Tar Sands Healing Walk Press Release

More Than 250 First Nations and Allies From Across North America Gather In Alberta To Raise Awareness

First Nations delegations from British Columbia and Ontario show growing concern and resolve against tar sands infrastructure projects across Canada.

FORT MCMURRAY ALBERTA (August 4, 2012) – Hundreds of First Nations leaders from BC, Alberta, the NWT and Ontario along with First Nation actress Tantoo Cardinal and allies from across North America, gathered in Fort McMurray today, to walk 13-kilometres through the visceral landscape of tar sands operations to bring attention to the destructive impacts of tar sands projects and pipelines on surrounding communities and the environment.

First Nation representatives from the Heiltsuk (BC), Yinka Dene (BC), Coastal First Nations (BC), the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Six Nations (Ontario) and Aamijiwnaang (Ontario) joined with local First Nations leaders in a traditional mixing of the waters ceremony, bringing water from their respective territories as a symbol of importance of the protection of water and the sacred connection to mother earth.

Local elders led the group in prayers along the route that was once valuable northern Boreal forest and fertile traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, stopping in the four directions to lay down tobacco as an offering for healing of the land.

“We have come from all over North America to walk together through the heart of the destruction caused by the ever-expanding tar sands and offer prayers for the healing of the land and its people,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. “For more than 500 years governments have fought over our lands and resources. It’s time the provincial and federal governments sit down with the First Nations, the rightful owners of these lands and resources, to decide if and when these lands should be developed.”

The third annual healing walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and allied communities along the Athabasca River that includes people whose lives have been directly impacted by tar sands operations.

“The places where we used to pick berries and find our medicines have been destroyed by rapid tar sands projects,” said Anthony Ladouceur, Councillor of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our people have lived here for thousands of years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to live off the land with industry expanding all around us.”

The Alberta tar sands currently produce approximately 1.8 million barrels of oil per day; if industry and government’s expansion plans are approved that number could reach six million barrels per day. Local opposition to Shell’s two proposed open pit mine applications is growing, along with North American-wide resistance to pipeline proposals. Four pipelines are being proposed to transport tar sands oil: Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, Trans Canada Keystone XL, and Enbridge Line 9 reversal.

“I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “This sacred walk serves to remind us that we, as parents and grandparents, have the unconditional responsibility to safeguard and pass on the legacy of respecting and caretaking Mother Earth, entrusted to us by our ancestors, to our children and grandchildren.”

“This walk creates strength and unity among the people who have to live with the destructive impacts of tar sands. Together, we are more empowered to ensure a clean and healthy world for future generations,” said Roland Woodward Chair of the Keepers of the Athabasca.

The walk was not a protest, but a spiritual gathering to offer prayers for the healing of Mother Earth and all those negatively impacted by tar sands projects and associated infrastructure. Participants walked along Highway 63 past Suncor and Syncrude’s operations to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on.

To Arrange Media Interviews :

Eriel Deranger 780-903-6598
Melina Laboucan-Massimo 780-504-5567

Roland Woodward, Keepers of the Athabasca, 780-972-1339
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 250-490-5314
Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Nation 613-859-5063
Anthony Ladouceur, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-881-5115

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12 Major oil companies, including Shell, ban together to greenwash the Tar Sands

Today 12 oil companies have joined together to create the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).  The groups state the purpose of COSIA is to share and conduct research and technology development in several key areas of environmental performance in the tar sands. These  areas include greenhouse gases, land disturbance, water, air emissions and management of tailings, the toxic effluent produced by tar sands. For more information please see the report in the National Post.

One must be skeptical of such an alliance of multi-national corporations operating in the tar sands.  Tar sands development has been under heavy criticism over the last year after disparaging reports from the October Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which criticized current monitoring and the legitimacy of RAMP’s data.  That coupled with tar sands pipeline opposition in the US (TransCanada – Keystone XL) and Canada (Enbridge Northern Gateway), and the recent heated debates surrounding the labeling of tar sands as a high carbon fuel in the new EU Fuel Quality Directive, one starts to see the motives of these corporations.  They are doing their best to create positive PR for their shareholders and the public.

This effort of major oil companies banning together to try and create “independent data” on tar sands seems like a last ditch effort to try and greenwash the industry. COSIA even went so far as remarking that although they will be independent of CAPP they feel CAPP will be supportive of their research and work.  Of course they will be and already are. CAPP has been working as hard as the tobacco industry did by exploring any and all efforts to disprove the negative impacts of their respective industries. CAPP has highlighted COSIA on their homepage with a link directly to COSIA’s “independent” site.

One should be cautious of the data being developed by COSIA, which will produce non-binding recommendations with no actual set goals or timelines for any environmental protection or stewardship.  In fact, in their opening statement representatives from COSIA made it clear they are looking at improving environmental leadership while facilitating the growth of the work in the tar sands.  Basically, business as usual with the continued pace of ridiculous growth, but now with a new veil to try and placate the public.

All of this is so reminiscent of the efforts of the tobacco industry, see here for a short video on the history of tobacco industry efforts.

Greenpeace had this to say about today’s announcement:

In the absence of any commitments to real reductions in pollution with penalties for not meeting them, this is simply another example of “greenwash”, where an industry association makes vague promises to clean up its act in order to avoid regulations with real teeth. This regulatory dodge was invented by the chemical industry in the 1980s post-Bhopal and perfected by the oil and auto industries in the 1990s as they signed up to a “voluntary challenge” in order to avoid real limits on greenhouse gas emissions.[1]

What is interesting about today’s announcement is that the audience for this PR initiative is not the federal or Alberta governments, who have made it clear that they won’t bring in new regulations[2] or even enforce the ones they have[3], but governments in the US and Europe who are preparing to act on the climate impact of the tar sands because they recognize that Canadian governments won’t.

[1] For an academic take on this, see Douglas Macdonald, Business and Environmental Politics in Canada, Broadview Press (2007), especially Chapter 5.[2]  We’re still waiting for those tough new limits on industrial polluters John Baird promised in 2007, while Peter Kent has indefinitely delayed his promised regulations on the tar sands. [3] The Government of Alberta is not enforcing its own tailings rules.

The 12 companies which have signed the COSIA Charter are: BP Canada Energy Company, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corp., Devon Canada Corporation, Imperial Oil, Nexen Inc., Shell Canada Energy, Statoil Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc., Teck Resources Limited, and Total E&P Canada Ltd.

The names on this list are not surprising.  Most of them are corporations with heavy stakes in the tar sands with new projects awaiting approval.  This includes Shell.  It becomes increasingly clear Shell is willing to pull out all the stops and pursue all angles to try and argue there is nothing wrong with current projects to give way for a clear path for approvals of their two new projects, Jackpine Mine Expansion and Pierre River Mine. Both projects currently under review and being contested by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. It should also be mentioned that Shell has also been involved in lobby efforts in the EU to try and dissuade EU countries from labeling tar sands as a high carbon fuel.

So the question remains, who’s interests are being served by such a coalition of multinational corporations deeply invested in tar sands expansion?

I hardly believe that it will be in the public’s interest and I guarantee that First Nations traditional and ecological rights will not be included in the development of any data created by COSIA.  Once again a platform is being developed that exclude our people, our rights and our knowledge out of the bigger picture and gives the power to the very people who are oppressing us.

Obama Administration Reject Keystone XL Pipeline

Today marks a day of victory for those opposing massive tar sands development in Northern Alberta.

Today Obama rejected TransCanada’s plans to extend the Keystone XL Pipeline. The extension plans would have the pipeline carrying up to 900,000 barrels/day of tar sands oil and natural gas from Alberta all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

This came out of the office of ACFN:

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewayn First Nation:

“The decision to reject this pipeline comes from the opposition of the many Indigenous communities and our allies.  The Mother Earth Accord outlined the serious implications the pipeline would’ve had on the people, our rights and our lands.  This is a major victory for Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. We hope the Canadian government recognizes Obama’s rejection as a sign to slow down the current pace of development in the tar sands.  Rapid expansion in the tar sands has left developers struggling for inexpensive ways to ship, refine and sell their oil.  Stopping these massive pipelines is key to stopping further destruction of our territory.  We are still working to oppose Shell’s proposed tar sands expansion of open pit mining projects in our traditional territory in Northern Alberta. We hope that you all join the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation this year in opposing Shell’s projects and the development of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  Together we can protect our lands, our futures and our treaty rights.”

It’s clear the US government recognizes the dangers associated with not only tar sands extraction, already wreaking havoc on both people and wildlife in the region, but also recognizes the risks associated with the pipelines.  The proposed pipeline stretches 2673 km from Alberta, Canada to Texas, threatening  freshwater and would lead to an increase in refinery emissions in already-polluted communities of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It’s not hard to draw the lines of connection between the rapid expansion of Alberta’s tar sands and the need for such massive pipelines, such as the Keystone XL and the proposed Northern Gateway.

We have to continue to be on guard as the State Department in Washington has stated the company could apply again with a route that would avoid “senstive terrain”.  I just don’t see how that is possible, but I guarantee that TransCanda is going to come back with a new plan sooner then later.

For a map of Canada’s Crude Oil pipleines click here.

This announcement come during Canada’s own assessment and Joint Review Panel hearings of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline which has been met with huge opposition across the country.  I hope that the Harper government takes note of what is happening south of the border.