People From All Over The World Are Worried About Canada. But Do We Even Realize What's Happening?

Here's our chance to get it right and stand up for the local communities that are being destroyed ... again.

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Narrator: The Tar Sands Healing Walk. The indigenous communities comes together to pray, and to celebrate their cultures, under threat of extinction. They march for 13 kilometers around Syncrude, Canada's open-pit mines, so-called reclamation sites, worker villages, and tailings ponds.

Peter Deranger: My sacred land that's has been here for 30,000 years, is now a toxic wasteland where nothing grows, where there is no life, and they're talking about more expansion, and talking about economic development--ecological destruction, one of the most destructive project on earth.

Narrator: From far away, the tailings ponds reflect the sky like ordinary lakes. Upon closer inspection, they are seas of poison, leaking millions of liters a day into local waterways. The air reeks of diesel--marchers suffer from nausea, burning eyes, sore throat, and headache. Across the street, a tourist monument to the first giants of mining.

Peter Deranger: In a few years time, the people in Fort McKay, my people in Fort McMurray, they're going to be--they're dying right now. They're dying. You're burying them every month. They're going to be gone, and forgotten--wiped out. History--wiped out. That's what Syncrude is here for.

Narrator: This is the fifth and final Healing Walk. The police are impatient. They hurry the march along, and repeatedly threaten to arrest those who step off the highway shoulder. Despite it all, people's spirits are high. At a nearby campground, workshops are held to foster a movement against the tar sands. One group discusses the anti-pipeline movement, and another discusses lawsuits. The tar sands are probably illegal. The constitutional rights of First Nations to hunt and fish in their traditional territories have been obliterated by this industry. The camp celebrates a Supreme Court ruling which grants indigenous people more say over development on their lands. It means that existing tar sands lawsuits are much more likely to succeed. A keynote speaker, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, is famous for forcing his way into Canadian parliament with a group of angry chiefs.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak: I think what we have is a prime minister who has I guess decided to be willfully blind to the fact that every square inch of land on Turtle Island is occupied by indigenous nations of different dialects, different customs, different histories--and that's to his own downfall, I think, in the long run, with the fact of the Chilcotin decision coming out yesterday, as well as other efforts on the ground across the country, to raise the awareness that these are indigenous lands. He's up against a very resilient indigenous people, and I think he's starting to realize that now. It's been said that an unlawful law is no law at all, and we have a responsibility to stand up against tyranny, we have a responsibility to stand up against laws that are outside the constitution, or institutions that are breaking the rule of law, because we all aspire to live in harmony and in peace, under a constitution, under the nation state of Canada together--as indigenous nations as well--and we have to uphold the rule of law, and sometimes that might look like we're breaking it to get people back on track. Not to say that direct action or civil disobedience is breaking law, but just to say that sometimes we have got to put boots to the ground, and get things done.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Check out this write-up for a fascinating, in-depth follow-up to the video. You can find more info and stats related to the environmental effects of the tar sands at the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Jul 22, 2014

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