Achuar leaders from the Peruvian Amazon who are protesting oil exploration in their territory have won the support of Canadian non-governmental organizations and political parties, including the Green Party.
“The most important thing is the allies we have found,” said Lucas Irar, one of three Achuar leaders who have been in Canada since April 21, seeking support for their protest against Talisman Energy.
On May 1 the leaders addressed Talisman’s annual shareholder meeting and met with executives of the company, which operates on a tributary of the Pastaza River in Achuar territory in northern Peru. They called on the company to “respect the dignity of the Achuar,” as Irar put it.
The leaders also met with seven members of Parliament and the staff representatives of three other members, according to Gregor MacLennan of Amazon Watch, who is accompanying the group through Canada.
“They listened with great concern and expressed interest to support the Achuar in some way,” MacLennan said.
The Green Party of Canada called on Talisman Energy to withdraw from Achuar territory in Peru.
“The Achuar are crying out for help from Canada to protect their watershed from contamination,” Elizabeth May, Green Party leader and parliamentary representative for Saanich-Gulf Islands, said in a statement issued on April 30.
Before the shareholder meeting the Achuar leaders and representatives of the non-profit organization Amazon Watch visited the communities of Anzac and Fort MacKay to see the impact of tar sands mining on Dene and Cree people.
“Life is sad there,” Irar said. “There is no future for indigenous people living around that area.”
Comparing the Achuar situation with that of Canadian First Nations in the tar sands zone, he said, “Our territories cannot be under the dominion of corporations.”
Talisman has been exploring for oil in the Morona River watershed in northern Peru since 2004. The company’s concession, Block 64, overlaps much of the Achuar territory, including communities along other watersheds that are tributaries of the Pastaza River.
Achuar communities are divided about the company’s operations, with several communities in the immediate area of the drilling site supporting the company, while villages in other watersheds are opposed.
Talisman spokeswoman Phoebe Buckland said the company’s policy is to “engage early and in ongoing dialogue with communities in the area of impact” of its operations. “We feel we do have consent from the communities where we’re operating, and we’re continuing to engage with them,” she said.
There has never been a consultation of all the Achuar in Block 64, Irar said. In an internal consultation held in Achuar communities along neighboring watersheds, the majority of the residents opposed petroleum operations.
Irar said the Achuar leaders invited Talisman executives to an assembly scheduled for May 28 in Peru to clarify which communities are within Block 64 and should be consulted about operations. Buckland said the company expects to decide by early 2013 whether to move from exploration to production.