#Fearless Summer: Healing Journey In The Heart Of Darkness

I’m leaving for northern Alberta early Wednesday morning, to make the 24-hour drive to Fort McMurray, the heart of tar sands country. Mordor. The 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, organized by Keepers Of the Athabasca, is happening on Saturday and I’m lucky enough to have the time, resources, and a traveling companion, to make this trip. I can’t think of any place on earth more in need of healing than this place.

The Keepers Of The Athabasca describe the event this way:

The tar sands are growing out of control, destroying the climate for all Canadians and poisoning the water of everyone living downstream.

On July 5th and 6th, people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion.

Let’s call on the Alberta and Canadian governments to stop the reckless mismanagement of these resources. We need our governments to work with First Nations and bring people together to make wise choices about stewarding the land in ways that are sustainable and fair.



Can’t go? Click here for some ideas for what you can do from home, including inviting Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, to the walk.

Healing Walk 2013

Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein To Join Tar Sands Healing Walk

Fearless Summer Movement Launches Months of Intense Climate Protest

Canadian First Nations Leader Takes Tar Sands Fight To Europe Ahead Of Key Council Vote


via Friends of the Earth Europe & Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief

A leader of Canada’s Indigenous peoples gave a dramatic eyewitness account of the environmental and social devastation associated with mining tar sands at the world’s biggest tourism fair on Friday March 8,  ahead of key vote by the European Council later this year that could deter tar sands from being exported to Europe.  The European Commission said recently it was sticking to its guns in labeling tar sands as one of the world’s dirtiest crudes under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) despite strong protests from Ottawa and a major lobbying effort by the oil industry to water down the EU law. The Directive is a pillar of the bloc’s climate legislation that aims to reduce emissions from transport fuels.

Representatives from Canada’s First Nations and the environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe are at the Berlin International Travel Fair (ITB) expo to protest about the destruction of Canada’s natural environment and publicize the dangers of tar sands expansion.

Canada sits on the world’s third-largest oil reserves but the vast majority is unconventional crude, including tar sands – clay-like deposits that are some of the oil industry’s most polluting fuels. European Commission studies show that mining just one barrel of oil from tar sands generates 23% more emissions than from conventional crudes.

NASA scientist James Hansen has warned in an opinion piece for the New York Times that if Canada continued to exploit oil sands production it will mean “game over” for the planet. “If we were to fully exploit this new oil source … concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now,” Hansen wrote.

Canada’s tar sands operations are concentrated in the second most western province of Alberta, spanning roughly 700 square kilometers an area so large they can be seen from space.

Ottawa’s shame: the untold story

Chief Bill Erasmus, head of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, said Canada has gone from being known as the “Great White North” and a country of outstanding natural beauty to a “petro-state” with one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The Dene Nation covers a large geographical area — from Alaska to the southern-most tip of North America.

“The tar sands industry is destroying the way of life of First Nations peoples. On the one hand Ottawa is seeking to sell Canada as a top tourist destination for nature lovers at the ITB while simultaneously destroying kilometers of wilderness,” said Erasmus, from Denendeh, who is also a regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Northwest Territories.

Alberta is home to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, one of the country’s main attractions, that draws millions of tourists every year – 2.1 million Europeans in 2012 alone. According to Canadian government statistics, Europe is the source of most of its overseas visitors annually with the United Kingdom (622,754), France (432,987) and Germany (308,825) sending the most.

Erasmus said the extraction process was making his ancestral homeland uninhabitable in contravention of existing treaties. And he revealed how mining squandered vast amounts of fresh water and natural gas, left lakes of sludgy toxic pollution and released carcinogens into the environment (Please see attachment 1).

There is evidence the oil’s environmental impact is having a detrimental effect on Canada’s image abroad, according to documents obtained by Friends of the Earth Europe under access-to-information laws. In one heavily redacted email detailing a high-level meeting between British and Canadian diplomats, Gordon Campbell, the Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, described tar sands as “a totemic issue, hitting directly on Brand Canada”.

Europe next if Canada has its way

Canadian tar sands could soon hit European shores despite the European Commission’s effort to label fuels from tar sands deposits as highly polluting under the FQD (See report Keeping Their Head In Tar Sands). Canada is urgently seeking new markets for its energy-intensive tar sand oil to compensate for dwindling U.S. buying and has European refiners in its sights.

“If Canada, which recently withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, is successful in watering down EU laws on emissions allowed from fuels it will open the door to oil sands-derived fuels in Europe and seriously undermine Europe’s fight against climate change,” said Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe.

“Canada through intense lobbying efforts has been trying to scupper EU legislation since it was first mooted. EU law makers know tar sands are the most climate hostile energy source in commercial production today and they should not give in to Canadian pressure,” he said.

An inconclusive EU vote on the introduction of the FQD last year forced the European Commission to carry out an Impact Assessment on the Directive, the results of which are due out in the next couple of months ahead of another European Council vote later in the year. Just last month, in a major lobbying effort, two ministers from Alberta visited 11 EU countries between them to argue that the proposed EU law discriminates unfairly against Canadian oil.

fish with a tumour


Click here to read the text of the letter to the Canadian tourism representatives at Berlin ITB from Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief, AFN Regional Chief (NWT)

More Links:

Indigenous Environmental Network: Tar Sands

IdleNoMore Idles On

Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News
Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News

The mainstream media speculates that IdleNoMore, the movement for indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice that swept across Canada in recent months has petered out. The Harper Conservatives in Ottawa desperately hope that it has, but the truth is more complicated. Like waves breaking on a shore, the IdleNoMore movement has receded for the moment, gathering power for the next wave that will break onto the shore of Canadian consciousness and politics.

Thomas King, author and professor of english and theatre studies at the University of Guelph, wrote and directed a video, Not The Indian You Had In Mind, that challenges stereotypes of First Nations people, and helps explain the roots of IdleNoMore, and why it will be back. Here’s a clip from the video. Follow the link below to watch the full 5 minute video on the National Screen Institute of Canada’s website.


Watch the full video here.

Meanwhile Chief Theresa Spence has not been idle since she ended her 45 day fast on January 23rd. This week at the 82nd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva Switzerland, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed an “Early Warning and Urgent Action” request. The request is in response to the majority government of Stephen Harper’s Bills C-45 and C-38, as well as the on-going issues of lack of adequate housing and safe drinking water in indigenous communities across Canada.

Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian government and the world will be paying close attention to the CERD’s consideration of a submission from the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed last week under the CERD’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures,” IITC said in a statement, alleging that the bills—passed in June and December 2012—were put through without aboriginal consultation. The two bills, opponents claim, gut key environmental protections, in essence abrogating treaty rights. Bill C-45, by changing the way aboriginals can own land on reserves, also undermines treaties, opponents say.

Ron Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nations stated:

The world needs to know of the total disregard shown by this government toward the Indigenous Peoples of this part of great Turtle Island. When you disregard the sacred Treaties and continue to disrespect our Mother Earth and all of creation, including the sacred water which sustains all life on the planet, there is no way that Indigenous Peoples can stand back and do nothing.

Read more about this story on Indian Country Today Media Network and on NationTalk.ca.  On CBC.ca, check out Paul Martin Says Ottawa Has “No Understanding” Of Native Issues.

aaron paquette art.RISE


Idle No More: A Response By People Who Feel Like Hostages In Their Own Country

If you’re looking for some more information on the IdleNoMore campaign, MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) gives a good summary in this video. He is discussing the NDP Opposition Day motion on dealing with First Nation economic development and treaty rights. The response from the CPC MP, Cheryl Gallant, who represents a more southerly Ontario riding, is telling. In essence, she says that all First Nations need is more control over businesses on their reserves, and their problems will be solved; typical neoconservative BS, in other words. Angus’s response is restrained, considering what he could have said.





Manitoba Wildlands: Idle No More resources

Idle No More Challenges Enbridge’s Pipedreams

Everything that we do to water, we do to life because water is life. It’s not just us – we are all connected, we have to protect everything that lives, that shares the earth that we doIdle No More is about us standing up and speaking up. We have never been asleep, and now more than ever we are awake and we are standing up…If we keep waiting for change, it’s never going to come.” 

Eleven year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney addresses the crowd at Courtenay, B.C. Idle No More rally at the end of December.



More links:

Stephen Harper prepares to fail his biggest test as PM

UN Expert: Canadian Authorities Must Begin Meaningful Dialogue With Aboriginal Leaders

Saturday At The Movies

The Idle No More movement continues to spread across Canada and the rest of the world; it has declared that it’s here to stay. There have been round dances in intersections and malls across Turtle Island (North America).  Here’s a flash round dance held a week ago in the Mall of America; think about the symbolism of that!


The Drumbeat Continues

harper please meet with chief spence

The story of the Idle No More is far from over. Over the holiday season, when people are generally too busy celebrating with friends and family to pay attention to political or social movements (there’s a reason why Stephen Harper shut down Parliament not once but twice in December). However, Canada’s indigenous people have shown that they are not going to allow their treaty rights to be ignored, no matter what the season, and have kept up the momentum that started on December 10. The Idle No More movement calls for a new relationship based on mutual respect between Canada and its First People, and for the protection of the waters and the land. There have been round dances in shopping malls, marches blocking highways, and blockades of roads and railways across the country. Chief Theresa Spence is in her third week of fasting within sight of our House of Parliament, and has been joined by a handful of  elders across the country. All of these events have been peaceful but they show a steadfast determination on the part of First Nations to stop the deterioration of the treaties that Canada was founded on and to ensure there is clean water, clean air, and a stable climate for future generations.

I don’t think Stephen Harper, wily politician though he is, has any idea of the fire he has ignited. Although the embers of discontent with his dictatorial, non-parliamentary ways have been glowing for years, and his particularly abrasive brand of neoconservative, pro-corporate, anti-science and anti-consensus politics has been fanning them even more strongly since he was elected to a majority government in May 2011. One would think that any politician with the smarts to get himself elected Prime Minister of Canada would be savvy enough to realize that ignoring the request of a First Nations leader who feels strongly enough about the plight of her people to go without food, and settle in a tipi away from home and family over the Christmas season, makes him look churlish and uncaring. It would have been easy for Mr. Harper to stop by to see Chief Spence on Christmas Day, and offer her what she was asking for – the opportunity to have a conversation about the plight of her people with the leader of Canada. But Mr Harper chose not to do this. In fact on December 21st when tens of thousands of Canadians, Aboriginal and Nonaboriginal, were marching and drumming and dancing in protest of his government’s legislation, and Chief Spence was in her second week of fasting, our prime minister tweeted Mmm… bacon along with a link to a Simpsons video. Really, Mr. Harper? That tweet, while appropriate for an adolescent, is not fitting to one who is in the position of leading the nation. Mr. Harper has been very successful at the politics of divisiveness and confrontation, but has no tools to respond to a humble Aboriginal woman who is willing to suffer greatly, even unto death, to improve the lot of her people and protect the land. Harper’s dilemma is almost Biblical, during this season when Christians the world over celebrate the birth of a child born into the humblest of circumstances.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

The mainstream media has even started to take notice. An opinion piece in Macleans magazine written by Brigette De Pape, the Parliamentary Page who became Canada’s most famous protestor when she held up a “Stop Harper” sign in the House of Commons , wrote that Idle No More is a Christmas gift to all Canadians:

In the face of a Harper majority government, which was elected with a mere 39 per cent of the vote in 2011, we’ve been asking for an end to unjust policies, and a transformation of a broken system.

In the face of climate change that threatens the survival of humanity, coming to the public consciousness in the 1960s with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and then by the UN Commission in the 1970s, we’ve been searching for a solution to a path towards a clean future.

Since the beginning of consumer culture, we have been searching for some kind of meaning amid all the stuff.

Since the 15th century and the beginnings of colonization, we’ve been searching for a way to face our history, and to transform relations between settlers (non-Aboriginal people) and First Nations.

All the things we have been asking for have arrived at a shopping malls near us – in the form of the Idle No More movement.

Sylvia McAdam, one of the four Saskatchewan women who called for a National Day of Action on Bill C-45 that inspired the Idle No More movement, put it this way:

Bill C 45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on the bodies of water w all share from across this country.”

First Nations from coast to coast are standing together and declaring “We are the land. We are the water. We will protect ourselves.” They are offering the descendants of settlers the opportunity to recognize our part in the colonization of this country and its indigenous people, and to build a new relationship of mutual respect for each other and the land. Perhaps the much-heralded end of the Mayan Calendar on December 21st 2012 wasn’t about the end of the world, but rather about the end of the world as we know it. The Idle No More movement offers all of us the incredible opportunity to be part of creating a brave and bright future for everyone.

while all canadians should support Idle No More*

More links:


The Anishinabe Legacy

Idle No More: A Drumbeat Is Heard Across The Nation

Image: Aaron Paquette
Image: Aaron Paquette

There are a lot of things I could write about on this crisp winter morning; NOAA’s updated 2012 Arctic Report Card, for example (hint: it ain’t lookin’ good) or the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut on Friday, or the (related) fact that American drones have killed nearly 200 innocent Pakistani children in the last few years. But I’m going to focus on a Canadian story that has been mainly overlooked in the mainstream media here at home – although Al Jazeera covered it last week, and some local media did a good job of reporting on it. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, the First Nations people of Canada took to the streets, to their MPs offices, and to Ottawa, to send a message to the government of Stephen Harper that they were “idle no more”.  The federal government’s sweeping omnibus budget bill C-45 bill, passed last week with little discussion in the House of Commons, is an insult to all Canadians who value clean air, clean water, and a stable climate but it is particularly insulting to First Nations people. As Dustin Hollings wrote at CFNE.org, addressing non-aboriginal Canadians:

“…the Harper Government is out to do a few really nasty things to all of us right now. There are a bunch of bills on the table but the basic timeline is shaping up like this… 1) Remove Environmental water protections acts. 2) Strip Aboriginal First Nations of Treaty rights (the final assimilation). “

18 year-old Ocean Morin, who organized the Idle No More rally in LaRonge, Saskatchewan that brought out hundreds of people, put it this way:

“As a child our parents, grandparents, elders and our leaders all said our children are the future, but I have a strong belief that if this bill is passed, there will not be much of a future for future generations to come.”

The Idle No More Manifesto is available on their website. I’ve reposted it in full here because it deserves to be read and shared widely. The First Nations are standing up for a sustainable future for ALL of our children.


We contend that:
The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between Canada and
First Nations who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.
We contend that:
Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned – the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.

We contend that:
Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time…Why would these promises be different from past promises? We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.
We contend that:
There are many examples of other countries moving towards sustainability, and we must demand sustainable development as well. We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them.
Please join us in creating this vision.

Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation is on her sixth day of a hunger strike to get Stephen Harper and the federal Conservatives and Queen Elizabeth to meet with First Nations leaders, include First Nations in decision, and to observe and honor treaty rights.   Chief Spence has stated she is willing to die for her people and this cause.

Graphic: Nora Loreto
Graphic: Nora Loreto

We can all get involved in this awakening:

Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.

Write letters to PM Harper, to your MP, to your local newspaper, talk to people, share this story on social media. Suggestions for supporting Chief Spence are listed above. You may not be able to do everything, but I know you can do something. If you want to attend the next IdleNoMore event, circle December 21st at noon (MST). Idle No More has put out a call to all singers and drummers from across Turtle Island (North America) to come together for a Global Synchronized Awakening. Everyone can join in (make sure you synchronize your time with noon MST); visit IdleNoMore.ca for details:

The heartbeat of the drum, the heartbeat of Mother Earth, is the heartbeat of the people.
Drums are the oldest living instruments on earth, and their vibration helps us tune into the natural frequency of the earth, connecting us to all that is through a shared heartbeat.
The drum combines animal and plant life to make an instrument that rings not only through the air, but across time. All the elements of Nature are used in the creation of the drum, representing the circle of life in all its aspects.
Our songs hold the stories of our past and the visions for our future.

OFFICIAL FACEBOOK EVENT: http://www.facebook.com/events/312625895520410/

Graphic: Dwayne Bird, IdleNoMore.ca
Graphic: Dwayne Bird, IdleNoMore.ca

“Our Answer To Enbridge Is NO”

Ta’Kaiya, 10, lives in North Vancouver and is from the Sliammon First Nation.  She traveled on the Yinka Dene Alliance Freedom Train that recently crossed Canada to raise awareness of the threat posed By Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline through coastal First Nations territory. Here she is performing a song she wrote, Shallow Waters, at the Freedom Train Solidarity Concert at The Great Hall in Toronto, Ontario Canada last week.

The message from the song “Shallow Waters” is urgent because an oil spill in the northwest coast could tragically end the traditional way of life for many coastal First Nations. It would also devastate all marine and coastal life and habitat.