Photo courtesy of Greenpeace.

October 9, the Breaking Ground delegation met with Melina Laboucan Massimo, a long-time Indigenous and environmental activist. Since 2009 Melina has been working as a tar sands campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

Melina is a Lubicon Cree from Northern Alberta who knows the reality of the oil sands too well. Having grown up in the oil sands region, she witnessed first-hand the impacts of oil sands development on her Nation’s people, culture, and land. She now spends most of her days traveling inside Canada and around the world to share her family’s stories and realities with a larger audience.

“Since 1978, over 14 billion dollars have been taken out of our traditional territory. Yet my family still goes without running water,” Melina told the delegates. “The more than 2600 oil wells on Lubicon territory make it difficult to live a healthy, traditional and sustainable lifestyle.”

Melina showed aerial shots of the mines in and around the Lubicon territory, which are the sizes of cities. Almost 1400 square kilometers of leases have been granted for in situ oil sands development on Lubicon lands and almost 70 percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for future development. These developments have taken place without consent by the Lubicon people and in direct violations of their treaty and international human rights. In 2005, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Canada is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in regards to the treatment of the Lubicon people.

For the last three years, the Lubicon people have taken part in the annual “Healing Walk.” Every summer, First Nations and Metis elders and community members walk side by side for the healing of the land and their sacred waters.  This action aims to raise awareness about the impacts of oil sands development on people, land and water and to express continued opposition to the destruction.