Neil Young Honouring the Treaties Tour Opinion Piece

by MPatel0002 on February 28, 2014 - 6:07pm

Neil Young is a musician that is well known around the world for many songs. He was born in Canada where he first began his career in music. But at the same time he is also an environmentalist. He has begun a tour known as “Honor The Treaties” in order to stop the Athabasca Oil Sands operations. His tour was meant to use his concerts to fund ACFN (also called Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Defense Fund. The oil sands have a great influence on Canadians and Canada in general. The economy, environment and morals are all tied into this. Neil Young attempts are being disregarded as controversial and the question that arises is, what right does he have to decide what we should do? But his involvement is well understood, considering the dangerous consequences the oil sands can have on Canada.


To begin with, it’s no secret that oil and oil extraction have a terrible effect on the environment. It damages not only the trees, grass, and water but also living beings. There is nearby community living near the plant. Recently, two mouthed fishes were found by locals and that has brought a lot of concern to the community, especially after finding out that the water tastes different and the animals act abnormally. Considering the animals it can kill directly and indirectly, it should be enough to stop them. But there is stronger issue when it comes to the civilization near it. More cancer cases have begun to show up within the local community. It is specifically known as Bile Duct Cancer. Apparently it is very rare however recently it has begun to appear a lot more often near the civilians. There isn’t enough concrete evidence to support a link between this cancer and mutations to the oil plant. People should also consider that oil barrels produced from oil sands produce a high level of greenhouse gases and this affects not only the surrounding environment but also the atmosphere.


The Canadian government responded to this by claiming that the oil sand operations with information on the economic benefits that this project will bring forth. According to them and information released, the revenue will be around 17 billion dollars and will supply more than 700 jobs to Canadians. However, these oil sands are not the best dependable source of money and will eventually fade over time. The operations to extract the oil are not safe for the environment to begin with and it costs a lot of money, but added to that is the fact that the oil is not sustainable. Billions of dollars were put into the project over years and even more money is being put into it today but that money can be used for numerous other projects. 


Finally, this operation breaks relationship based on morality and a treaty. Treaty 8 which was signed in 1899 between Natives, Queen Victoria and other officials, allows Natives to keep 34,767 hectares of land and continue their traditional way of life. The oil project is not only breaking the treaty by ruining the Natives fishing, hunting and ritual activities but the trust they put in the government for safety and loyalty. This also impacts the economy of the Natives, in which they own many business that gives them economic stability and earns them around 200 to 300 million dollars. Now they are being forced to pay for their legal funds in order to defend their land and rights.


The Athabasca Oil sands project is very harmful to the environment, economically undependable and breaks the rights of the Natives. If the Canadian government won’t stand up for them, then someone has to. Neil Young has the right to stand up for what he believes in. It isn’t about Nationality or controversy. It’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons.