|Alberta Tar Oil Sands|
It Don't Look Good To Me
It Looks So Bad
Here is some bad news that will not surprise you. A report entitled, "Environmental and Human Health Implications of the Athabasca Oil Sands for the Mikisew Cree First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Northern Alberta," has found wild caught foods in northern Alberta have higher than normal levels of pollutants associated with oil sands production. As a result, the report notes that indigenous people are shifting away from their traditional diet over fears of contamination. According to the Globe and Mail the study finds,
...contaminants in traditional foods such as muskrat and moose, and that aboriginal community members feel less healthy than they did a generation ago...
...this development, as well as upstream hydro projects, compromises the integrity of the environment and wildlife, which, in turn, adversely affects human health and well-being...
Said Steve Courtoreille, chief of the Mikisew Cree Nation.
This report confirms what we have always suspected about the association between environmental contaminants from [tar sands] production upstream and cancer and other serious illness in our community.
It's time the government does something. The reality is our people are dying.
Unfortunately, does anyone really expect the government is going to do anything...or really gives a damn.
Chief Allan Adam, ACFN Chief commented more to the point, "One thing most striking… is that both province and federal governments refuse to do anything about [the high rates of cancer]. Even though the pressure is escalating"
On one hand, industry, notably the Oil Sands, cause a decline in the health of the environment and ultimately of community members. On the other hand, the existing health care infrastructure is unable to address these declines in human health. The communities are caught in the middle, and the impacts are clear and worrisome.
"There's something unique that is happening in Fort Chipewyan. It's a situation that is alarming and demands attention.
Indian Country Today writes on its webpage:
Among other health problems First Nations people in the region suffer are miscarriages, lupus and skin abscesses, which they attribute to the degradation of the traditional food they hunt and harvest. Beyond their health, "local traditional economies like fishing and fur trading have been decimated by industrial pollution and widespread habitat destruction, leaving many residents with no other option but to seek employment in the local oil sands mines. Today, the indigenous bands in northern Alberta are no longer able to safely sustain themselves off the land that has nurtured their lives for centuries," states borealcollective.com, a dedicated group of photojournalists who are committed to the documentation of injustice and inequities that exist environmentally, socially, culturally and politically in Canada and abroad.
The First Nation people of the region are not surprised by any of this. They have long suspected what is happening. For years, residents in Fort Chipewyan have asked government to look for potential links between industrial development and health issues to no avail. Updated statistics released in March by the Alberta Cancer Board confirmed clusters of rare bile duct cancer and cervical cancer in the remote community 300 kilometers north of Fort McMurray.
Jonathan Bruno, an ACFN member who does water quality monitoring for the community quoted at Climate Progress says:
Every time we complain about pollution and sickness to the government, they always come back and say its natural.But our elders and our land users — people who have lived off this land their whole life — they say it’s never been like this their whole lives. And we trust that.
We don’t feel safe unless all our food is tested. Fish, plants, big game — everything that we consume as First Nations, we’re going to sample.
More from Bruno and Climate Progress,
For Bruno, the loss of culture troubles him to the core. He remembers teaching his young son how to trap, hunt, and live off the land and then, the moment he was told there were limits, that he couldn’t eat fish without risking his health.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For my son … He ate that year-round in our household, and for him to… for these professors and these universities to tell him there’s a limit on it…” he trailed off.
“I still eat it,” he continued. “I won’t put a limit on it, because that’s the way I was brought up. I’m 30 years old, and I ate that my whole life. So for somebody to tell me to quit eating it … I can’t just quit. If I get sick, I get sick. But that’s the choice I make.”
Of course this isn't all the bad news.
Canadian government researchers earlier discovered that oil-sands operations have puffed out mercury over 4.7 million acres of northeast Alberta, boosting levels to as much as 16 times higher than background levels. Mercury is a potent poison that’s frequently emitted by mining and fossil-fuel burning. It can harm the brains, hearts, kidneys, lungs, and immune systems of children and adults alike.
At the fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk, Michael Toledano, writes, indigenous communities living on the frontlines of bitumen extraction in Alberta came together to pray, and to lead a march through the grotesque epicenter of a continental oil project.
Praying seems pretty futile to me, but Toledano has a different take.
It may seem defeatist to pray in the face of an industrial behemoth like Alberta’s tar sands, but it is actually an incredible show of strength. As millennia old traditions, these prayers have survived smallpox epidemics, policies of starvation, religious bans, torture in state sanctioned residential schools, and massive environmental degradation at the hands of mining, oil, and gas industries. Praying in the heart of Alberta’s tar sands is a palpable act of defiance—a clear refusal to go extinct after centuries of attempted genocide.
Anyway, the indigenous and the multitude up in Alberta don't need me to tell them how they should choose to fight.
The Walk itself,
...passed by open-pit mines, fields of dead earth, lakes of poison called ‘tailings ponds,’ soviet-style worker villages, and hydrocarbon refineries. The air reeked of sulphur and diesel, and many participants complained about burning eyes, sore throats, metallic tastes, headaches, and nausea.
Walk participant former chief of the Mikisew Cree, George Poitras explained,
Many Elders, hunters, fishermen, and trappers talk about how 20 years ago you could scoop water from your boat or Canoe driving on the rivers, on the lakes, without any concern... Nobody does that anymore.
Over in British Columbia, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told reporters during a major anti-shale pipeline rally in downtown Vancouver last month , "it's official. The war is on." He told a gathering of protesters there will be battles ahead in the courts with several lawsuits immediately looming. He added, that activists have to be ready to stop project proponent Enbridge Inc. from doing basic development work on the pipeline site.
There will be the need to go out onto the land and onto the waters and physically stop any effort on the part of Enbridge to do preparatory work, site preparation, surveying while this matter is in the courts.
Some of us here are going to jail because that’s what it’s going to take.
I am out of words.
The following is from The First Perspective.
FIRST NATIONS' CANCER LINKED TO OIL SANDS' TOXINS IN WILD FOOD: STUDY