Thunberg interviews leaders for documentary, Alberta Indigenous group says

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour of Alberta’s oilsands region on Saturday, an Indigenous group says, conducting interviews that the group says will be part of an upcoming BBC documentary.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation says in a news release that Thunberg spent the day on the shores of Gregoire Lake near Fort McMurray with members of the First Nation, and that her interviews focused on environmental concerns over oilsands development and climate change.

Mikisew Chief Archie Waquan presented Thunberg with a blanket, stating in the news release that the First Nation was honoured to “join forces” with Thunberg as she leads the way in “protecting our planet from the climate crisis.”

Thunberg arrived in Fort McMurray on Friday night and met with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who said he told the 16-year-old to get Europeans to lobby oilsands investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.

Earlier Friday, Thunberg addressed thousand of people at a climate rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.

Melody Lepine, who is the Mikisew Cree’s director of government and industry relations, says the First Nation agreed to participate in the BBC documentary some time ago, but only learned in the last few days that Thunberg would also be involved.

“That was pretty exciting,” Lepine said Sunday, speaking from Fort McMurray.

Thunberg has been making international headlines for criticizing world leaders who she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.

Lepine said when she was interviewed by Thunberg, she told the activist about the importance of the boreal forest as well as the impacts her community might see from climate change.

But like Adam, Lepine said her community isn’t calling for an end to oilsands development.

“I sort of said this is home to many people and it’s not fair to just put a stop to development here without any plan in place. These projects have been here for over 30 years, and some of these projects are planning to be here for another 30, or 50 or 60 years,” Lepine said.

“And so there’s a lot of work to do in decommissioning and cleaning and reclamation, so we talked about maybe diversifiying the economy here for making sure any transition off fossil fuels is not going to hurt the economic engine of Canada here.”

In March, the Mikisew Cree applauded the announcement of a new 16-hundred-square kilometre wildland park that was created after three energy companies returned oilsands leases to the province and a fourth company agreed to sell back its leases.

The First Nation also noted in its news release an Indigenous energy company is part of what it says is Canada’s largest off-grid solar project.

“I shared some of the success stories like that, that it is possible to reach a balance in environmental protection and economic development and industrial development in the region,” Lepine said.

Thunberg posted pictures on Sunday of her meetings with the region’s Indigenous leaders on Twitter, saying she was “honoured” to meet with them while in Treaty 8 territory.

She has said she plans to keep touring the Americas through a UN climate conference in Chile in December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2019.

—By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

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