Aboriginal groups labelled “adversaries” by Canadian Government: leaked document exposes

Cross-Posted from the UK Tar Sands Network

Enbridge hearings and Enemies of the State

Since Obama gave Harper the cold shoulder last week on plans to send tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico via the Keystone XL Pipeline, all eyes have been on British Columbia. Public hearings are currently taking place on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which will decide if tar sands oil will be pumped all the way through the vulnerable ecosystem of North-West Canada, then shipped in massive tankers across some of the roughest waters, to China. This monster project has united indigenous communities, local residents and environmentalists in opposition, and caused Joe Oliver, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, to come out all guns blazing, accusing ‘foreign radicals’ of interfering in the hearings.

Yesterday, leaked government documents revealed that the Canadian government has declared First Nations, green groups and local and European media as ‘enemies of the state‘. Despite all this intimidation, First Nations communities are standing strong. 61 indigenous nations have signed onto the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the pipeline, and are voicing their concerns proud and clear at the hearings. Stay tuned for updates ontwitter and facebook!

Aboriginal groups labelled “adversaries” by federal government: document

Cross-Posted from APTN National News
Aboriginal groups are seen as “adversaries” in the public relations battle over the tar sands, an internal government document revealed.

The document also identified the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs as an ally in the Harper government’s quest to improve the image of Alberta’s controversial tar sands development.

Federal ministers on Thursday immediately tried to distance themselves from the document, titled Pan-European Oil-Sands Advocacy Strategy, and dated March 2011.

The document, obtained by the Climate Action Network Canada under the Access to Information Act, surfaced Thursday on the heels of a Crown-First Nations gathering which saw the Harper government and First Nations chiefs, through the Assembly of First Nations, agree to joint plan to begin discussing a host of issues that have defied resolution for years.

The gathering was hailed as ushering in a “new day” in the relationship between Canada and First Nations by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The document, which was contained in an email sent by Kumar Gupta, a diplomat based in London, outlined a strategy for the Canadian government to execute in order to counter the negative publicity tar sands development has garnered in Europe.

The strategy document also identified First Nations as “influencers” in the battle over the tar sands, along with provincial and federal governments, energy companies and associations. The strategy also aimed to increase understanding among European “stakeholders” of Canada’s and Alberta’s consultation with First Nations and that both governments were working to “address” health concerns linked to the tar sands, the document states.

The decision to put Aboriginal groups under a list of “adversaries,” while the federal Aboriginal Affairs department was placed under a list of “allies,” however, reveals the true colours of the Conservative government, said Clayton Thomas-Muller, with the Indigenous Environment Network.

“It’s just another example of how the federal government went into (the Crown-First Nations Gathering) in bad faith,” said Thomas-Muller. “This government continues to try and erode the collective bargaining rights First Nations have as first peoples of this land and continues to label us as stakeholders when, in fact, we are priority rights holders.”

Thomas-Muller said the document also shows the government is concerned about the growing “Indigenous rights movement,” which he said has increasing clout.

“We have a generation of young people that are coming up that are more educated than any generation since colonization,” he said. “We have (AFN National Chief) Shawn Atleo sitting there at the meeting and negotiating how we as First Nations can participate in an economy that will result in the destruction and desecration of our homeland. We need to come up with a new path.”

A spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs said the department had no comment because the file was in the hands of Natural Resources Canada.

An AFN spokesperson said the organization would “not be providing any comments on this topic.”

The National Energy Board, which is the independent body tasked with approving or rejecting energy projects, was also listed as an ally in the document.

Environment Minister Peter Kent told Postmedia Thursday that the government does not use the labels of “allies” or “adversaries.” Kent said Canada uses arguments based on “facts and science” to promote Alberta bitumen.

“I think that’s a gross mischaracterization of reality,” said Kent.

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