Activists demand action on oilsands pollution

Environmental activists and native groups used federal hearings on oilsands pollution Tuesday to demand more be done to protect land and water in northern Alberta.

Environmental activists and native groups used federal hearings on oilsands pollution Tuesday to demand more be done to protect land and water in northern Alberta.

Samuel Gargan of the Dehcho community in the Athabasca River basin said oilsands projects are threatening land, air and water.

“Tinkering, fooling around … with any of those elements put in jeopardy human survival. And this is what the issue is right now,” said Gargan.

“A little bit of money in the pocket is good, but when you do it at the expense of Mother Nature, then she will retaliate.”

The Commons standing committee on environment and sustainable development is touring communities to learn more about the extent of pollution from multibillion-dollar projects around Fort McMurray and what steps can be taken to mitigate it.

The committee heard from invited speakers and stakeholders at a downtown Edmonton hotel Tuesday.

Outside the hotel, Eriel Deranger of the Rainforest Action Network said the hearings need to be open so the public can make submissions.

“We need to give representation to those voices that aren’t heard,” said Deranger, who added the federal government needs to take immediate legislative action.

“There needs to be further regulations put into place to ensure the tarsands don’t impact these communities negatively and continue to degrade the environment.”

There are concerns oilsands plants are drawing dangerously large amounts of water from the Athabasca River and that toxic seepage from tailings ponds could enter groundwater or the river itself.

”What we’re asking for is some real movement from the federal government to actually take ownership of their own (legislative) acts to deal with these issues,” said Connie Bresnahan of the Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council.

“Stop being blind to what is happening to water resources, to community well-being and definitely with environment and social justice issues in Fort Chipewyan.”

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