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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Oil Sands Issues Get Added to the Mix and Start Heating Up

As Alice said in her Wonderland “it is getting curiousier and curiousier” particularly as the continuing saga of the Alberta oil sands unfolds. We had dead ducks and now freaky fish are being found in the waters in the Fort Chipewyan area. The “Dirty Oil” label is sticking and gaining traction as the ENGO protesters are picking up the pace and pursuing this messaging with some serious persistence.

The recent secret visit to Fort McMurray by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will draw even more American media and special interest group attention to the oil sands. We can expect lots of buzz coming out of this trip, especially given the American cultural proclivity for celebrating celebrity.

The oil sands are now going to be in the geo-political cross hairs more than ever as a result for these guys paying us this recent visit. The oil sands are significant in so many ways like as an enormous energy resource, a gigantic investment opportunity, and a massive set of ecological issues. It even has to be considered as a potential terrorist target too given it strategic importance to North American continental energy supply and security.

We now have another chapter as many of the northern First Nations Chiefs from Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and the NWT got together this past weekend in Fort Chipewyan. They are drawing a line in the water by unanimously passing a “Keepers of the Water Declaration. The Declaration was “…affirming water is a sacred trust and a fundamental human right.” The First Nation leadership is committed to “taking all necessary steps in our power to protect our lands, sustain our communities and assert our rights.”

The First Nations Chiefs at the Keepers of the Water Conference agreed to launch a legal action to assert their rights, build unity between the First Nations Communities and work with other organizations that support their goals. This set of aspirations reminds me of an African Proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go as a group.”

Looks like northern First Nations through their Keepers of the Water Declaration have decided to take the longer road and to go together. That has to be a good thing. In fact former Premier of the Northwest Territories Steven Kakfwi told me his reaction to the Keepers of the Water Declaration saying “This is as good as it gets.”

I’m thinking the Keepers of the Water Declaration will be seen as an historic moment in Canadian history. Not as big a deal as the Last Spike or the Queen signing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms perhaps. I think it will definitely be in the next level of significant historic events in the maturation of Canada and First Nations relations as they continue to be clarified.