Letters to the Editor

Discussion beats apathy


Re: Old man, take a look at your facts, Jan. 21 column.

Has Neil Young missed the mark?

The oilsands issue has many commentators.

For instance, Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist of GMO, is pessimistic of oilsands both environmentally and as a long-term investment, arguing “solar power is getting cheaper by the minute.”

For First Nations of northern Alberta, past events and present anecdotal evidence on health makes them cautious about development.

Attitudes about First Nations have not always been based on science; 124 years ago Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney claimed high mortality rates on reserves were due to the physical nature of natives.

In 1922, the Anti-Tuberculosis Commission of Saskatchewan stated that TB was hereditary for aboriginals.

Today, contaminants are largely invisible (PCB, pesticides, heavy metals) and the effects on the body are subtle and hard to detect.

In the 1950s, the water supply of the Ojibwe of Grassy Narrows in Ontario showed signs of pollution. Ottawa ignored the problem, so the Ojibwe invited Japanese scientists to investigate. They discovered methyl-mercury was being dumped into the river, causing ‘minamate disease,’ a motor and nervous disorder. An out-of-court settlement compensating the band was reached in 1985.

In regard to treaties, anthropologist Edward Hedican notes country food provides a significant proportion of food for natives in the north, but that development diminishes wildlife habitat and fish stocks.

Treaty 8 guarantees access to hunting, fishing, and gathering, but oil expansion in Alberta threatens caribou populations and water purity.

Neil Young does many benefit concerts – BP Gulf oil spill, Farm Aid and even once joined Randy Bachman in an anti-pulp mill protest in Duncan.

Young’s willingness to take a public stand ought to be encouraged as it promotes discussion, not apathy.

Bob Burgel, Surrey



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