by: Obert Madondo
Canadian music icon Neil Young announced Monday he will hold concerts in four Canadian cities to raise money to support the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal defense against encroaching tar sands developments.
The “Honor the Treaties” shows are scheduled for Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary, starting January 12. Fellow Canada pianist and jazz singer Diana Krall is billed to perform. Tickets go on sale today.
The Athabasca Chipewyan, a northern Alberta aboriginal band, is fighting tar sands developments in its traditional territory.
According to a press release, the ACFN’s legal fund “was set up to support the ACFN’s legal challenges against oil companies and government that are obstructing their traditional lands and rights.”
The ACFN’s fight became even more urgent on Friday after the Harper government approved Shell Canada’s Jackpine mine expansion.
The approval came before a 35-day delay to give the band a chance to make its concerns known to Ottawa had expired.
The review panel that looked at the project concluded it would create irreversible environmental damage. It said Jackpine would mean the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, which would harm migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife and wipe out traditional plants used for generations.
The ACFN has argued that the Jackpine mine project will destroy wetlands and wildlife. The band, which lives downstream of the Alberta’s tar sands, also says the project violates the terms of a treaty signed by Queen Victoria in 1899.
Young has always willing lend his music and talents to progressive political and social issues. And he’s always been unapologetic. He once compared the tar sands developments in Alberta to Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bomb.
The rock legend once said:
I was amazed to find that Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, my home country, has his head stuck in the tar sands of Alberta and has forgotten about his responsibilities to Canadians.
The ACFN and other First Nations affected by tar sands developments have repeatedly argued that tar sands developments are often initiated without consultation, and violate 19th century treaties between First Nations and and the government of Canada. The treaties obligates the government to guarantee the protection of First Nations’ land rights and way of life.