Video: Neil Young condemns oil sands developments, comparing their effects to Hiroshima
One of the country's greatest singer-songwriters says Canada is "trading integrity for money" with its rampant exploitation of the Alberta tar sands.
Neil Young compared what's happening in the area to "Hiroshima" in terms of its devastation.
"The name Fort Mac stands for disease that these First Nations people are getting, the pollution, everything that's happening there," Young said at a news conference in Toronto today.
The Toronto-born musician also called the Conservative government "a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States".
"It's an embarrassment to many Canadians," Young declared.
He called the situation a "devastating environmental catastrophe", which is providing money to some people over the next few years. But he warned that the industry will wreak havoc on future generations.
"The amount of CO2 coming out of the tar-sands industrial sites is equal to every car in Canada every day," he added. "It's like two cars on the road for every one. That's what's happening there. That's not the way to end global warming."
Then he took a swipe at federal leaders' refusal to pay attention to science, calling the government "out of control".
He also accused Canada of breaking its promises with First Nations people.
"Believe me, these people are not going to sit back and let Canada, modern Canada, roll over them," Young said. "They're not saying it, but they're feeling it. And you can't do this. Canada can't just walk over everyone."
Young, the son of a former sports reporter, described how he visited Fort McMurray and spent time with First Nations people in the area.
He referred to studies indicating that aboriginal people living there had a cancer rate 30 percent higher than the norm. Young said that this could be attributed to the fossil-fuel industry.
He also mentioned driving around the tar sands in his electric car, "experiencing this unbelievable smell and toxicity in my throat".
"My eyes were burning," he related. "That started 25 miles away from the tar sands when I was in Fort Mac and got more intense."
His son, who has cerebral palsy, was wearing a mask to protect himself, Young added.
"A lot of people were working, hard-working people, who I respect," he said.
Young said he's ready to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hear what he has to say.
Organizers of the news conference left empty chairs on the stage for Conservative cabinet ministers, who didn't show up for the event.