Indigenous Peoples of Canada and their allies from around the world are in Cancun at the COP-16 climate summit demanding real action to reduce fossil fuel pollution. Over twenty people with color-coded T-shirts that spelled out the words “Shut Down the Tar Sands” in both English and Spanish gathered in front of the Maya building to directly deliver their message to UNFCCC delegates. Participants included Indigenous community representatives from fossil fuel impacted community across Canada and the U.S., many carrying personal banners linking tar sands with the destruction of their territories.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree comes from a community impacted by tar sands. “We have seen the destruction of our lands happen right before our eyes. Our water is being contaminated and we are seeing droughts throughout the region. My family used to be able to drink from our watershed, and now within my lifetime we can no longer do so. Young and old people alike have developed respiratory illnesses as neighboring plants emit noxious gases into the air. First Nations and farming communities have reported health effects to the wildlife and livestock. The area is drastically changing – I fear for the future of my homeland.”
The tar sands are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Canada. Unless Canada changes track emissions from the tar sands industry are set to triple to over 120 millions tonnes. Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “Our communities demand real solutions to address the climate crisis and that means shutting down the tar sands and a moratorium on new fossil fuel development.”
Indigenous communities are not only being impacted in the tar sands region, but are feeling the effects of tar sands infrastructure spreading throughout North America such as the Keystone and pending Keystone XL pipelines. “Our traditional way of life has been devastated by oil refineries. There is already a web of pipelines under the ground, and now the Keystone has plowed through our territory bringing further spills,” explains Casey Camp-Horinek of the Oklahoma Ponca Nation. “No amount of money can replace the destruction of our land, water and air. The Keystone XL pipeline is not needed or wanted.”
Blog content from a press release posted by the Indigenous Environmental Network.