Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nelson trashes Canada in Iran

-- Raises spectre of oil blockade -- Feds say chief being 'used as a pawn'

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Two former Manitoba First Nation chiefs decried Canada's treatment of aboriginal Canadians on state-run TV in Iran on Monday.

News clips showed Dennis Pashe, a chief Ottawa kicked out of office over mistreatment of his people, saying Canada is intent on exterminating them.

Terry Nelson attacked Canada for soaring rates of unemployment, mouldy reserve houses, and the disappearance and slayings of 600 aboriginal women.

In a 45-minute telephone interview from Tehran following a round of media interviews Monday, Nelson said he only told the truth. As for Pashe, "He was the only one brave enough to come along."

In 1990, Nelson travelled to Saddam Hussein's Iraq at the height of sanctions against that country. He found common ground then, too.

What hasn't been widely reported is that Nelson is meeting with Iranian government officials to discuss oilsands in Alberta and the network of pipelines that feed the crude to the United States across the Prairies.

In an email to chiefs this weekend, Nelson told them his mission to leverage resource sharing from Ottawa and Washington and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) support will help.

"We, the indigenous people in the three Prairie provinces are currently the most powerful people in the world. We sit on the pipelines that deliver 2.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States...

"I'm in Tehran to ask Iran to open the doors to OPEC for the indigenous people of Canada."

On the phone, he added, "Any country that can influence the indigenous people has to realize what kind of leverage they have... I don't think everybody understanding that the chiefs won't sit back anymore and say, 'Take our oil.'"

A show of aboriginal chiefs making common ground with OPEC members over oil ownership would send a powerful message to Canadian and American governments over the folly of ignoring treaty rights, he said.

A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Monday Nelson is being duped. "We're disappointed that Mr. Nelson has allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the Iranian regime in yet another PR stunt to distract from their own record," spokesman Jason MacDonald said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 16, 2012 B3

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