Canadian groups tell ambassador: 'Stop lobbying for the Keystone XL pipeline'

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We can’t let the tar sands be Canada’s greatest legacy of the 21st century. The devastation already visited by tar sands development should be proof enough of what a shortsighted plan it is.

The Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace Canada presented a letter addressed to Ambassador Gary Doer [see text below] at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. today demanding an end to lobbying in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Ambassador Doer has publicly recognized he is actively lobbying for Keystone XL,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who will be present to help deliver the letter. “To pitch the tar sands as the answer to American energy security ignores the destruction of the tar sands and turns away from the sustainable energy future Canada and the U.S. need.”

In May 2011, Alberta saw one of the largest pipeline bursts in the province’s history when 28,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the local ecosystem near Peace River. In the past year, TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline has spilled crude oil at least 12 times and contaminated water, air and soil in nearby communities. The spills resulted in catastrophic effects on wildlife and the quality of life of nearby farmers, landowners and Indigenous communities.

First Nations delegates with the Indigenous Environmental Network will also be present outside the Canadian Embassy. They have come to Washington to share their testimonies of the damaging social and health effects the tar sands are having on their communities.

“With the onslaught of tar sands exploitation, we are seeing more people developing serious respiratory illnesses. People of all ages are developing types of cancer that we have never seen in our area. As we have see the tar sands industry expand,” said Gitz Crazyboy of Fort McMurray, in the heart of the Alberta tar sands. Crazyboy continues, “We what we see is alarming – we are witnessing the complete destruction of the boreal forest as tar sands operations expand.”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. The controversial 2,736 kilometre project threatens to pollute freshwater supplies in America’s agricultural heartland and spike air pollution in the Gulf Coast. The pipeline would cross Indian-US treaty territories, water aquifers, rivers, grasslands, cultural sites and ecological sensitive areas. Tar sands operations and its associated infrastructure projects are consistently violating constitutionally recognized treaty rights in both Canada and the United States.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada who is from Alberta said, “The Keystone pipeline is an act of aggression to the plants, wildlife and people who live in its path. We are proud to add our voice to the hundreds of brave activists who have peacefully opposed this destructive project over the past several days.”

Two weeks of protests in Washington, DC will end on September 3rd before transitioning to Ottawa for a one-day event endorsed by the Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace Canada on September 26th. People across Canada have been invited to participate by signing on to the civil disobedience protest at


Letter to Canadian ambassador Gary Doer 

Dear Gary Doer, Ambassador of Canada to the United States,

As environmental and social justice groups from Canada, we’ve journeyed to Washington to help our American counterparts in their two weeks of civil disobedience aimed at persuading President Obama to deny a permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

We also feel the need to speak to our own government, loudly and clearly. It’s shameful for Canada to be pushing tar sands development when the planet’s premier climate scientists have spoken out firmly to say it presents a certain danger to the earth’s atmosphere. James Hansen of NASA put it this way: burning substantial quantities of tar sands oil would mean it was “essentially game over for the climate.”

Tar sands production is also responsible for both the depletion and contamination of water in Alberta. Four billion litres of contaminated water are released into Alberta’s groundwater and natural ecosystems every year. Toxins connected to tar sands production have been found as far downstream as the Athabasca delta, one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. Scientists and communities living in the area have documented mutations in fish downstream from the tar sands. Indigenous communities have experienced increased health problems which may be linked to contaminated food and water sources.

We can’t let the tar sands be Canada’s greatest legacy of the 21st century. Canada possesses the resources and technologies to secure a future that will help, not harm, the planet. The devastation already visited by tar sands development should be proof enough of what a shortsighted plan it is.

Around the world, other nations have begun to rise to the environmental challenge. Brazil, for instance, is far poorer than Canada, and yet its citizens have put a high priority on protecting the rainforest. Canada’s traditional role in world affairs is as a mediator, a conciliator. That proud past doesn’t give us the right to endanger the earth’s future.

Communities living along the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have raised strong concerns about threats to their air, water and land. The pipeline will cross the Ogallala aquifer, one of the most important reserves of freshwater in the world. Given TransCanada’s track record of pipeline failures, Canada must take responsibility for preventing further ecological damage.

We respectfully ask the Canadian government to cease lobbying for the Keystone XL Pipeline and instead turn efforts to addressing the serious social and environmental impacts of the tar sands.


Council of Canadians
Greenpeace Canada
Indigenous Environmental Network