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

Port Alberni man dies in single-vehicle collision

Pickup truck with three occupants went off the road on first day of May long weekend

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens… Continue reading

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

Friends and family playing huge role in search for Vancouver Island man

Volunteers from the public join forces with SAR crews

Chilliwack Chiefs make history with first RBC Cup win

In front of a huge and noisy crowd, the Chiefs claimed their first-ever national junior A title.

UPDATED: Majority of flood evacuees in Kootenay-Boundary allowed to return home

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Most Read