STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Tar Sands a Toxic Future

Posted by mhudema on July 8, 2008

Youth do an oilsands reality check, and come away with negative impressions

By CAROL CHRISTIAN
Today staff
Friday July 04, 2008

Some kind of civil disobedience from First Nation youth fed up with living with the fall-out of oilsands development of could be coming in the not-too-distant future.
That prediction was made Thursday during a meeting with First Nations representatives and young adults attending the National Youth Summit in Edmonton. Some 100 youth from across the country are expected to attend the weekend conference. Eight of the youth visited Wood Buffalo Thursday during a tour organized by Greenpeace Canada.
Most of those attending the meeting came to see the oilsands first hand, to see if the negative portrayals in the media were true. They left with the impression those negative reports were accurate.


Genevieve Gilbert, a Quebec youth, said she wanted to see the oilsands for herself especially with all the double-talk and dirty tactics employed by governments to hide the truth about the tarsands and its impacts. Adam Burgess, an Edmonton resident, noted people think they know what’s going on in the oilsands, but actually seeing it “made it real for me in a way I didn’t understand before.”

Charene Claude, who hails from Regina, Sask., wanted to learn more about the oilsands especially as her home province gears up for the similar industry.

While the oilsands and its environmental impacts were a main focus of the meeting with the Mikisew Cree First Nations IRC, the group had a keen interest in Fort Chipewyan which has been bearing the brunt of the oilsands impacts, according to some people there.

Fort Chip, the oldest community in Alberta, was first inhabited by western settlers in about 1788. However, First Nations can be traced to the area through archaeological information for at least 12,000 years.

One fact that caused some upset among the young people was the alleged impact on younger and future generations of First Nations people, and the predicted loss of the traditional ways of life.

“They’re completely destroying the transfer (of knowledge) from one generation to the other because you’re not out on the land anymore, so you’re unable to pass on that knowledge,” explained Melody Lepine, the Mikisew Cree’s IRC director.

There is a fear among those living off the land about the safety of their food such as fish and moose, Lepine said. She added hunters are moving further from the community in search of healthy game. “It’s definitely affecting their way of life and livelihood,” she added.

“The majority of people in Fort Chipewyan probably consume a traditional diet, … especially the elderly population. That’s their only diet,” said George Poitras, Mikisew Cree consultation co-ordinator. “It’s totally affecting everybody’s (peace of mind).”

“It boils down to destroying a people’s way of life, because fishing and hunting and trapping is how people learn and it’s how we pass on our traditions to the younger generation, and sustaining that traditional lifestyle.”
He added a number of trappers can no longer access their traplines as easily as in the past because of lower river and creek levels.
“The young people are getting really, really restless,” replied Poitras to a question about how the younger generations feel about the impacts on their way of life. When organizing rallies over the past year, he noted there’s been a lot of interest from the younger people to not only attend to the rallies, but host one in Fort McMurray and shut down the highway, or disrupt something. They’re really pissed off. They want to go out there and make it visible to everybody, to the whole world that what’s actually happening in Fort Chipewyan is having very, very negative impacts not only to our people, but to our lives.
“You’ll probably see some civil disobedience conducted by the young people sooner than later,” he predicted.
Poitras noted issues about the oilsands are not new. Transcripts from conversations with elders 30 years ago show they were already talking about the impacts from the oilsands.
cchristian@fortmcmurraytoday.com

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