First Nations chief draws attention to oil sands threat at international tourism expo in Germany

Photo by David Biene

A bold move by a First Nation leader disrupted an event linked to a large tourism expo in Berlin, Germany, drawing attention to the issue of Canadian oil sands development.  

Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus came to an Embassy event, where tourism officials from Alberta and other parts of Canada were promoting the natural beauty of Alberta and BC. Erasmus delivered a letter to tourism officials discussing concerns over Canada's economy and the tar sands. 

The letter was being delivered at a critical time during which the European Union is deliberating whether tar sands oil meets its standard Fuel Quality Directive, which would put a higher price on unconventional, carbon intensive fuels like Canada's oil sands.

Below, a copy of Erasmus' letter: 

Dear friend,                                            Berlin, March 8, 2013

My name is Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories in Canada. Our Nation is currently undergoing a transition from hunting and gathering to a wage-based economy and we partly depend, just like you, on tourist coming to our area. At the moment, thousands of visitors from around the world come every year to enjoy the pristine nature of our homelands. We want these tourists to keep coming in the future, we need them for our income and we want to share the natural beauty of our territory with them. But the continuing extraction of tar sands in Alberta and especially the planned expansion is putting this at risk.

We are not against economic development in Canada or Alberta, but the tar sands extraction is polluting our rivers, destroying our natural resources and thus the economic basis of our survival – and yours. This is a model of economic development, tied to boom and bust cycles, which will not bring lasting prosperity to our country. What we need is a sustainable economic model for a diversified economy that does not depend on exporting fossil fuels.

We want you to understand that the existing proposed tar sands expansion will continue to harm the economic interests of Canada. Canada’s greatest asset is its untouched nature and natural environment, that’s what Canada is known for in the world. But we’re running the risk of losing this image – and with it the visitors. The Canadian government is heavily lobbying European countries to derail European climate change efforts, such as the Fuel Quality Directive aimed at reducing emissions from imported transport fuels. This is wrong; Canada is interfering in the European legislative process and needs to accept the proposed criteria. Environment and climate are our joint responsibility and we need to protect them. For us, for our children and for the tourists we want to come to our home.

More in Environment

Canada’s first land raised Atlantic salmon achieves top eco-ranking

Canada's first land-raised Atlantic salmon has achieved the top sustainability ranking issued by the world's leading independent eco-ranking program. KUTERRA Land Raised Atlantic salmon has received...

Coastal GasLink pipeline project granted environmental assessment approval

Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman and Environment Minister Mary Polak issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate to Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline...
Ian McAllister tidal wolf photo - Great Bear Wild - used with permission

Great Bear Rainforest photographer urges a halt on tar sands oil

Spotting a pair of hungry wolves return to the same tidal spot on B.C.'s rainforest coast he's seen them come to for years, photographer Ian McAllister whipped into action: zipping up his dry suit,...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.

Great strategy

Outside in.

That's the strategy that must be utilized to draw attention to any First Nation and/or environmental issue (we're all connected).

Embarrass the hell out of our government.

And they have many things to be ashamed of, as the international world is just discovering (our "beloved" Mounties, hunger, fiscal resp., "democracy").

Canada the good, the pure?

Not so much.

Alberta Tar Sands

We all need to keep revealing the full truth about the Alberta Tar Sands.  Fact:  They have irreversibly destroyed the ecosystem there already.  The people are getting sickened by the pollution.  There will be toxic sludge waste forever held in massive earthen banked reservoirs.  The people of the U.S. do not want the Keystone pipeline, just as the people of Canada do not want a pipeline going through their country.  Lifestyles need to shift to accomodate renewable energy sources.

Canada's Eroding Reputation Internationally

I would add that people also came to Canada as we used to have such a good reputation for peace keeping and aid to the vulnerable regardless of their politics. We did not boycott or go to war because Americans tell us to. I have met so many people outside Canada who want to visit and see what a genuinely good nation was like on the inside. As for the our National and Provincial Parks, set up in perpetuity for the people of Canada, they are being sold to foreigners. I dont' want no stinking American or Chinese companies building their Disney trash in my lands, your land, not their lands. I am sicked in my heart to see Harper dismantel everything Canadians fought to get but are too indifferent to even look from their smart phones much less get invoved. My great grandparents and all their friends and kids came to Alberta to homestead and everything they taught me about nature and human decency is dying. I am fourth generation Albertan, and more important to me, fith generation Canadian and I did not give permisson to sell my homeland or destroy the sacred Native lands.

I suggest that  the OILSANDS

I suggest that  the OILSANDS REVENUES that goes to feed the canadian public and for social programs do not go to the AFN.

Canadians of non natives have been fitting the bill for every whim the Chiefs bellow for since they themselves can't handle their own problems. And since this IDIOT  who calls himself chief does not want any revenues which comes from the oilsands makes things even better for the rest of us. LESS MONEY COMING IN MEANS LESS MONEY GOING TO THE NATIVES.