I applaud Neil Young's efforts to raise awareness of these critical issues. Further expansion of tar sands operations is simply incompatible with our climate obligations and moral responsibilities," said Harvey in a press release.
But these celebs, academics and authors are not the first to put their influence behind Young's anti-oilsands fight.
Late last week, Blue Rodeo star Jim Cuddy also publicly backed the iconic rocker, while Daryl Hannah accompanied Young in a trip up to the oilsands last year.
Young's tour, which launched in Toronto just over a week ago and made its way west to Calgary on Sunday, has sparked some heated debate, with those supporting the aging musician saying the government has not addressed First Nations or environmental concerns, while those who oppose him accuse Young of basing his arguments on his celebrity rather than on facts.
The Athabasca Chipewyan claim that, depending on the time of the year, 80 per cent of their land is inaccessible to them due to oilsands development and charge that if growth in the region continues, Canada won't be able to meet its commitment of a 17% reduction of carbon pollution from 2005 levels by 2020.