Retired ecology professor David Schindler

Old man take a look at your facts

A false cancer scare is the most damaging and dishonest part of Neil Young and David Suzuki's attack on Alberta's oilsands

VICTORIA – Neil Young’s anti-oilsands concert tour was the perfect distillation of the American enviro-assault on its dependent northern neighbour that’s been going on for a decade or more.

After touring Fort McMurray in his electric car with actor-turned-protester Daryl Hannah, the 68-year-old Young covered all the big propaganda hits and added his own fantasy facts.

It looks like a war zone up there! Hiroshima! If it keeps going it will be like the Moon! There’s no reclamation! Tar sands oil is all going to China, and that’s why their air is so bad!

All of those statements are false.

And then Young dropped his own nuclear bomb, claiming cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan are 30 per cent higher than, well, somewhere else. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has cited a discredited study by former community doctor John O’Connor to press the same claim.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta reviewed O’Connor’s claims in 2009. It concluded that “Dr. O’Connor made a number of inaccurate or untruthful claims” about cancer patients, and then refused to provide patient information after his claims made international news.

The cancer claims were then debunked by a Royal Society of Canada expert panel in 2010.

Retired professor David Schindler toured with Young and continued to push the health scare, referring darkly to newer research showing increased mercury and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) contamination.

When you peel back the propaganda and journalistic hype, these studies mainly reveal that such toxins are on the rise, but are found in much higher concentrations around large cities where fuel is consumed.

This cancer scare is the most damaging and dishonest part of the selective attack on Alberta.  The oil industry, politicians and most of the media seem unwilling to examine it critically.

Climate scientist-turned-politician Andrew Weaver was at Young’s Toronto news conference. He says there were no questions for him, Adam or Young’s other validator, David Suzuki, who previously worked with Schindler on a slanted oilsands documentary for the CBC.

Weaver calculates that Young’s claim about greenhouse gas emissions is substantially correct, if you include emissions from the finished fuels. Weaver refused any comment on the cancer claims.

Young included the obligatory sneering comparison between Stephen Harper and George W. Bush, which is another sign he’s lived in California too long. He seemed unaware that the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau support continued oilsands development.

As for moonscapes, Young could have driven his famous electric Lincoln from his Redwood City mansion on a hill to nearby Bakersfield, to view the greasy expanses of closely packed pumpjacks reaching to the horizon, still expanding due to hydraulic fracturing.

Young could have visited North Dakota, where the second shale oil train explosion luckily didn’t kill anyone. It seems there will be no remake of Young’s classic Kent State lament dedicated to 47 Dead in Old Quebec. That’s American oil, so no protests.

Chief Adam was frank in an interview on CTV about using the “Honour the Treaties” tour to strengthen his legal position. Young’s concert tour put $75,000 in his fund to pay lawyers. Oil isn’t the only thing being extracted here.

By the end of the tour Sunday, Young and Adam conceded they weren’t trying to shut the Athabasca oilsands down, just start a dialogue.

Thanks to uncritical media coverage, there will no doubt be discussions at dinner tables and in classrooms all over the world about the terrible Alberta tar sands and the cancer they don’t actually cause.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

First council candidate is missing

RCMP asks that anyone with information contact them immediately

Junior A hockey coming to Sooke

Exhibition game helps the Rotary Club to help community youth

Life-Altering experience

Six weeks that served to change their view of the world

Buffy the audience slayer: St. Marie coming to Sidney

Powerful live shows a big part of veteran Canadian folk star’s success; she’s here Sept. 26-27

Victoria Shamrocks shoot for the WLA title on home floor

Senoir lacrosse team takes on Maple Ridge in Colwood Sunday at 6 p.m.

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has little expectations of a unified front from the leaders

Sooke’s Old-Fashioned Country Picnic set for Saturday

The free event combines music, kids activities, food and fun

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Orangeville Northmen take Minto Cup at Langley Events Centre

Swept best-of-five series 3-0 over Victoria Shamrocks

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

Most Read