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Yellowknifer takes the lead in Copenhagen

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, December 12, 2009

NWT - More than 50 Canadian youth held a demonstration in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 9, calling for a halt to Alberta oil sands operations. At the forefront was Yellowknife's Daniel T'seleie, who led the charge as the voice of the movement.

NNSL photo/graphic

Daniel T'seleie, middle, speaks to media on Dec. 9 in Copenhagen, Denmark about the negative effect he, and at least 50 other demonstrators, say Alberta's oil sands are having on Canada's climate change policy. - photo courtesy of Daniel T'seleie

"No new leases, no new developments," T'seleie told international media, while the demonstrators whooped and cheered behind him, and moved "shut down tar sands" banners into the view of the many news cameras focusing on T'seleie.

"We need swift, coordinated action in all levels of government to shut down the tar sands. We need to find new jobs for the workers, we need to properly reclaim the land, and we need to do something about the hundreds of square kilometres of toxic tailings lakes."

Yellowknifer corresponded with T'seleie via e-mail on Dec. 10. He left for the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen on Dec. 3, and is returning to Canada on Dec. 21.

"The goal is to make people aware of the tar sands' influence on Canada's domestic climate change policy, and on their position at these negotiations," said T'seleie.

"The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada, and they are the reason Canada will not meet its pollution reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol."

T'seleie said that Canada's inaction on climate change violates Treaty 11, which guaranteed the rights of First Nations people in the NWT to hunt, trap, and fish, by threatening those very resources.

Though Canada signed onto the Kyoto Protocol under former prime minister Jean Chretien, any intention to meet the targets reducing Canada's greenhouse emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels whittled quickly away when the Conservatives took the parliamentary reins in January 2006.

Rona Ambrose, the Conservative minister of environment at the time, told parliament on May 11, 2006 that the targets would be impossible to meet unless government "pulls every truck and car off the street, shut down every train and ground every plane."

Instead, the federal government has stated its intention to go with a made-in-Canada climate change plan.

T'seleie also said the oil sands development is polluting the water of the Athabasca watershed with carcinogens. That sentiment was echoed by Yellowknife city council earlier this year when it passed a motion to encourage the NWT Association of Communities to lobby the territorial government to ask the Alberta government to stop further oil sands development until a new trans-boundary water agreement could be reached between the NWT and Alberta.

The motion was adopted by the NWT Association of Communities, but shot down when it reached the GNWT.

T'seleie said the Copenhagen climate change conference is a good venue to bring attention to the issue.

"Since Canada is so intent on blocking an international treaty that would curb global warming pollution, I've had to resort to reaching out to international audiences in an effort to shame our government to do something meaningful about climate change," said T'seleie.

The youth demonstration was organized by a group called Climate Action Network Canada, which timed it to coincide with the release of a report entitled "Tarnishing the Maple Leaf: How tar sands drive Canada's climate positions."

"I was more involved in preparing messaging and ensuring myself and the other spokespeople were ready for media interviews," said T'seleie.

Though Ecology North is a member of Climate Action Network Canada, and T'seleie works for Ecology North, he said he went to Copenhagen as a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation and not as an employee of Ecology North.

The delegation is made up of about 30 youths, and T'seleie is the only member from the NWT, as well as the only Dene member.

"We are here to represent Canadian youth at the negotiations. This involves bringing the messages of Canadian youth to Copenhagen, and reporting back to Canadian youth on the proceedings. We are also performing somewhat of a watchdog function on Canada's delegation," said T'seleie.

T'seleie said the delegation has the opportunity to meet daily with Michael Martin, Canada's lead negotiator in Copenhagen, to express their opinions.

He also said they are in the process of arranging meetings with Canada's premiers and environment ministers, and are trying to arrange for meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

The youth of today will inherit a marginalized and devastated world if we do not stop climate change today," said T'seleie.

"If we don't do everything in our power to raise awareness and influence the outcome we will not be able to look our grandchildren in the eyes."

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