Giant artwork depicting the Canadian tar sands and the devastation being caused to ecosystems, species and First Nations communities launched by street felt-artist Lucy Sparrow outside Canada House in Trafalgar Square
Street felt-artist Lucy Sparrow today unrolled an ambitious artwork at the annual Canada Europe Energy Summit outside Canada House in Trafalgar Square, as Canadian minister Joe Oliver met with the UK government, the CEO of BP, Bob Dudley, and other major players in the tar sands industry to discuss undermining EU climate legislation, the Fuel Quality Directive, to open up global markets to Canada’s highly-polluting fossil fuels.
“It is horrific to see how ecosystems, communities and many species of animals are being destroyed in a last push to extract Canadian tar sands,” said Sparrow. “I wanted to make sure that as decision-makers met today to undermine climate legislation in the EU, to push forward with this brutal form of extracting energy, that they could not escape the image of the horror and devastation that their reckless decisions are causing.”
Canadian Minister Joe Oliver last week vowed a renewed attack on the Fuel Quality Directive by commissioning a report which aimed to undermine efforts in the EU to reduce emissions from transport fuels. Pembina Institute released this rebuttal, showing that the report does not actually substantiate the claims Oliver made.
“Instead of lobbying against climate policy in the EU, we’d prefer to see Minister Joe Oliver advocating for real reductions at home where communities and ecosystems are being devastated by the felt impacts of Canada’s reckless extraction,” said Keith Stewart from Greenpeace Canada. “No amount of lobbying visits, reports and advertising campaigns can narrow the gap between bitumen and conventional crudes — only stronger environmental performance can do that.”
The giant felt work blocked three entrances of Canada House as ministers and industry representatives from Shell, Enbridge and others arrived. It depicted in graphic detail the devastating impacts that the Canadian tar sands extraction is having on ecosystems in Canada that communities rely on. “As the communities downstream from the Alberta tar sands we are seeing the felt impacts of the tar sands daily. We are seeing elevated levels of cancer and auto-immune diseases in our communities and our water is no longer safe to drink,” said Jesse Cardinal from the Keepers of the Athabasca. “With more and more of these ecosystems being decimated and water systems being polluted, animals and fish that the community rely on are presenting with tumours and being pushed to extinction. Our future as a people is hanging in the balance.”
Last year the Idle No More movement swelled up in Canada in response to Bill C-45. The controversial legislation further eroded the rights of Indigenous communities to seek consultation on extraction projects on traditional territories and to monitor the impacts of projects on waterways. “Over 19,000 permits to date have been granted to every major oil company in the world within the traditional hunting territory of the Beaver Lake Cree, without their consent,” said Crystal Lameman, member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. “First Nations’ rights – enshrined as Aboriginal rights in the Constitution– are arguably some of the most important emerging rights on the Canadian legal landscape and certainly the most powerful environmental rights in the country. Thus, when these mega projects are destroying the First Nations’ rights to hunt, trap, and fish which are in direct violation of our Constitutional rights – the highest law in Canada – then there is grounds to challenge.”
The Canadian government has failed to respond to the on-the-ground impacts of tar sands extraction, instead seeking to engage in a massive PR blitz in a desperate attempt to cover up the real costs of extracting Canada’s tar sands, and pushing forward with securing foreign markets for tar sands. With the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline nearly in place, tar sands may be entering the EU in as early as 2014.
“The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are also currently launching litigation against Shell for failure to meet past agreements for projects and are seeking to put expansion on hold despite Canada’s ambitions to become an energy superpower. The Canadian government is failing to uphold its agreements to its Indigenous People in Canada, and working purely in the interests of corporations such as Shell,” said Eriel Deranger, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “We urge the EU to continue to push forward with regulations that will support curbing an industry in a country which has no adequate regulation of its climate emissions, and fails to recognise or respond to the felt impacts of the tar sands at home on its First Peoples.”