Cree Leaders to UN: Fossil Fuel Pollution is a Human Rights Issue

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A presentation by the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations to the to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Intervention on Agenda Item 5: Human rights: dialogue with the Special Rapportuer on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and other special rapporteurs.

Thank you Madame chair,

Madam Chair, I would like to bring international attention to the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Dene of northeastern Alberta, Canada.

The Mikisew and Athabasca Dene are signatory to Treaty #8 and live in what has been characterized as the Canada’s tar sands. These tar sands are an industrial development that has been described as the largest industrial project in the world or “the most destructive project on Earth.”

The Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Dene who live directly in the path of twenty oil companies are experiencing environmental justice issues of observed high levels of leukemia, lymphomas, lupus and auto-immune disorders. In worse cases they have observed very rare cancers. Cancers so rare that you would find in only 1:100,000 and should not find in a community of 1,200 residents which they share.

On a domestic level within Canada, the Mikisew Cree have requested a moratorium on any new applications for tar sands development. A call for a moratorium in February 2007 on any new approvals of tar sands expansion applications in support of the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Dene has also been adopted by resolution by the Alberta Chiefs’ Summit comprising of all 43 Chiefs in the province. It has become increasingly apparent that the government of Alberta and the federal government of Canada have no regard for the indigenous rights of Fort Chipewyan! The Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Dene seek support from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for a call of a moratorium on any new approvals for tar sands applications.

The Mikisew Cree and the Athabasca Dene have the most at stake with continued approvals of tar sands projects It is because of this tar sands development that Canada is not meeting its ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes’ Kyoto Protocol commitments. Canada must immediately meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments and halt all subsidies and end all support of the tar sands.

We as a human race are in crisis, and the time to act is now! We no longer can afford to “study” how we might adapt, or what sort of mitigation measures “may” be implemented to address this crisis, we must act now, and the fact is that the only real solution to address climate change is to eliminate the world dependence on fossil fuels. Catastrophic climate change will not abide unsustainable greed. There is an urgent need to implement a just transition toward clean renewable energy and an energy efficient economy, especially within our Indigenous territories.

Continued energy colonization within Indigenous homelands must cease now if we are to survive as Indigenous Peoples, but more so as humanity. The decisions that are made today by world leaders will effect the rights of the unborn and this responsibility cannot be taken lightly.

These issues related to climate change and its link to the aggressive expansion of fossil fuel development must have another level of review and intervention that is beyond the national domestic level where our indigenous rights are being trampled. These issues are human rights issues. Therefore we make the following recommendation:

1) The Permanent Forum, through ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] call on the UN General Assembly to convene an emergency world session to fully explore, with all branches of the UN, and relevant treaty bodies, in particular UNCERD, the multiple impacts of climate change and its link to fossil fuel development and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, to include the topics of, but not limited to social, economic, cultural, environmental, health, food security, land and water rights, and treaty rights.