CALGARY — Canadian rocker Neil Young says his Honour the Treaties tour has accomplished what it set out to do, surpassing its fundraising goal for a Northern Alberta First Nation fighting oilsands development and raising awareness of the broader issue of aboriginal rights.
“We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in raising money for legal defence of the First Nations. Global environmental forces are joining us now with financial resources and it’s now because of the Canadian people’s awesome response to our call for justice,” Young told before the final show of the four-stop circuit in Calgary, the financial heart of Canada’s oilpatch.
“We have matched and multiplied the money we have raised from Canadians supporting honour the treaties. We will be positioned to match the legal power of our opposition dollar for dollar.”
The goal of raising $75,000 for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal defence fund was surpassed a few days ago, Young said. The ACFN announced last week it had filed a legal challenge to Ottawa’s recent approval of Royal Dutch Shell’s planned Jackpine oilsands mine.
Beyond the financial goal, Young said the concerts have succeeded in getting Canadians talking.
“So it’s a win for us, because we’re all talking about it. No matter how you feel, there’s a discussion going on at the breakfast table. That’s big. That’s real. That’s Canada.”
The singer did not accept an invitation from Canada’s oil and gas industry lobby group to meet before Sunday’s show.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers issued a statement Sunday saying it offered to “have a balanced discussion,” but a representative of Young and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam offered an alternative that was unacceptable, CAPP said.
“Young’s representative suggested oilsands producers participate in Neil Young’s media conference today, but when CAPP requested a neutral moderator and equal representation, the organizer said this was not acceptable,” the CAPP statement said.
Environmentalist David Suzuki moderated the panel discussions, which included First Nations representatives and scientist David Schindler, who has studied the impacts of oilsands pollution.
Young garnered considerable publicity last week with his first three concerts and has generated considerable debate.
His tour — which Young said Sunday was not meant to be an “anti-tarsands crusade” — included— stops in Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina where Young dropped statements about the oilsands that many denounced as over-the top.
On Sunday, Young continued to stand by statements that the oilsands mining projects near Fort McMurray resemble the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945. But he said the media’s focus on those comments misses the point.
“This is a metaphor. Fort Mac stands for the entire oilsands area. I’m talking about your house on the street in Fort Mac.” Young, meanwhile, said he remains a “proud Canadian,” having just renewed his passport in Winnipeg a few days ago.
“Canada is a great, great country. I love Canada. Canada used to be a world leader, not a follower,” he said. “While this part of the tour ends tonight in Calgary, the movement and the efforts of Honour the Treaties will continue until the treaties are honoured.”
Young’s Hiroshima claim prompted some Twitter users in the Fort McMurray area to post pictures of natural scenes of rivers, lakes and forests under the hashtag myhiroshima.
Many of the photos are accompanied by comments such as, “The ’wasteland’ behind my house,” or, “Dog sledding through nuclear wasteland,” and are clearly meant to highlight the discrepancy between the rock star’s portrayal of their home and what they say is the reality outside their doors.
“I just turned your CDs into landfill. So disappointed,” tweeted Terri Windover to Young’s official Twitter account.
Catherine Swift, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, posted in myhiroshima that Young was the “Jenny McCarthy” of the “anti-economic success anti-well-paying jobs movement.”
McCarthy, a former model/actress, vehemently claims childhood vaccinations cause autism and other disabilities, despite those claims having been disproven by rigorous scientific research.
“Keep on rockin in the dumb world,” Swift tweeted.
Jim Cuddy from the Canadian band Blue Rodeo called Young’s comparison of the oilsands with Hiroshima extreme.
Still, Cuddy suggested that Young has triggered a national discussion about the oilsands that is long overdue.