MediaWrench.org is pleased to present the next evening in the Occupy Talks series which took place at the Bloor Street United Church at 300 Bloor St. W in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the evening of the 20th of March, 2012. The church provided a setting that was both strangely focusing, while also excellently ironic, and the first order of business that evening was to do a very small “smudge” ceremony (to clear the air of bad spirits). Once this was finished, the smell of burnt sage and other traditional native medicines set the stage for an evening of insight.
“Tar sands extraction is one of the largest civil and environmental rights issues of this generation. The Harper regime, in alliance with the Alberta government and the largest oil companies in the world, have ignored First Nations rights, broken global agreements and decimated hundreds of kilometers of land in Northern Alberta. Pipelines are expanding the impact to Southern Ontario, where tar sands refining is already happening in Sarnia, aka Chemical Valley. As well, Canada has supported companies and governments employing brutal military regimes to facilitate mining and oil & gas projects abroad. We ask the question, how is this ‘ethical’?”
– Occupy Talks
The following embedded videos feature esteemed community organizers and intellectuals Eriel Deranger, Ron Plain, Isaac Asume Osuoka and Syed Hussan. The panel was moderated by Anna Zalik, and the talks open with a song requested by the organizers: Mr. Businessman, by Mama D.
Anna Zalik – Anna teaches in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and has researched oil industry strategy since 2000, with a focus on Nigeria, Mexico and Canada. She has been involved in activism on social justice issues since the 1980s and has published critiques of extractive industry activity in a range of sites.
Diem Lafortune (Mama D) – Lafortune does not take life lying down. She’s a fighter, a champion, an activist and a believer in guardian angels. She’s also a singer/songwriter whose varied life experience – from cab driver, to actor, photographer, near politician and constitutional appellate lawyer – has provided a rich source for her powerful music. Her website can be found here.
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger – Eriel is a Dene Indigenous activist and member of the Athbasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) of Northern Alberta, ground zero for tar sands extraction. Eriel is currently working for ACFN as a campaign and communication coordinator to challenge current and proposed projects by Shell Canada in Alberta’s Tar Sands. Shell is one of the largest operators in the tar sands and has contributed greatly to the erosion of Dene lands, culture and health. Eriel is a longtime Indigenous rights activist, fighting for environmental justice and has worked with many organizations including the International Indian Treaty Council, TakingItGlobal, Canadian Heritage, the United Nations, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Ruckus Society and IP3. She has extensive experience and a deep knowledge of International Indigenous rights, obtained through the International Training Centre for Indigenous People in Illuslisat, Greenland as well as through her work as a researcher for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Eriel is currently working with many allies to create awareness about the catastrophic climate and human rights impacts of the tar sands and demands full recognition of Indigenous rights from all levels of government and industry operating in Indigenous territories.
Ron Plain – “I am not an environmentalist, I am Aanishinaabe. My reverence for Mother Earth is not a conscious decision, rather it is a genetic predetermination.” Currently, Ron is campaigning to raise awareness about tar sands refining in his community, Aamjiwnaang, located near Sarnia, Ontario, which has been termed the most polluted place on earth by the National Geographic Society. Ron has been an activist for many years, his campaigns began with human rights and discrimination protests in the late 70’s and early 80’s, spanning Turtle Island from Burnt Church to Portland, Oregon. Ron has established himself as a leader in social justice movements with a focus on Aboriginal inherent and treaty rights as they pertain to the holistic views of our environment. Ron has been featured in 11 documentaries, numerous print media, Men’s Health, National Geographic and Chatelaine and network television, CNN, MSNBC and APTN to name a few for his work and his community, Aamjiwnaang.
Isaac Asume Osuoka – Asume is currently enrolled at York University in the doctoral Faculty of Environmental Studies Program. Asume has worked for over a decade to support communities in the Nigeria and other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region organizing programs that encourage change in policy and practice of oil corporations, governments and international finance institutions. He had served as Coordinator of Oilwatch Africa (1997-2006), Directror of Social Action, and also coordinator of the Gulf of Guinea Citizens Network (GGCN). Asume has participated in several international conferences on environment, energy and mining and has been a panellist at the United Nations. He has also represented communities in committees set up by the Nigerian Presidency to address the crisis in the Niger delta.
Syed Hussan – Syed is a writer and activist based in Toronto. Hussan is part of migrant justice, environmental justice, anti-imperialist and Indigenous sovereignty movements. His writings regularly appear in alternative media outlets. Hussan has worked to highlight the links between tar sands extraction and the US military-industrial complex.
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