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Neil Young Speaks Out Against “Oil Sands” In CBC Radio Interview

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Jian Ghomeshi (left) interviews Neil Young at Toronto's Massey Hall. Image: CBC's Q with Jian Ghomeshi.
Jian Ghomeshi (left) interviews Neil Young at Toronto’s Massey Hall. Image: CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi.

Neil Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter who is internationally famous. He has been called “one of the most important figures in rock music.”

In 2009, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, which recognizes Canadians who have made major contributions to the lives of Canadians.

Young is an activist and many of his songs are political. (In this case, activist and political mean that he, often through his songs, speaks out on behalf of certain causes.)

In the past, Young has spoken out strongly against racism and against war, and protested on behalf of farmers and the environment.

Now, Young is doing a four-city tour of Canada to protest what he feels is massive damage to the environment being done in the oil sands* in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

This week, Neil Young was interviewed by Jian Ghomeshi, who hosts the radio talk show Q on CBC.

During that interview, Young spoke out strongly against the oil sands and accused the Canadian government of breaking a treaty with the First Nations people who live in Alberta.

Young wanted to see the oil sands project for himself, so he drove his electric car there to take a look. He said he was shocked by what he saw.

“It is the ugliest environmental disaster that I not only have ever seen but that I could comprehend,” Young told Ghomeshi.

“Fort McMurray puts out as much CO2 (carbon dioxide gas) in one day there as all the automobiles in Canada,” said Young. “As an environmentally concerned Canadian, I was shocked at what I saw.

“I’m from Canada, I’m Canadian. So I’m proud of Canada.

“I always felt that Canada was a different place, and where the values were different. And that we cherished the natural surrounding we were in. But my visit to Alberta changed a lot of that for me,” said Young.

Young criticized the Canadian federal government for misinforming people about the negative environmental effects of the oil sands.

Jian Ghomeshi asked Young whether he was “crossing a line” by using his music to speak out against political issues like the oil sands.

“Musicians should stay out of politics? Is that a great Canadian belief?” Young asked (sarcastically). “That your profession should be considered and weighed carefully when deciding whether you have freedom of speech? That just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Young said that although he sometimes uses music to make a political statement, he is first and foremost a musician.

“When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about music. Music flies around in my head, words fly around in my head, I can’t help it. That’s what I dedicate my life to because that’s my strongest tool of communication.”

Ghomeshi asked Young what he wants to happen regarding the oil sands and his musical tour, which is called the Honour the Treaties tour.

Young said he wants to shed light on the environmental and aboriginal issues and let people decide for themselves whether they agree with him. “It’s up to Canadians all across Canada to make up their own minds,” he said.

“(Canadians) have the God-given gift to think for themselves. All I’m saying is ‘this is what I’m seeing.’ I’ve been there, I’ve studied this. I couldn’t believe it so I got more into it.”

Ghomeshi pointed out that North Americans have let themselves be dependent on oil, so stopping a major oil production site like the oil sands would have a big effect on Canadians. “We have a cultural dependence on oil,” Ghomeshi said.

“We are capable of taking on the big challenges, Canada and the United States of America,” said Young.

*The “oil sands,” in this case, refers to a large area of Alberta in which oil is soaked into the clay and sand underground. In order to separate the oil from the sand, companies use a variety of methods, some of which are criticized for having a negative effect on the environment.

Related link
Below is a link to the website for CBC’s “Q” with Jian Ghomeshi, featuring an audio recording of the CBC interview with Neil Young (note that it contains, in one instance, the word “h-e-double-hockey-sticks” used as a swear). A video of the interview will be on CBC’s The National news program on Wednesday night.
Q exclusive: Neil Young says ‘Canada trading integrity for money’

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Neil Young rarely gives interviews. That is different from many celebrities who are eager to give interviews and be in the news or on TV. Why would a celebrity want, or not want, to give interviews? Why do you think Neil Young prefers not to give interviews?

Reading Prompt: Point of View
There are many points of view concerning the oil sands. Consider the differing and similar views of: Neil Young, The Athabasca Chippewa First Nations community in Alberta, Stephen Harper (Prime Minister of Canada), Jian Ghomeshi, oil companies, and Canadian citizens.

Junior
Identify the point of view presented in texts, ask questions to identify missing or possible alternative points of view, and suggest some possible alternative perspectives (OME, Reading: 1.9).

Intermediate
Identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (OME, Reading: 1.9).

Grammar Feature: Quotations
The TKN reporter quoted Neil Young this way:

“All I’m saying is ‘this is what I’m seeing.’ I’ve been there, I’ve studied this.”

What do double quotes ( ” ) tell the reader?
What do you think single quotes ( ‘ ) may mean?

Compare your answer to a friend’s and discuss your responses. Check your answers with your teacher or through an Internet search.