Ryan Kelpin / Flickr

Canadian music icon, Neil Young ended his weeklong Honour of the Treaties tour in Calgary  this past Sunday January 19 raising $300 000 for the Athabasca Chipewayan, and garnering immense media attention leading the discussion on the environment, Harper’s leadership and First Nations’ rights.

The tour, which began at Toronto’s Massey Hall on January 5 traveled through the country in support of First Nations who are affected by grave environmental impacts from the tar-sands in Alberta.

Surpassing his initial estimation of raising $75 000, Young will donate $300 000 towards the Athabasca Chipewyan, who are facing increased health and cancer rates amongst their communities due to oil sand pollution.

The community recently filled out a legal challenge against the multi-billion dollar expansion of Royal Dutch Shell’s Jackpine oil sands mine. A joint review panel and the federal cabinet, who did not consult the First Nations group, approved the expansion.

“[The] community of Fort Chipewyan has, since the oil sands industry moved in upstream, seen wildlife vanish, fish rendered inedible and cancer rates skyrocket to 30 per cent above the general population,” stated Chief Allan Adam from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Young expressed his concerns about Stephen Harper’s leadership in his music. He addressed it in his song “Pocahontas”:


Maybe Stephen Harper / Will be there by the fire /

Talking about Ottawa / And the people there for hire/

Stephen Harper, broken treaties and me/

Stephen Harper, Pocahontas and me.

A large factor for Canada’s lack of environmental innovation or collaboration with First Nations is the lack of direct action by Stephen Harper, whom Young says, “is a government that’s just completely out of control. Money is number one and integrity isn’t even on the map.”

Though his tour was a marvel, some of Young’s strong statements were controversial such as comparing Harper to Bush, “ The current leadership in Canada, is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States. Its lagging behind on the world stage and it’s an embarrassment to Canadians. So, as a Canadian, I felt like I had a chance to do something by bringing this together.”

He also compared the oil sands to the atomic bombing on Hiroshima in 1945, which received backlash and dozens of tweets refuting Young’s comments.


However, Young is coming from a tradition where music was used as protest. Finally a powerful Canadian voice is being heard. He is acting as a means of motivation and inspiration for a nation that is often described as ‘neutral’ or ‘passive’.


Speaking about the tour he said, "It's a win for us, because we're all talking about it. No matter how you feel, there's a discussion going on at the breakfast table. That's big. That's real. That's Canada."

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