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Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray while filming BBC doc
Published Sunday, October 20, 2019 8:22AM MDT Last Updated Sunday, October 20, 2019 4:32PM MDT
FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - The chief of a northern Alberta First Nation says he gave climate activist Greta Thunberg a message during a quietly arranged meeting in Fort McMurray on Friday night.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says he told the 16-year-old Swede that Europeans are major investors in the area's oilsands, and she needs to get people to lobby those investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.
Adam says the meeting in a Fort McMurray office was arranged earlier this week, and was kept secret in order to prevent pro-oilsands campaigners from disrupting it.
Thunberg was in Edmonton earlier Friday for a rally at the Alberta legislature that drew thousands of people, but also attracted a small counter-rally of trucks that drove past, blasting their horns.
Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement that has seen her speak plainly to world leaders and forums, chastising them to do something before it's too late to reverse catastrophic weather changes.
Adam says it was a privilege to meet with Thunberg, and says she mostly just listened to him talk about the history of First Nations in the area and their concerns about oilsands development.
“You have to go back to Europe and you have to tell the European investors, why are you investing in the oilsands if you want to promote green energy?” Adam said he told Thunberg.
“Tell them to invest in better technologies to enhance how to produce oil from the oilsands,” he added.
“That's what you call sustainable development.”
Thunberg also met with Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Archie Waquan for an interview that was filmed by a BBC documentary crew.
According to Melody Lepine, director of government and industry relations for the First Nation, she and Thunberg discussed the region's unique challenges in balancing industry and environmental concerns.
Lepine said they spent most of their together outside in a natural area south of Fort McMurray, adding that the impressive 16-year-old "really clearly gets it."
"It was in the boreal forest and in the area that wasn't really disturbed so that was really the intent, to talk about the importance of the boreal forest and really the beauty of this region and why it is important to many people that live here and that will continue to live here long after development is done."
While Lepine is unsure how large a role Mikisew Cree First Nation will have in the film, she hopes it helps people understand climate change science and impacts better.
"We would like to see government keep up with where our Indigenous peoples are going with environmental protection and I really think these types of documentaries help do that," Lepine said.
"We're asking for transition plans, stronger environmental protections and the more economic diversity so that people have a choice so they don't have to be forced into one economic sector."
Earlier in the week, United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney had said he hoped Thunberg would recognize efforts made by Alberta's oil and gas industry to reduce its emissions, but said he had no plans to meet with her.
Thunberg stayed away from any direct criticism of Alberta's oilsands while in Edmonton on Friday.
Adam said Thunberg has now left the Fort McMurray area.
“I don't know why the world is so scared of her. She stands about four feet tall and she's probably, I'm guessing about 110 pounds, that's about it,” Adam said, dismissing those who criticize Thunberg's views because she's young.
“We talk to our kids every day and sometimes our kids give us meaningful answers that we are looking for.”
Lepine echoed his sentiment: "She's just doing it for the good of all humanity and for our planet, so I don't understand (how) somebody who loves our Mother Earth and cares so much about dealing with an important issue could be hated by so many people."
A release date for the documentary has not been announced.
With a report by The Canadian Press first published Oct. 19, 2019