Neil Young’s “Honour the Treaties” Tour, Science, and the Tar Sands

Living sustainably in the 21st Century not only means making your own beer at home, but also doing something about the toxic brews others are creating out in the wider world.

One of my favourite musicians, Neil Young, has begun a new cross-Canada tour to promote awareness about the Tar Sands and Indigenous rights, called the ‘Honour the Treaties’ Tour. Neil discusses the tour and the ideas behind it in his own idiosyncratic way with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC radio here.

The point of the tour is to highlight broken treaties with the First Nations population of Canada and of Alberta in particular, the impacts of Tar Sands development on the First Nations population, and the environmental impact this industry has on us all in Canada and around the world. This is a reminder that, to paraphrase the findings of the Ipperwash inquiry into the shooting of Indigenous activist Dudley George in Ontario in 1995, “We are all treaty peoples.” Whether Indigenous or not, all Canadians are signatories to the treaties made between the crown and First Nations and all of us have a duty to uphold them.

Neil also raises the issue of science on the heals of an excellent documentary by the CBC program The Fifth Estate that documents the Canadian Government’s assault on science and knowledge in the interest of policy–specifically its single-minded quest to develop the Tar Sands and the broader resource economy in Canada no matter the social and environmental costs. The documentary is streaming here and is well worth a look. In reality, this assault on knowledge has been going on for years, and what The Fifth Estate has highlighted is just how easy it has been for the government to carry out these programs of destruction with the tacit approval of the population because most people just don’t know what is happening. This research, the accumulated knowledge of decades, belongs not to the Conservative Party of Canada, not to Stephen Harper, but to Canadians. Replacing it when these guys are gone will be a herculean task.

And by the way, Fort Mac really does smell–of sulfur and gasoline, like Neil says in the interview. A bit like the devil might smell.

On the other hand, the maple beer smells excellently, and tastes even better. Good news!

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