Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water, water, everywhere?|Start Petition

It's raining today in Ottawa. It's a reminder of how lucky we are here in Canada, where lakes are said to outnumber people and where up to 20% of the world's fresh water reserves remain.

Today, bloggers all over the world are speaking out about access to fresh water for Blog Action Day 2010.

You'll see stories about all the things we need to do to guarantee fresh water to people in the third world and poverty and conflict zones. But all far away from home, right?


For the past several months, we have been working with Amnesty International Canada on strategies to rally public support for the Lubicon Cree, a band of indigenous people who are living without land rights, stewardship of their traditional resources, or even drinkable water. In Canada.

You often hear about human rights horrors committed in the name of cheap oil. But once again, these stories tend to happen far away. This, however, is happening in Alberta.

This is a preview. You can watch the 20-minute documentary here.

The Lubicon, you see, have the misfortune of having their ancestral lands sitting on top of Canada's oil sands — a massive, if "dirty", reserve of petroleum.

Says Amnesty:

"More than 2,600 oil and gas wells have been drilled on Lubicon Cree land in northern Alberta, Canada. This intensive development has taken place against the wishes of the Lubicon people and has led to tragic consequences for their society. Even more destructive forms of development – including oil sands extraction – are planned for the future.

International human rights bodies have long been critical of the poverty, widespread ill-health and culture loss that has resulted from the near total destruction of the Lubicon economy and way of life.."

And it's not just Amnesty who have given this issue, and Canada's human rights record, world attention on this issue. In 1990, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Canada had failed to protect the Lubicon Cree's rights by allowing the development of logging, oil and gas on the community's traditional hunting and trapping lands. (not that Canada is showing the UN much respect these days...)

So why don't the Lubicon just move, you might ask? Would you leave your homeland to someone who was planning to rip it apart?

The Lubicon situation is further complicated by the fact that they never signed a treaty with the British Crown. The sad truth is that when Canadian government commissioners negotiated Treaty 8 with other northern Alberta "Indians" in 1899 they travelled down the the Athabasca and Peace rivers and missed the "isolated community" who were not on the route.

In the many years since, there have been some federal government attempts to reconcile this mistake, but no mutually satisfactory deal has been reached. In the meantime, the Province of Alberta, which manages its own oil and gas development, continues to grant licences to global oil companies to exploit these "Crown Lands".

And how does this all relate back to Blog Action Day? It's something in the water.

In 1992, Lubicon Cree Rose Ominayak read this statement to the Alberta Commission of Review:

"Our children are sick from drinking water that oil has spilled in. They are sick from breathing the poisoned and polluted air the pulp mill has made. We are sick from eating animals, animals that are sick from disease from poisoned plants and water. Our children have nothing–they can’t breathe–even that has been taken. Their culture, the bush life, has been destroyed by development. When we were young we lived in the bush–it was a good life. Now, we have no traplines, nothing to hunt. There are no jobs, no money to live a decent life. We see ourselves, our men and our children falling into despair, hopelessness, low self-esteem and drinking. Families are broken like never before. Drinking and violence rise as our spirits fall."

So what can you do about this injustice? First of all, you need to get informed. Visit Amnesty's Justice for the Lubicon Cree site, or join the Facebook Page Speak up for the rights of the Lubicon Cree. Then, whether you are Canadian or not, you can take action by making your voice heard.

For their — and for all of our — futures.

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