First Nations: Investigate Tar Sands as Cancer Cause

“We want a moratorium for the life and death situation in Fort Chipewyan”

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by Peter Zimonjic
Sun Media, May 5, 2009

First Nations and environmental groups are calling for a halt to any new oilsands developments until further study can be done to determine the health impacts on drinking water.

George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree first nations in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, says there are elevated levels of cancer in his community and the federal government is not taking the issue seriously.

“We want a moratorium for the life and death situation in Fort Chipewyan for us to understand what is actually contributing to the high levels of cancer,” said Poitras.

Fort Chipewyan is a former European trading post situated on the western tip of Lake Athabasca, Near Wood Buffalo National Park, in northeastern Alberta.

The community of about 1,200 says their water is being polluted by oilsands developments downstream of the Athabasca River, which empties into the lake.

The First Nations groups, which are being supported by the Council of Canadians and Environmental Defence, also say their way of life is being threatened because of rising toxins in local fish stocks.

NDP environment critic Linda Duncan has thrown her support behind the group and has successfully argued for the Commons environment committee to hold special hearings in Edmonton on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

The MPs will also take a field trip to Fort Chipewyan to meet with local First Nations leaders and discuss environmental concerns related to the oilsands.

“Putting a moratorium on further approvals is sensible because what we have had is a record of failure to enforce and apply provincial law on these developments,” said Duncan.

Posted in Indigenous, Tar Sands
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