The most in-depth study of health concerns among communities downstream from the Alberta tar sands is out, and the results are damning.
The report largely confirms what residents of Fort Chipewyan, home to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), have long been saying: significant increases in illnesses in the communities, including cancer, asthma, diabetes, and mental illness, among others, can be clearly tied back to tar sands development 200 kilometres upstream along the Athabasca River.
The study was lead by Dr. Stéphane McLachlan of the University of Saskatchewan, and carried out in conjunction with the AFCN and MCFN. The study is the first of its kind in working directly with community members in framing the direction of the research. Carried out in two phases over the past three years, McLachlan said the results they found are clear.
“What we found was a decline in health, particularly in relation to cancer. Again, I would argue, the link to the oil sands is incontrovertible,” he told VICE.
This article was originally published at DeSmog.ca.
Critics cried foul last week after oilsands giant Syncrude was awarded the inaugural Towards Sustainable Mining Environmental Excellence Award at the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) industry gala held in Vancouver on Monday, May 12.
The Fort McMurray-based company was recognized for its work in land reclamation, the attempt to re-establish ecosystems destroyed during oilsands development.
The company was specifically lauded for its work with fen wetlands, a sensitive and complex peat ecosystem that is a key part of the Boreal Forest and the local watershed, through its Sandhill Fen Research Watershed Initiative research project.
FORT MCMURRAY, AB—In the heart of Canada’s oil country, the booming town of Fort McMurray—casually dubbed Fort McMoney—is slowly becoming one of Alberta’s largest cities. From 2006 to 2012, the city grew by 53 per cent, going from a population of 47,705 to 72,994—far exceeding the growth of Alberta as a whole. This doesn’t count the “non-permanent residents” who are simply in town to work; including them, the population balloons to 112,215.
Nearby, however, Indigenous nations are struggling for cultural survival. The tar sands project continues to expand its destructive footprint on the traditional territories of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, among others. For them, opposition to the industrial project is not an environmental concern or a left-leaning pet project. It is a matter of human survival.
“I never did look at myself as a campaigner or an organizer, or an activist or an environmentalist. None of those things,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation who now works as the Alberta Climate and Energy Campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada Prairie Chapter. “And I can say I still don’t look at myself that way. You know, it’s just doing what I need to for the sacrifices that our ancestors endured to ensure that we have that ability to utilize the land, to sustain ourselves.”