‘You know what you should do,’ Desmond Tutu says of oilsands

South African Archbishop says he’s in Fort McMurray to unite people around a crucial issue


FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he has come to northern Alberta not as an expert on climate change, but hoping to bring people together on an issue that he says is crucial to the future of all creation.

“I don’t come as a know-all who is going to pontificate and tell you Canadians what you must do,” he told reporters Friday before opening a two-day conference on oilsands development and First Nations treaties in Fort McMurray.

“I think I can almost say, without fear of contradiction, that you do know what you should do.”

But he didn’t minimize his assessment of how serious a threat climate change poses. Effects are already being felt all over the world, he said, citing stories people have told him from Norway to Nigeria.

“We are sitting on a powder keg if we don’t do something urgently, quickly.”

Tutu suggested we are all members of one global family who should look out for each other.

“It is better working together than being at loggerheads, at daggers drawn,” he said. “It is far better — it is cheaper — for people to be friends than enemies.”

He pointed to his own experience fighting the apartheid regime in South Africa as an example of people can work out even the toughest problems.

“We could have had one awful conflagration,” he said. “It didn’t happen.”

The archbishop, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the fight against apartheid, has taken strong stands on climate change and against projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline. Tutu has signed a petition against the project. In an opinion column earlier this year in the British newspaper the Guardian, the 82-year-old called the Keystone proposal to move oilsands bitumen from Alberta to the U.S. appalling.

He has also called for boycotts of events sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, for health warnings on oil company ads and for divestment of oil industry investments held by universities and municipalities, similar to measures that were brought against South Africa’s old apartheid regime.

“It is effective,” he said, emphasizing the statement with a loud cry and throwing his hands in the air.

Tutu brought a religious bent to a debate often restricted to science and economics. “The Bible says God said to Adam, ‘Till it and keep it.’ Not ‘Till it and destroy it.”’

Tutu was to take an aerial tour of the massive oilsands development Friday afternoon, but heavy winds put that in doubt. There were no plans for him to meet with industry officials during his time in Fort McMurray.

Some in the oilsands capital seemed open to hearing what he had to say.

Syncrude employee Melvin Campbell said he feels Tutu’s opinion carries more weight than that of others who have been critical of the industry.

“He has a little bit more credibility than the actors and the players,” said Campbell. “Desmond Tutu has a lot of political experience and the public’s ear. I hope he uses it well.”

Brigitte Mbanga said whatever Tutu has to say is still only one man’s opinion.

“He is a more prominent person than the Hollywood celebrities that have come here,” she said. “His comments may be helpful to the government or the oilsands, but it’s like every other person’s comment.”

The conference is intended to discuss the need for renewal of treaty relationships in light of extensive resource development such as the oilsands.

It’s co-sponsored by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Toronto law firm Olthuis Kleer Townsend, in which former Ontario premier and one-time federal Liberal leader Bob Rae is a partner. Rae is scheduled to be one of the speakers. So are former Northwest Territories premier Stephen Kakfwi and former Syncrude Canada president James Carter.

Representatives from the Alberta and federal government are not expected to attend although they were invited, said conference spokeswoman Eriel Deranger.


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‘You know what you should do,’ Desmond Tutu says of oilsands

  1. “Tutu was to take an aerial tour of the massive oilsands development Friday afternoon, but heavy winds put that in doubt.”
    That’s interesting, but I think, it’s more like certain corporate interests did NOT want Tutu to see any more. ?

    • Scary corporate interests. Sure.

      Tours are offered to anyone who wants to see any part of the oilsands. Closed minds aren’t interested in touring though.

  2. I suspect that for Harper and Co. it’s another case of “those damn furriners” coming in and meddling in our tarbox.

  3. • “The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man’s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that’s the Biblical view.” – From column “Oil Good; Democrats bad” Ann Coulter

    There’s your ‘religious bent’

    • One person is not representative of anything.

      • Obviously you’re unaware of the huge evangelical Dominionist movement in the US.

        • I’m aware of your deliberate attempt to misrepresent a large group of people by quoting one inflammatory statement that no Xtians ascribes to.

          • What you’re not aware of is what Xtians believe. You didn’t even know who Tutu is.

  4. Tutu must gogo back to Africa!! We don’t need this communist telling us what to do about our oil sands!!!!!

    • He’s an Anglican archbishop.

      • He’s an Anglican archbishop? How can you tell?

        • Because he’s been world famous since his stand against apartheid?

          He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

          • Tutu should keep his religion out of our politics. His belief in some bearded sky god has no relevance to what type of development takes place at the oil sands.

        • LOL he’s not talking religion. He’s talking science.

          • Nonsense. Science tells him that tarsands oil is no more, no less damaging then other supplies of oil.

            And morally, tarsands oil work employs more First Nations people then and other industry in Canada.

        • So the world should undergo massive rapid climate change just so FN can get white work?

          What are you smoking today?

    • and Thankyou, Mr. Harper, for joining in on this conversation.

  5. I would be a lot more impressed if the Archbishop travelled to China and/or the US to try to convince them to shut down their filthy coal plants and replace it with the much cleaner oilsands product. That would be a real environmental win for us all!

    • Desmond Tutu was invited to speak at the conference in Fort McMurray. Maybe you could arrange speaking engagements for him in the US and China.

  6. For those of you posting here who feel so strongly about the oil sands I trust you have a will be trading in your cars for sneakers or a bicycle. And no more bus, train or plane rides.

    • In case you haven’t noticed the world is switching fuels.

      Fossil fuels are the past. Deal with it.

      • LOL Emily.

      • So emily….

        How fast does your solar powered car go?
        How many windmills do you use to heat your house?
        How much money have you saved by NOT eating anything grown outside of your immediate area?

        yeah…that’s what I thought.

    • The bottoms of sneakers and bike tires are made out of plastic products made from oil. You’ll all have to go barefoot and walk. No more posting on sites either because of course parts of your computer are made out of oil by-products.

  7. When it comes to expert advice on the oilsands, I look to Neil Young more then Desmond Tutu.


    • You don’t look to anyone but your wallet.

      • Like a true progressive, you are always looking to pick money out of someone else’s wallet Emily.

        • I pay more in taxes than you earn in a year, lambchop.

          • I sincerely doubt that Emily. But hey! You can make up anything and post it on the net so go crazy girl.

          • emily, let me fix that for you. You meant to say:

            “I take more taxes from you every year, so keep earning it for me lambchop.”

        • LOL I’m not worried. You doubt everything, including science. Still true though.

          • Emily,.

            You don’t believe in science. You’ve proven it repeatedly.

            You believe in propoganda.

            Your village called…..they want you back.

  8. Telling part:
    “It’s co-sponsored by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Toronto law firm Olthuis Kleer Townsend, in which former Ontario premier and one-time federal Liberal leader Bob Rae is a partner.”

    Which begs the question?

    Who is “sponsoring” the Athebasca Chipewyan First Nation, Olthuis Kleer, and Bob Rae?

    You can be sure, that great gobs of money are being spent by certain (middle east) interests to keep oilsands production and pipelines held up as long as possible. Let’s see if any “journalists” perform the due diligence of SUNTV in pointing out the money through front groups like TIDES, Environmental Defence, WWF, etc.

    That being said…Tutu is entitled to his opinion, but that is all it is.

  9. I really don’t care who this man is he’s welcome to speak out against the tar sands as it’s a global issue and not just Canadian and anyone can speak out for or against it.

    I do want to know however why his “political experience and the public’s ear” make him a more credible critic of the tar sands than does Neil Young who many vilified for speaking out and is Canadian?

    Has Canada become selective about who can say what and if so are we now a controlled society who’s given up our right to free speech while under harper’s dictatorship style of rule?

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