Is anybody listening?

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He’s just having a grand old time.

He’s just having a grand old time.

Neil Young, The Oilsands, and Duty to Consult

Article: Richard Jensen – Contributor

Neil Young has stirred up an incredible storm of talk and rhetoric with his four-concert tour across Canada. The amazing amount of TV time, column space, and radio rants generated by four little concerts has been filled with opinions from just about every aspect you could conceive of in the debate about oilsands, economic development, and the role of celebrities in social issues. Yet, I would rather call your attention to a simple detail that has been virtually ignored in all the major media: The name of the tour is “Honour the Treaties.”

Why this title? It comes down to a rather frightening part of the entire situation that should be bothering more than just the Indigenous people who live near the Athabasca oil sands. It comes down to how corporations, and the governments who are meant to regulate and protect its citizens, deal with the duty to consult. Duty to consult is more than just making sure everyone gets a fat cheque if something inconveniences them. The duty to consult is to make sure everyone who is directly affected by any project is a part of the decision making process, and let’s be honest, that is not how corporations go about it. When you look at the legal suit to stop the development, it’s pretty obvious that the developer came in, made lots of big promises about money and prosperity, then said ‘Like it and get paid, don’t like it and suffer anyways because we’re going to do it.’ This is the crux of the problem that the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has brought forward in their legal opposition to the oil sands development.

And that’s not to mention the fact that a part of the treaties lays out how the government of Canada was meant to lay aside the money it received as a part of resource development to pay for the promises, mostly broken, that lay within the same treaties. The secession of the land was meant to create a partnership between First Nations and the Crown that both would benefit from. That is the one issue, the issue central to the whole name of the tour, which is being ignored. The government, and the people it allows to develop its resources, are meant to be in partnership with the First Nations when it develops these resources.

This isn’t about if or when resources are developed, it’s the manner in which they are developed. It’s a matter of realigning perspectives and making sure that all the partners that were involved in the creation of Canada benefit from the resources we are all supposed to share. Instead the government allows corporations to run roughshod over any and all partners for their own profit. The lawsuit to stop the development is not about refusing oil sands usage, instead it is about ensuring that all benefits and problems are shared by all the partners, including the wider Canadian public.

Image: Mathew Harris

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