I joined about 30 powershifters to brave the snow and wind early this morning to send a message to Congressional leaders ahead of Canadian Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice.
Inside the Russell Senate Office Building, I joined Gitz, Melina and Myron--the Indigenous delegation from Alberta to deliver a letter to Senator John Kerry, while supporters rallied with banners and placards outside.
A friendly staffer confirmed that Senator Kerry would be meeting with Prentice and thanked us for visiting. Just as we were leaving the office, she took a phone call and paged someone in the next office with a whisper, "I have, um, Syncrude on the line."
Glad we made it to him first.
Check out the photos here. A copy of the letter an press release follow.
CANADIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PREEMPTED BY FIRST NATION YOUTH
RALLY AND LETTER TO CONGRESS: “STOP TAR SANDS NOW”
CONTACT: CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER, CANADIAN INDIGENOUS TAR SANDS CAMPAIGN, INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK, (CELL) 218-760-6632. ERIEL DERANGER, RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK-EDMONTON, (CELL) 202-215-4399.
Washington, DC--March 2, 2009. Youth representing Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Lubicon Cree First Nation and Athabasca Chipweyan First Nation hand-delivered a letter to Senator John Kerry at his office today while supporters rallied outside. The letter highlighted concern that Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice, expected to meet with Senator Kerry on energy issues, would misrepresent the disastrous environmental and human rights record of the tar sands to US Congressional leaders.
“Animals are dying, disappearing, and being mutated by the poisons dumped into our river systems,” the letter continues, “Once we have destroyed these fragile eco-systems we will have also destroyed our peoples and trampled our treaty rights.”
Oil from Canada’s tar sands currently supplies the US with ten percent of its oil. Recent industry reports project US oil imports from the tar sands to double within the next decade. In Canada, oil production from the tar sands emits three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil, requires excessive amounts of energy and fresh water, and destroys huge swaths of boreal forest.
“Dangerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction of tar sands are contaminating water systems stretching all the way to the arctic basin and adversely affecting communities along the way,” reads the letter, “Expansion of the tar sands is a direct attack on who we are as a people.
In the US, increasing imports of tar sands oil is driving proposed development of more than 6000 miles oil pipeline and expansions of several polluting oil refineries. First Nations and American Indian communities affected by many of these projects are raising questions about adequate consultation regarding environmental impacts.
“Our communities are looking for energy solutions that provide a healthy sustainable community for our future generations” Concludes the letter, “the sustainable future for First Nations in Alberta, Canada and the United States of America alike, cannot be achieved by further exploiting one of the dirtiest, most energy intensive and destructive sources of oil on the planet.”
The Indigenous delegation and their supporters are among 11,000 youth from across the US and Canada attending PowerShift09, the biggest single-day youth lobbying effort on energy policy in US history.
March 2, 2009
Senator John Kerry
Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee
218 Russell Bldg.
Washington D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Kerry,
Please allow us to present you with a different perspective on Canada’s tar sands than you are likely to hear from Canadian Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice.
We came together this year at the Powershift gathering in Washington, DC, as members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Lubicon Cree Nation to share our stories with 11,000 youth from across North America. We came with messages of destruction and devastation wrought by the tar sands in our communities, but also feelings of hope that together we can contribute to building a more sustainable world for our communities and future generations. These ideas of a greener sustainable world are familiar to us as an ancient First Nations way of life.
Dangerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction of tar sands are contaminating water systems stretching all the way to the arctic basin and adversely affecting communities along the way including Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Expansion of the tar sands is a direct attack on who we are as a people. Many First Nation peoples believe in the medicine wheel with four elements: earth, water, air and fire—three are polluted by these projects. Destroying these elements destroys who we are. The tar sands are killing us.
Beaver Lake Cree Nation is also being encroached upon by rapidly expanding tar sands infrastructure and development. Natural gas wells used to power oil production in the tar sands are almost literally in the community’s backyards. Pollution from these projects adversely affecting peoples’ health, way of life and violate established treaty rights. Animals are dying, disappearing, and being mutated by the poisons dumped into our river systems. If there is no fish, we cannot fish, if there is no more game, we cannot hunt. Our traditional lands and water houses our culture. They are one and the same. Once we have destroyed these fragile eco-systems we will have also destroyed our peoples and trampled our treaty rights.
Construction of the Transcanada North Central Corridor pipeline, set to cross through the traditional territory of Lubicon Lake First Nation without the consent of the community is an outright violation of human rights and inherent rights of the community as Indigenous peoples. With oil and logging already impacting this territory, expansion of oil infrastructure will continue to wreck havoc on the land and displace even more wildlife.
Our communities are looking for energy solutions that provide a healthy sustainable community for our future generations. The sustainable future for First Nations in Alberta, Canada and the United States of America alike, cannot be achieved by further exploiting one of the dirtiest, most energy intensive and destructive sources of oil on the planet. It's time we focus our efforts on building a clean sustainable future that puts our people to work in a safe, green energy economy.
Senator Kerry, we urge your leadership in the Congress to:
• Respect and recognize established treaty rights during the Clean Energy Dialogue: These discussions will surely frame the future of energy in our countries. They will also determine the whether culturally significant and bio-diverse regions of our respective countries, as well as the livelihoods of the Indigenous peoples that inhabit this turtle island, are preserved.
• Focus the Clean Energy Dialogue on renewable energy and energy efficiency: The main focus of the dialogue should be on clean energy efforts and include wind, solar, and other renewable fuels and on transportation solutions such as electrified transportation and high speed rail.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Lubicon Cree Nation
Gitz Crazyboy, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Myron Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation
Minister Jim Prentice
Secretary Steven Chu
Secretary Kenneth Salazar
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley