First Nations leaders respond to Redford and Kent's desperate American Keystone XL lobbying tour
"Alberta's last ditch effort to drum up support for the tar sands in the US really shows how damaged their brand has become," said Ben Powless, a Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario and co-founder of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.
"Selling oil to America is normally as easy as selling water to fish, but even America is becoming hesitant to accept this dirty, destructive fuel."
Powless himself has made trips to the U.S., only to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, joining thousands of protesters at 350.org's giant protest outside of the White House in 2011.
In his view, Keystone XL isn't really about the Canada-US relationship: if not the U.S., Canada would be just as happy to build a bigger pipeline to Asia, where the oil would sell for higher prices, but the Enbridge Northern Gateway controversy proves how difficult it has become for oil pipelines to pass.
"All these discussions (around pipelines) take place without acknowledging the extreme impacts on Indigenous communities in the tar sands sacrifice zone, who have exactly zero input on their own future," he said.
Health and land over jobs
A big part of Redford and Kent's problem is that approval of the Keystone XL will result in rapid increase of oil sands development and some of the people most directly affected -- Indigenous peoples living near the oil sands and along pipeline route. Roughly 23,000 Aboriginal people live in the oil sands areas, with 1700 employed in the industry as of 2010.
But while some rely on the industry for high-paying jobs, many First Nations in Alberta argue that the economic benefits will be vastly outweighed by the destruction it will bring to their environment and culture.
Eriel Deranger, a communication coordinator of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, has family members who are living and working in Fort McMurray, at the epicentre of Alberta's oil sands development.
As a mother of two, she worries what a pipeline like Keystone XL could mean for the next generation.
As for Redford's lobbying, Deranger feels the Premier's U.S. tour is proof that the government is "fully in support of industry rather than people and the province."
An "affront" to communities
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, an anti-oilsands campaigner for Greenpeace and member of the Lubicon Cree, said Alberta's Premier Redford would leave behind a "legacy of destruction" if she succeeded in convincing the U.S. to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
"A lot of communities are stuck between a rock and a hard place...We don't see solutions, we don't see alternatives," she said.
And the longer their concerns go unaddressed by federal and provincial leaders, the more forceful their opposition will be as President Obama heads into his decision.