Indigenous Youth & Elders at COP25 Protest Canada’s Support of Dirty Tar Sands Projects

StoryDecember 10, 2019
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Indigenous women protested outside the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain, on Tuesday morning to demand action to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across North America. Madrid police shut down the protest within minutes. On Monday, indigenous youth and elders gathered outside the Canadian Embassy in Madrid to protest the Canadian government’s support of the Alberta tar sands extraction and new fossil fuel infrastructure, including a pipeline that would cut through indigenous lands to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Wisconsin. We speak with one of those demonstrators: Eriel Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. “Canada comes to these meetings touting themselves as a global leader in addressing the climate crisis, as having great relations with their indigenous peoples,” she says. “But the reality is … not a single project that has ever been proposed in the Alberta tar sands has ever been denied.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As U.S. indigenous activist Rose Whipple addressed reporters at the U.N. climate summit on Monday in an indigenous youth panel, elders gathered outside, as well as indigenous youth, of the Canadian Embassy here in Madrid, Spain, to protest the Canadian government’s support of the Alberta tar sands extraction and new fossil fuel infrastructure, including a pipeline that would cut through indigenous lands to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Wisconsin in the United States. We’re joined now by one of those demonstrators, Eriel Deranger. She’s a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action.

Eriel, welcome back to Democracy Now!

ERIEL DERANGER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. So we just heard Rose, a young indigenous activist who lives in St. Paul, in Minnesota, talking about the map of the pipelines and what crisscrosses indigenous land. Take us from there to Canada.

ERIEL DERANGER: So, right now what’s happening is there is a series of pipelines being built. I come from a territory in northern Alberta, Treaty 8 territory, in a community called Fort Chipewyan. So, if you are looking at Wisconsin to Fort Chipewyan, there’s hundreds and hundreds of miles, or kilometers, whichever you prefer. But we have pipeline corridors that are running from our community in Fort — well, south of Fort Chipewyan, in the heart of the extraction zone, just north of Fort McMurray, going southward down into Edmonton, Alberta, where we have hubs of pipeline corridors that are shooting out to the West Coast of Canada, to the eastern Canada and United States and down through the south, into the United States, as well. So we have pipeline corridors that are going coast to coast to coast of the continent of North America, traversing over critical waterways, through the indigenous territories of multiple indigenous nations across Canada and the United States, where these pipelines are now delivering oil to refineries and upgraders, where they’re being processed outside of low-income, people of color and indigenous communities, further exacerbating the pollution, as well as the emissions that those communities are faced with at the source.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I went to the Cumbre the other day, the alternative climate summit, and you and other indigenous youth from Canada were really focusing on the Teck Frontier mine, which might sound to people in the U.S. like Silicon Valley — the Teck Frontier mine. But explain more what that is and the kind of cross-border organizing that you’re doing.

ERIEL DERANGER: Right now what’s happening is there’s a company called Teck Resources. They’re not a tech firm, but rather they’ve been a mineral, hard rock company, so they’ve been a mining company, mainly working in coal. They actually have a tremendous human rights abuse record. They’re not a very good company. But this is their first foray into the oil sands or the tar sands. And they’re proposing the largest-ever tar sands mine. This project will be 29,000 hectares of land, bigger than the city of Vancouver, twice the size of the center of Vancouver or the size of Metro Vancouver. This project will produce close to 260,000 barrels of oil a day. It will also create six megatons of emissions and crisscross over the habitat of bison, caribou, moose, lynx, muskrat, as well as last remaining wild flock of whooping cranes, and be adjacent to the river system that is the heart of my own community and 17 kilometers on the boundary of one of our settlements, as well as 30 kilometers just south of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Wood Buffalo National Park.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, people may think that the Canadian government takes a more enlightened view when it comes to indigenous people than in the United States. But explain what the Canadian government is doing, what you’re demanding, as you were outside the Canadian Embassy yesterday here in Madrid, but also, to take it home to right here — we’re in the heart of the U.N. climate summit — and what you’re demanding here. We’re right outside the plenary, which I guess they’re now having a concert, I guess.

ERIEL DERANGER: Well, you know, I think the big issue is, is Canada comes to these meetings touting themselves as a global leader in addressing the climate crisis, as having great relations with their indigenous peoples. But the reality is, in Alberta, in my territory of Treaty 8, not a single project that has ever been proposed in the Alberta tar sands has ever been denied. Even this project being proposed by Teck Resources, the Frontier mine, largest mine ever, it went through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review process. It clearly indicated that it will have irreversible impacts on the environment, on ecosystems and indigenous rights. Yet the project was deemed in the public’s interest. It’s who is the public, if indigenous peoples aren’t included in that?

Which brings us right back to here we are in COP Madrid, where we’re having conversations about inclusion of human rights within Article 6, which is a market-based and non-market-based mechanism for reducing our emissions, where we’re arguing whether or not to include human rights, and definitely having even more critical challenges, including the rights of indigenous peoples. But the rights of indigenous peoples are critical to addressing these issues, because, as we’ve seen in Canada, the rights of indigenous peoples are not even considered part of the public’s rights. We have to demand better safeguards and protections for our people, and we absolutely can’t be advocating for more carbon markets.

AMY GOODMAN: Clearly, we have to have more of a discussion. We’re going to do that in Part 2, post it online at democracynow.org. Eriel Deranger, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action in Canada.

This final news headline: The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, today. It’s International Human Rights Day. But the prime minister will not take questions from reporters before or after the ceremony, and he’s facing increasing criticism at home in Ethiopia for the government’s crackdown against protests in October in which over 60 people were killed.

And that does it for our broadcast. A very Happy Belated Birthday to our very own senior producer Carla Wills.

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