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Indigenous representatives head to UK Climate Action Camp to expose the tar sands

With the support of the Indigenous Environmental Network and Rainforest Action Network, 5 indigenous representatives from Canada’s First Nations are attending the UK Camp for Climate Action. They are bringing a message to UK about the connections between the devastation being caused by the tar sands and London’s Square Mile.

As described in a press release, ” Shell is heavily committed, and BP took a significant stake in 2007. Both companies are financially backed by pension funds from the UK. Meanwhile London’s investment banks, such as RBS and HSBC, have helped finance a wide range of Tar Sands projects. This has prompted First Nations from the region to begin forging partnerships with UK campaigners, to internationalise their campaign for a complete Tar Sands moratorium.”

Lionel Lepine, one of the visiting group, said: “Tar Sands is a global phenomenon. It is the largest industrial project in the world. It is also the dirtiest. Tar Sands produce three times as much CO2 per barrel as conventional oil. There’s enough under the ground to push us over the edge into runaway climate change. It should be everyone’s concern.”

As reported in the UK Guardian by Terry Macalister, “The tar sands are seen by many as a particularly dangerous project providing enough carbon to be released in total to tip the world into unstoppable climate change. Shell was the first major European oil company to invest in the Canadian-based operations but BP followed under its chief executive, Tony Hayward.

The oil companies both dispute the amount of pollution caused by tar sands and insist they must be exploited if the world is not going to run out of oil.

But George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said the so-called heavy oil schemes were violating treaty rights and putting the lives of locals at risk. He said: “We are seeing a terrifyingly high rate of cancer in Fort Chipewyan, where I live. We are convinced these cancers are linked to the tar sands development on our doorstep.””

Macalister further reports, “The Climate Camp concept started with a protest outside the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire and was followed up by similar protests at Heathrow – against the proposed third runway – and Kingsnorth in Kent, where E.ON wants to construct a new coal-fired power station. There was also a Climate Camp in April at Bishopsgate inside the City of London, which became linked with bad policing after a bystander died following a clash with a constable.”

George Poitras also has an op-ed featured in the UK Guardian explaining why he is at the climate camp, “My people are dying, and we believe British companies are responsible. My community, Fort Chipewyan in Alberta, Canada, is situated at the heart of the vast toxic moonscape that is the tar sands development. We live in a beautiful area, but unfortunately, we find ourselves upstream from the largest fossil fuel development on earth.