James Cameron lectures Canadians on oil

Wants Alberta to stop extracting oil to save local environment

TORONTO -- Hollywood director James Cameron on Wednesday told oil-rich Alberta to halt its controversial oilsands extraction to save the local environment and First Nation communities.

"We need to put the brakes on expansion and learn more about how to extract this resource in a safe manner and we must include the First Nations in these important policy decisions because right now they can't even trust the water they are drinking," the Canadian-born director said at a press conference Wednesday in Edmonton after a two-day fact-finding mission in the western Canadian province.

Cameron tried his best to avoid provoking his critics in Alberta like a Bob Geldof on Africa and globalization, or Al Gore on the global environment.

But much as he chose his words carefully, Cameron's criticism was like Las Vegas being told to close its casinos to help problem gamblers.

"Personally, I believe this is an incredible resource, and I certainly understand why everyone is stampeding toward it, with this desire to exploit it as rapidly as possible," Cameron told reporters about Alberta's oil riches.

But Cameron added the oilsands was a gift for the province and Canada that quickly could become a curse if not correctly managed.

"The scale and pace of tar sands development are creating problems because of many scientific unknowns," he said after meeting Alberta premier Ed Stelmach and being guided around the oil sands project in Fort McMurray by local oil industry representatives and First Nation leaders.

And without promising to bankroll their legal fight against the Alberta government over the oilsands development, Cameron said he would help the First Nation community in Fort Chipewyan oppose the environmental destruction of their northern Alberta lands.
 
The Alberta locals weren't impressed by their Hollywood visitor, and his comments on the vital oilsands development.
 
"Alberta doesn't kick thousands of aboriginal people out of their homelands to mine oilsands. Nor do environmental activists and even nuns get shot dead for opposing corporate interests and government policy," Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid said Wednesday after Cameron compared Alberta's oilsands to Brazil's destruction of tropical forests.

"So come on, James [Cameron]. You're a Canadian. You know what's fair and what's not. The Brazil thing is not," Braid added.
 
Calgary Sun columnist Ezra Levant pointed to the irony of Cameron, with his energy-intensive jet-setting lifestyle, lecturing Canadians about the environment.

"It is comforting to know that one of Americas leading industrialists is jetting in from Los Angeles, America's smoggiest city, to lecture Canada about the environment," Levant wrote.

But Alberta First Nation representatives welcomed Cameron as a much-needed ally in their fight against the oilsands.
 
"The Alberta government, [Canadian] prime minister Harper and the oil industry must respect the laws of this country which include the duty to consult First Nations at the earliest stage of any development that effects our First Nations lands," Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told reporters on Wednesday.
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