Neil Young The Honour The Treaties Tour


Submitted by Don Graham
Cover: Photo Credit Pegi Young Background Artwork by Metis Artist Colleen Gray

“We made a deal with these people,” Neil Young said. “We are breaking our promise. We are killing these people. The blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands . . .” Neil Young kicked off his four-date “Honour the Treaties Tour” of Canada in Toronto with some harsh opinions about the 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 Winnipeg born, Toronto raised musical icon’s latest tour was aimed at raising money for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. The funds raised are to assist with legal fees incurred while trying to stop what they consider 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 Toronto show at Massey Hall last week Young staged a press conference in the Hall 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.

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and Neil YoungAthabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and Neil YoungYoung didn’t mince words, calling 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.

A recent visit to the Alberta oilsands left an indelible impression as “the greediest, most destructive and disrespectful demonstration of something run amok that you could ever see” and left Young pessimistic about the petroleum industry’s promises of environmental “reclamation” once the land has been bled dry of oil. “It’s like turning the moon into Eden,” he quipped. “It’s just not possible.”

Trying to be fair as is the Canadian way, Young  did invite representatives of the Federal Government to join them for the press conference and present their own take on the matter, a request which was“respectfully declined”. Young said he would be glad to meet with Harper and discuss his concerns face to face.

“I don’t think I’m going to get to see him, anyway,” he said dryly. “But if he does want to see me, I’m ready to go see him. I would welcome the opportunity. There must be another side to the story.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office Jason MacDonald said by email  “Even the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day. Our government recognizes the importance of developing resources responsibly and sustainably, and we will continue to ensure that Canada’s environmental laws and regulations are rigorous.

In the meantime, Young  continues showing solidarity with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation — which, among other legal challenges aimed at slowing the pace of oilsands expansion, has just filed for a judicial review of the government’s approval for the expansion of Shell Oil’s Jackpine mine project. The Honour the Treaties Tour also had shows in Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.

“We made a deal with these people,” he said. “We are breaking our promise. We are killing these people. The blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands . “I hope that we can make a difference for our grandchildren. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here. I want my grandchildren to grow up and look up and see a blue sky and have dreams that their grandchildren are going to do great things. And I don’t see that today in Canada. I see a government that’s just completely out of control. Money is number one and integrity isn’t even on the map.”
Whether Neil Young is successful or not it’s good to see the spirit still alive and well in the Canadian  treasure. He was protesting  IN ’68 and he’s protesting AT 68. Long may you run Neil Young.

Editor's Note: Cashbox Canada supports the cause of Neil Young and Honour the Treaties. Colleen Gray, Metis Artist of The Two Leggeds (background on cover artwork) says:

Brothers and Sisters, we have so much to learn from each other, If our hearts remain true to each other, then we wiill stand in one heart, one mind and one voice. And we will all be heard.