Le Blogue Broadbent

Big Oil's attack on Neil Young boomerangs back

Big Oil is fighting back against Canadian rock icon Neil Young, saying all they're trying to do is create mutual trust with First Nations.

The problem, you see, is that Young is getting in the way of building all this goodwill!

"His rhetoric is ill-informed, it’s divisive, and I think it does a disservice to Canadians — including those First Nations he is ostensibly trying to help through his tour," claims Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and head of Shell Canada.

The problem with Big Oil's spin?

Shell Canada is in the middle of a dispute with the Athabasca Chipewayan First Nation in Northern Alberta — the one that Neil Young is fundraising for via the Honor the Treaties benefit concerts.

Money raised from the tour, which wraps up this weekend, is going to the First Nation's legal defence fund to fight the expansion of the tar sands on their traditional lands.

Shell's Jackpine project got the go-ahead from Stephen Harper's cabinet last month, despite a finding from a joint review panel that it's "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects" and that all Aboriginal groups that participated on the consultation raised concerns about the "impact of these effects on their Aboriginal and treaty rights."

Have a look at excerpts of the decision, compiled by the University of Alberta's Andrew Leach

  • The Project will provide major and long-term economic opportunities to individuals in Alberta and throughout Canada, and will generate a large number of construction and operational jobs
  • The Panel concludes that the Project would have significant adverse environmental project effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity
  • The Panel understands that a large loss (over 10,000 hectares) of wetland would result from the Project, noting in particular that 85 per cent of those wetlands are peatlands that cannot be reclaimed
  • The Panel finds that diversion of the Muskeg River is in the public interest, considering that approximately 23 to 65 million cubic metres of resource would be sterilized if the river is not diverted
  • The Panel recognizes that the relevant provincial agencies were not at the hearing to address questions about why the Project (which seeks to divert the Muskeg River: author’s addition) is not included in the Muskeg River Interim Management Framework for Water Quantity and Quality
  • The Panel concludes that it could not rely on Shell’s assessment of the significance of project and cumulative effects on terrestrial resources
  • The Panel notes that a substantial amount of habitat for migratory birds that are wetland or old-growth forest dependent will be lost entirely or lost for an extended period
  • The Panel is concerned about the lack of mitigation measures proposed for loss of wildlife habitat… that have been shown to be effective
  • Although the Panel has concluded that the Project is in the public interest, project and cumulative effects for key environmental parameters and socioeconomic impacts in the region have weighed heavily in the Panel’s assessment
  • All of the Aboriginal groups that participated in the hearing raised concerns about the adequacy of consultation by Canada and Alberta, particularly with respect to the management of cumulative effects in the oil sands region and the impact of these effects on their Aboriginal and treaty rights.


Leach explains what this all means:

It’s these last two that have got us to where we are today — to a First Nation challenging the government in court for a decision that it made which valued bitumen over the environment and their traditional territory and for not fulfilling its constitutional duty to consult on that decision.

The words "ill-informed" and "divisive" come to mind when summing up the position of Big Oil and their Conservative friends.