First Nations report says heavy metals from oilsands operations in area wildlife

EDMONTON — A new study by two Alberta First Nations and University of Manitoba scientists says there is a link between oilsands pollutants and higher levels of heavy metals in wildlife, and higher cancer rates in residents.

EDMONTON — A new study by two Alberta First Nations and University of Manitoba scientists says there is a link between oilsands pollutants and higher levels of heavy metals in wildlife, and higher cancer rates in residents.

“There’s something unique that is happening in Fort Chipewyan,” Stephane McLachlan, the lead researcher from the university, told a news conference Monday.

“It’s a situation that is alarming and demands attention.”

The report — titled Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands — is the result of three years of research.

It was funded by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

The study says of 94 participants it found 23 cases of cancer.

“Cancer occurrence increased significantly with participant employment in the oilsands and with the increased consumption of traditional foods and locally caught fish,” said the report.

It also found total levels of carcinogens in the traditionally hunted foods were higher compared with similar studies around the world.

But it found the dietary intake was low because community members were turning away from the traditional foods in favour of store-bought sustenance.

The methodology combined scientific methods with anecdotal information from community members.

The study also reported generally higher concentrations of industrial heavy metals in moose, duck, muskrat and beaver.

It reported the arsenic and mercury levels in muskrat, duck, and moose to be of concern to young children.

There were also elevated cadmium levels in moose, beaver, and duck.

It said selenium levels in all wildlife were high enough to be a concern to adults and children alike.

Steve Courtoreille, chief of the Mikisew Cree Nation, said everyone interviewed is concerned about the general decline in health.

“It’s time the government does something,” said Courtoreille. “The reality is our people are dying.”

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne was to comment later Monday.

New Democrat critic Rachel Notley said the evidence in the new report cannot be ignored.

“What this report shows is that the reports that preceded have not asked the right questions, are not looking into the right things, and therefore they’re shielding the government from taking the responsibility that they need to take,” said Notley.

Aboriginals and environmental critics have long sparred with provincial officials over whether pollutants from oilsands operations are seeping and spewing dangerous toxins into the ecosystem.

In March, a study by the Alberta government found that an aboriginal community downstream from the oilsands does not have higher overall cancer rates than the norm.

The Alberta Health Services Survey, using data from 1992 to 2011, did find there was a prevalence of two types of cancer in Fort Chipewyan that were higher than expected.

Bile duct and cervical cancer rates were the two cancers cited in a survey that compared the incidence of 81 cases of 18 different types of cancer.

The survey also noted that most cervical cancer is caused by a virus and that U.S. research suggests tenuous links between duct cancers and environmental toxins.

Environmental concerns have become a critical factor in expansion of the oilsands.

The U.S. government has withheld approval of the Keystone XL pipeline amid concerns by opponents that it would ensure a reliance on the oilsands resource and cause further harm to the environment.

The issue has taken centre stage in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party’s leadership race, which will determine the next premier.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the health issue is intertwined with all other issues when it comes to Canada’s international reputation.

“If we don’t work with the First Nations to address their concerns, it’s going to hurt our bottom line and it’s going to continue to hurt good people,” said Sherman.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

(Black Press file photo).
Red Deer Boxing Club is moving to north industrial site

The property was rezoned to accommodate recreational uses

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Most Read