“British companies are killing us”: Indigenous campaigners join Climate Camp to launch anti-Tar Sands action in the UK

For Immediate Release

18th August 2009

”British companies are killing us”: Indigenous campaigners join Climate Camp to launch anti-Tar Sands action in the UK

For interviews and further information contact Jess Worth on
07946645726 or jessworth@riseup.net or Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Environmental Network, (001) 218… or monsterredlight@gmail.com.

Five indigenous representatives from Canada’s First Nations will be joining the London Climate Camp this month [1]. They are coming to team up with UK climate activists, to stop the Tar Sands development in Alberta, Canada [2].

As traditional sources of oil begin to run dry, the oil multinationals are scraping the bottom of the barrel and turning to sources that are significantly more polluting. The Tar Sands is the biggest of these, probably containing more oil than Saudi Arabia. Millions of barrels of oil a day are already being extracted in Alberta, creating lakes of toxic waste so huge that they are visible from space.

Lionel Lepine, one of the visiting group [3], said: “Tar Sands is a global phenomenon. It is the largest industrial project in the world. It is also the dirtiest. Tar Sands produce three times as much CO2 per barrel as conventional oil. There’s enough under the ground to push us over the edge into runaway climate change. It should be everyone’s concern.”

Although the Tar Sands are happening in Canada, they are being driven from London’s Square Mile. Shell is heavily committed, and BP took a significant stake in 2007. Both companies are financially backed by pension funds from the UK. Meanwhile London’s investment banks, such as RBS and HSBC, have helped finance a wide range of Tar Sands projects [4]. This has prompted First Nations from the region to begin forging partnerships with UK campaigners, to internationalise their campaign for a complete Tar Sands moratorium.

“British companies such as BP and RBS in partnership with dozens of other companies are driving this project, which is having such devastating effects on our environment and communities. It is destroying the ancient boreal forest, spreading open pit mining across our territories, contaminating our food and water with toxins, disrupting local wildlife and threatening our way of life. UK companies are complicit in the biggest environmental crime on the planet and yet very few people in Britain even know that it’s happening” said Eriel Tchekwie Deranger from Fort Chipewyan, the community at “ground zero” in terms of the negative impacts of Tar Sands on their lives.

The visit is being coordinated by Indigenous Environmental Network, in partnership with people from the Camp for Climate Action [5]. The group will spend a week at the London Climate Camp, which runs from
27th August to 2nd September [6]. They will run workshops and plan anti-Tar Sands actions with UK campaigners.

“The Tar Sands are violating our Aboriginal and Treaty rights in so many ways. We are seeing a terrifyingly high rate of cancer in Fort Chipewyan where I live. We are convinced that these cancers are linked to the Tar Sands development on our doorstep. It is shortening our lives. That’s why we no longer call it ‘dirty oil’ but ‘bloody oil’. The blood of Fort Chipewyan people is on these companies’ hands.” said George Poitras, a former chief of Mikisew Cree First Nation.


[1] The indigenous people will be at the Camp and available for interviews from Friday 28th August to Wednesday 2nd September. To arrange an interview, call Jess Worth on 07946645726.

[2] For more information about the Tar Sands, see the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Tar Sands campaign: http://www.ienearth.org/cits

[3] The indigenous delegation consists of:

George Poitras is a Mikisew Cree member and served as the Chief from June
1999 to June 2002. He is internationally recognized in his work highlighting the grave threat of Canada’s tar sands. As Chief, he initiated a successful, precedent-setting legal action against the Federal government for their lack of consultation with the Mikisew Cree on a proposed winter road that would traverse their traditional lands.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a Dene woman belonging to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation of Northern Alberta. Eriel is currently employed with the Rainforest Action Network as the Freedom From Oil Campaigner in Edmonton, Alberta targeting Tar Sands development and the banks that fund it. Eriel has dedicated herself to advocating for environmental justice for her traditional First Nations community in Fort Chipewyan.

Lionel Lepine is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and currently resides in the community of Fort Chipewyan. He is a nationally prominent anti-Tar Sands advocate and works closely with many groups ensuring that Indigenous issues are at the forefront in the global fight against the Canada’s Tar Sands.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation also known as Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba, Canada, is an activist for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. Recognized by Utne Magazine as one of the top 30 under-30 activists in the United States, Clayton is the Tar Sands campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. He works across Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states with grassroots indigenous communities to defend against the sprawling infrastructure that includes pipelines, refineries and extraction associated with the tar sands.

Heather Milton-Lightening is from the Pasqua First Nation, Saskatchewan-Canada. She has been organizing with Indigenous youth since 994 through the Grand Council (Student Council) of Children of Earth High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba-Canada. She has been a member of Native Youth Movement since 1995. She is on the board of the Ruckus Society, advisory council member of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3) and the Alberta, Canada based Tar Sands organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

[4] For example, RBS financed OptiCanada, a Canadian oil company involved in Tar Sands extraction in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

[5] IEN’s website is http://www.ienearth.org. The trip is being carried out in partnership with New Internationalist Magazine (www.newint.org), and Platform (www.platformlondon.org).

[6] See http://www.climatecamp.org.uk

“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008


~ by Cory Morningstar on August 26, 2009.

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