Neil Young says he’s no authority on the social and environmental effects of Alberta's oil production. Nonetheless, he wants Canadians to listen to scientists and First Nations about continuing development of Alberta’s oilsands.
Young, who spent four formative years in Winnipeg during the early 1960s, brought his cross-country Honor The Treaties tour to the Centennial Concert Hall this afternoon, where he held the second in a series of four press conferences aimed at sparking a national dialogue about the oilsands. Young is also raising money for a legal battle waged by of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, a Dene community in northeastern Alberta, which opposed further oilsands development upstream.
A concert co-starring Diana Krall is slated for tonight. In the afternoon, Young addressed reporters and somewhat mediated a message he first issued in Toronto: oilsands development should be placed on hold and Canada must honour its treaty obligations.
"I’m a musician. My whole job here is to raise enough attention so you people would come and hear what’s going on," Young told reporters. "My job is to bring light to the situation through my celebrity. Aside from that, I’m really not nearly as well-qualified to speak as these other folks are."
Young appeared on stage with Athabasca chief Allan Adam, Athabasca band member Eriel Deranger, Mohawk activist Doreen Somers, TV personality and environmental activist David Suzuki and University of Alberta freshwater scientist David Schindler, a former Manitoban who co-founded the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.
While deferring to their opinions, Young said oilsands development should be frozen to preserve land for future generations and described after-the-fact environmental remediation efforts as insufficient.
He also expressed opposition to the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, stating the former won’t benefit anyone and the latter would merely bring more oil to China, which he called "probably the dirtiest place on the planet."
He also said he believes social media can help spark a wave of opposition to oil development that would be similar to the Arab Spring.