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Eriel Deranger on the Negative Impact of Resource Extraction on Indigenous Communities in Canada

Web ExclusiveDecember 10, 2019
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We continue our conversation with Eriel Deranger, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. She is in Madrid, Spain, for the COP25 United Nations climate summit, where indigenous leaders are demanding action on the climate crisis, an end to resource extraction destroying their territories, and justice for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Deranger says these issues are often liked. “In these extraction hubs, in these high-density places where we see workers influxing in, we also see increases of sex trafficking, drug abuse, domestic violence and general abuses towards women,” says Deranger.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting inside the U.N. climate summit here in Madrid, Spain, where Canada’s Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, is joining us for Part 2 of our conversation on indigenous resistance to pipelines and extraction in Canada and the United States.

On Tuesday, dozens of indigenous women and allies congregated outside the U.S. Embassy here in Madrid to honor the missing and murdered women and girls in the United States and 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. Democracy Now! spoke with one of the people there, Moñeka De Oro, an indigenous activist from Guam.

MOÑEKA DE ORO: The women of the ocean are barely ever seen. We are at the frontlines of climate change. And it’s important for us to look for support and give support where it’s needed. And us, too, we have massive rates of sexual crimes in our communities that don’t get enough awareness and enough policymaking at the government level. And I am just so in awe and empowered by the women here and the work that they’re doing to safeguard their environment and safeguard their community. The women are the bearers of life, and we are really the ones that need to be at the forefront of forming the solutions and the healing that our planet needs.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Eriel Deranger, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, again, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action.

You were there today at the U.S. Embassy. Talk about this crisis that’s — you’ll see at every indigenous-led protest ”MMIW.”

ERIEL DERANGER: Mm-hmm. It stands for the “missing and murdered indigenous women” and girls, that there’s an epidemic and a crisis happening in Turtle Island as a whole, not just the United States, not just in Canada, but also Canada, United States and Mexico are dealing with a major crisis where we’re seeing our women disappearing. And there’s a direct correlation to extractive industries, where we’re seeing that in these extraction hubs, in these high-density places where we see workers influxing in, we also see increases of sex trafficking, drug abuse, domestic violence and general abuses towards women. And as indigenous people, we see this as a direct correlation to the fact that when we allow to have the desecration of our mother, our Mother Earth, that there’s a direct correlation to the disrespect of women as a whole. And we’re seeing this sort of psychosomatic crisis emerge as a part of this extractive industry in our own country, in our Indian lands and territories.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what man camps are, maybe a new term for some, certainly not for you.

ERIEL DERANGER: So, you know, I come from a region in Alberta, the tar sands extraction zone. And what we’ve seen in the last 25 years is something that we’re seeing pop up across the country, is you have this major hub of oil and gas development, and it requires workers, and so they put up these sort of makeshift camps. And they’re not very good housing situations. And they put hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of men into these camps as workers. And they live in these remote locations with very little to do and in territories that don’t belong to them, in regions they’ve never been to before. And generally these are within indigenous lands and territories. And they have a total disrespect, and systematic racism exists in these places. And so, we have these man camps, and these man camps are a part of where we’re seeing this increase of drug trafficking, increase of sex trafficking and violence towards women.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to another voice, a young indigenous woman who is part of the Canadian delegation that you have brought into Madrid. Indigenous youth and elder climate leaders gathered outside the Canadian Embassy here in Madrid to protest the Canadian government’s support of the Alberta tar sands extraction and new fossil fuel infrastructure, including a pipeline, a new pipeline, that would cut through indigenous lands carrying tar sands oil from Alberta in Canada to Wisconsin in the United States. This is Ta’Kaiya Blaney, member of the Tla’amin Nation.

TA’KAIYA BLANEY: Canada pushes a narrative of reconciliation. They push a narrative of false promises, of false sentiments of right relationship with indigenous people, meanwhile supporting and signing off on industrial megaprojects that perpetuate indigenous genocide. There is no reconciliation with the existence of Teck mine. There is no reconciliation with the existence of Coastal Gaslink pipeline, of Trans Mountain pipeline, while these corporations who come in and raid our territories and brutalize our people. There can be no right relationship
for successful climate action to happen and for us to reach our global target, so we don’t drive ourselves and our future generations into destruction. We need indigenous leadership. We need indigenous frameworks for sustainabilities. And frontline communities that are most impacted by projects like these need to be at the forefront of that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Ta’Kaiya Blaney, member of the Tla’amin Nation, part of the youth delegation that’s here at the U.N. climate summit. Eriel Deranger, we actually started to talk about the Teck company — that’s not Silicon Valley, but T-E-C-K — in Part 1 of our conversation, but in these last few minutes we have together, also explain
tar sands and what exactly that is.

ERIEL DERANGER: I think one of the reasons we need to talk about what tar sands is, is it’s not your conventional sweet crude oil. It is a highly corrosive and highly destructive extraction process type of oil. It’s mixed with sand and clay and other minerals buried beneath the ground, and you can’t just get it with a pumpjack. So there are two methods. One is open-cast, open-pit mining, in which they have to dig the dirt out. They have to mix it with water and solvent, superheat it and then spin it through these cylinders to separate the oil from the sand and the clay. The other method is very similar to fracking, where it’s like in situ, where they put into the ground in place these pipes, drainage pipes, where they superinject the ground with hot water, sometimes solvents and other technologies, to melt the bitumen in place, and then suck it through a series of pipeline. But even then, it’s still so rich and thick that they have to dilute it with solvents in order to ship it through pipelines. So, we now have solvents and this corrosive old oil that they have to ship through these pipelines, so it makes these pipelines even more dangerous. The extraction takes up to four barrels of water to create one barrel of oil, up to three barrels of natural gas to create one barrel of oil. This is moving in the wrong direction. It is one of the biggest emitters of emissions in the country and one of the biggest reasons for Canada’s boreal deforestation and the objection or the — sorry, the abrogation of indigenous rights in Treaty 6 and 8 territories of Alberta.

AMY GOODMAN: At the Canadian Embassy, where you and youth indigenous leaders were protesting, there was a big discussion about your health, about the health of communities, a discussion about stomach cancer and other issues.

ERIEL DERANGER: This industry comes with it a cocktail of toxic contaminants, from the volatile organic compounds in the air to the contaminants in our river systems and ultimately in our food sources. Our people are subsistence food people, where we gather and hunt off of the land. And these animals can’t be protected from these contaminants. This is leading to a health crisis in our communities, where we’re seeing not just those respiratory illnesses and autoimmune diseases, but cancers associated with eating foods that are contaminated with heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Myself, I have an autoimmune disease. My son has illnesses. Many of my family suffers from all sorts of different types of illnesses in our own community, where we’re also seeing — I’ve seen multiple members of my family struggle with cancer. This is not something that we should be taking lightly. It is our communities that are the sacrifice zones so that we can continue to provide oil for countries like the United States, that are pulling out of the Paris Agreement as we speak.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eriel Deranger, we want to thank you for being with us, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action. And that does it for this segment. To see Part 1, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, Spain. Thanks so much for joining us.

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