(Chief Allan Adam in Vancouver. Photo: Brandi Morin)
APTN National News
VANCOUVER — The Chief whose community has long represented the epi-center of impacts from Alberta’s oil industry is in Vancouver preparing to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers later this week.
While Allan Adam said he wasn’t invited to participate in a meeting Wednesday with Trudeau and invited Indigenous leaders to talk about climate change, the outspoken Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta, located downstream from the tar sands, flew into Vancouver Monday anyway.
He said he will be demanding a seat at the table with the leaders of the country on Thursday.
“The Prime Minister is going to hear our (Indigenous) voice,” said Adam. “And the premiers are going to hear our voices and the world’s going to hear our voices.”
The Trudeau government pledged to meet with Canada’s premiers within 90 days of the United Nations COP21 environmental gathering in Paris last December where a world treaty was established to combat climate change.
Trudeau will meet with Indigenous leaders a day before a First Ministers gathering where he’ll be discussing ways to meet international targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is the biggest issue facing First Nations and all of Canada, said Adam. And it’s an urgent issue that time is running out on and he’s not about to take a back seat on national talks to address it.
“Right now I could honestly say that this meeting is going to be enormous when it comes to First Nations and he’s (Trudeau’s) got a full plate – not only stemming from climate change but other issues. But when you get down to the climate change issue, nobody can run from it. If we don’t make change now, well then, maybe our grandchildren or his (Trudeau’s) children won’t be able to enjoy the luxuries of the land that I’ve seen,” said Adam.
It’s time for Canada’s leaders to put differences aside and take action to find solutions before it’s too late, he added.
“So my question is ‘what are we going to do about it?’ Do we say enough is enough now and no more (oil) development of this magnitude until we get to grips and change our way of doing business here? Right now nobody can capture or calculate what a feasible amount of development is and what is not. Until that is being answered, well then we are continuing to add to the problem which we know is already happening.”
Adam believes ancient prophecies that foretold of Indigenous people rising up to help save the earth are coming to pass. Despite some becoming dulled to their spiritual connection to the land due to residential school and colonialism, he believes a reawakening is unfolding.
“We as First Nations people have always had that ability to sense things and when we sense things we go with our senses…Right now Mother Earth is telling us, she’s giving us signs that there’s something wrong. We have to speak up, we have no choice. We have a voice that’s just as loud as anybody else.”
He points the finger at fossil fuels as being a main contributor to climate change, but he doesn’t think the world is ready to live without petro products.
“The reality is we’re going to need it (oil) regardless. But we could reduce the use of petro products in order to subsidize and sustain to get off the grid and get back into the real world of reality. That’s the only way I see how things are going to change around here.”
Adam said he will push the government to create a National Energy Plan that coincides with a National Water Strategy Plan, because development and protecting the environment go hand in hand.
“I think they should have a moratorium on major developments across the government and First Nations should be at that table.”
At this stage Adam is skeptical of the government’s pledge to repair the broken relationships with First Nations because he’s unsure of the Trudeau’s true intentions.
“Is he building a nation to nation relationship to get the green light to safe passage to our traditional territories to obtain the resources from our traditional territories? Or is he being sincere? We don’t know…time will tell.”