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Tar sands are 'Canada's Mordor': Barlow

A group of approximately 200 people gathered outside the Canadian Embassy in Copenhagen this morning to protest the ongoing development of the Alberta tar sands. As Danish riot police looked on, the crowd demanded an end to international investment in the tar sands project, and denounced the project's harmful impact on native communities. One protester held up a Canadian flag splattered in black lettering calling out Canada for its "climate crime."

Canadian political activist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and the anti-corporate classic No Logo, joined the crowd for a brief speech. Klein highlighted the central role of the tar sands project in Canada's negotiating position in Copenhagen.

"Canadians are starting to change their behaviour," said Klein, speaking of growing trends towards recycling, energy-conserving home appliances and resource-conscious lifestyles. "But all of it is being undone by what is happening in the tar sands."

Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, also made an appearance. "We're here to protect what I call 'Canada's Mordor,'" Barlow said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Barlow claimed the tar sands development has already caused the deforestation of a swath of boreal forest the size of Greece, transforming the Albertan landscape into something resembling the barren home of the evil Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.

"The oily footprints of Canada's tar sands are all over the conference in Copenhagen," Barlow said. Seven days into the COP15 conference, Canada has already received four "Fossil of the Day" awards, and has recently been the subject of calls to have the country banned from the Commonwealth for its support of oil development.

Protesters "rolled out the red carpet" for Stephen Harper, laying out a large banner on the pavement decrying the tar sands. They also delivered a gift basket to Peter Lundy, the Canadian ambassador in Denmark, containing copies of the treaties that activists say are being violated by the tar sands project. Also in the basket was a copy of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty on carbon emissions established in 1997. Canada surpassed its carbon reduction targets by a wide margin, and withdrew from the treaty in 2008 to widespread criticism.

The peaceful assembly concluded with the crowd singing a rendition of "Blame Canada," theme song from the South Park movie.

David Ravensbergen is a Vancouver writer.

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