Neil Young calls Fort McMurray oilsands 'a wasteland'

Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young had some harsh words for Alberta's oilsands, saying Fort McMurray 'looks like Hiroshima.'

'Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland'

Neil Young, seen performing in Oslo, Norway, on Aug. 7, has compared the oilsands in Fort McMurray to 'a wasteland'. (Fredrik Varfjell/Associated Press)

Canadian rocker Neil Young had some harsh words for the oilsands in Fort McMurray, Alta., during an event in Washington, D.C.

"Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland," said Young, 67, during a National Farmers Union conference.

"The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuels all over — the fumes everywhere — you can smell it when you get to town," he said.

"People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this. Their food supply is wasted, their treaties are no good. They have the right to live on the land, like they always did, but there’s no land left that they can live on. All the animals are dying."

Young's comments are not sitting well with Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake.

"They are so extreme that they may very well be discounted by people who genuinely care about the state of the environment," Blake said.

"The community's reaction is inevitably not happy, probably outraged, because it's such a gross misrepresentation," she added.

Chris Byrne, a DJ at Fort McMurray radio station Rock 97.9, said they were starting a "No Neil" day and promoting the #notawasteland hashtag on Twitter. 

"We're going to ask our listeners, 'We're not going to play Neil Young all day today, should we make this a permanent thing?' If he doesn't like us, then we may not like him."

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday that he was a fan of Young's music.

"But on this matter we disagree, because Keystone XL will displace heavy oil from Venezuela, which has the same or higher greenhouse gas emissions, with a stable and secure source of Canadian oil," the minister said a short statement issued through from his office via email.

Young is a noted environmental activist in addition to his long and storied music career. He talked on Monday about his Lincvolt project, a hybrid-engine modification of a 1959 Lincoln. In 1985 he founded Farm Aid, a benefit concert series to raise money for family farmers in the U.S.

The Keystone XL pipeline is being promoted in Washington by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a means to get bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to approve the project, which faces opposition from environmentalists and communities along the pipeline route.

With files from The Canadian Press