FORT McMURRAY, AB – A new study from the University of Manitoba will soon challenge industry and government claims downplaying environmental health impacts of oilsands development, said the chief of a First Nations community Friday.
“When that report comes out, it’s going to blow the socks off industry and government,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told native and non-native supporters gathered at a campsite for an outdoor weekend retreat near major oilsands projects. “We went ahead and did our own independent studies and we found some very stunning results.”
"The inspiring part was nations coming together coast to coast united to protect the environment," said a participant at the final Healing Walk in Fort McMurray. But there were mixed emotions amongst the 200 or so people who participated in the event.
Hundreds of First Nations people from across North America gathered in Fort McMurray Saturday to walk in the fifth and final Healing Walk.
The symbolic 14-kilometre trek through the traditional hunting and gathering grounds wove past the Syncrude mine, past tailing ponds and heavy haul trucks while the smell of crude oil lingered in the air.
The Final Healing Walk - Witnessing a war on the earth, and being part of a growing movement to stop it
On Saturday, June 28, I took part in the 5th and final Healing Walk in Fort McMurray Alberta, along with Council of Canadians organizers Leila Darwish, Aleah Loney and hundreds of people from all directions. The walk calls fourth to end the destruction of the land from Tar Sands expansion and to begin the healing. We came to show our solidarity with the communities who are most impacted.
It was unlike anything Lori Nicotine had ever seen.
On the Poundmaker First Nation, words like mining, tailings and steam-assisted gravity drilling are non-existent.
But on Saturday, Nicotine left the North Battleford reserve for the fifth and final Healing Walk, a 16-kilometre spiritual walk around a former tailings pond. Aboriginal chiefs and elders lead the procession, stopping intermittently to pray for the land’s healing with song and tobacco offerings.
As a crowd of 700 walked up Highway 63 and approached Syncrude’s main plant, Nicotine looked out towards the upgraders and work trucks, and wept.
Starting June 27, hundreds of First Nations people from across Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world will meet in Fort McMurray and walk for the last time past a Syncrude upgrader, past tailings ponds and heavy-hull trucks.
Walking through the oilsands is nothing like flying over the oilsands, or driving past them.
Organizers of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, a 14-kilometre spiritual walk through lands impacted by oilsands (also called tar sands) extraction in northern Alberta, have announced this year’s Healing Walk on June 28th will be the last.
“It was a difficult decision to make,” admits Jesse Cardinal, co-organizer of the Healing Walk. “We felt the original goals of the healing walk of letting local communities know that they had support for the issues of mass industry in the territory and gaining further attention of the issues of tar sands development in a way that was non-aggressive were achieved.”
For the fifth year in a row, First Nations communities in the Athabasca tar sands region in northern Alberta will be hosting people from across Canada at the annual Tar Sands Healing Walk. Over the years, the Healing Walk has grown into a unique and powerful experience, and this year’s walk will be even more special because organizers have decided that it will be the last one.
This weekend, hundreds of First Nations people and non-native supporters from Canada and the US will be participating in the Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, a march to raise awareness of Indigenous treaty rights and the environmental and health implications of Alberta's bitumen extraction.
"This will be the fifth and final walk through tar sands operations," organizers said in a news release, noting that the walk was intended to build "unity among people impacted by tar sands development." It said the annual walk would be held in the future around communities dealing with in situ bitumen extraction, which is different from the strip mines but "equally harmful" to communities and health.
The Healing Walk will be held on June 27 and 28. Hundreds of people will walk 14 km past Syncrude and Suncor mines, tailing ponds and upgraders.
This weekend, the Keepers of the Athabasca and their allies will host the fifth and final annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, an eight-hour tour of the massive development sites of Big Oil giants Syncrude and Suncor. The walk, through mines, tailings ponds and upgraders, will be accompanied by several workshops, panels, stories and performances -- culminating with a giant feast and prayer Saturday night.
The Keystone XL pipeline begins in Alberta, Canada and ends in my backyard.
Here in Houston’s East End, we’re well acquainted with the risks of living so close to the oil refineries whose toxic emissions poison us every day. Like so many other kids in this neighborhood, I grew up with constant headaches, asthma and skin rashes. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are not uncommon.
Now, the tar sands are here in my home. Today the dirtiest, most toxic oil on the planet is being pumped into our communities via the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline -- and our families are being forced to breath the additional pollution. Just last week, one of the first shipments of refined tar sands was exported to Europe via nearby Freeport, TX. This serves as a terrible precedent and reminds us that despite wide opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands is making its way through our communities along the Gulf Coast and across the Atlantic ocean.
``In the tar sands, we work alongside Indigenous organizations and support communities affected by oil spills in whatever way they need, amplifying their voices on a global level, and facilitating solutions. The Alberta government even pressed charges against Plains Midstream Canada ULC following a Greenpeace report on the pipeline company’s oil spill near Little Buffalo, Alberta on April 28, 2011. We have provided support for the Healing Walk — both organizational and financial — since it began four years ago and our campaigners always look forward to attending to learn directly from First Nations on the ecological, spiritual and health impacts of the tar sands.``
In my lifetime I've lived in three very different parts of Canada. I was born and raised in Edmonton, spent my early 20s in Montreal and now lay my head on the west coast in Vancouver. Culturally, geographically and even linguistically, the differences between my homes are too numerous to list, but there is still one thing that ties them together -- the tar sands.
I leave shortly for Fort McMurray Alberta, where I will walk, with hundreds of others, led by Athabasca First Nations and the Keepers of the Athabasca, around a massive tailings pond in the Tar Sands. We will pass between several other massive tailings ponds, and along the edge of a landscape scraped clean of its “overburden” (that’s everything that used to exist there—indigenous peoples and their cultural practices, trees and plants of every variety, animals of all kinds, naturally occurring bodies of water, etc.) and dotted with machinery and the silver towers of refineries. What follows are some brief thoughts about the politics of walking—before the walk. To which I will return after the fact as well.
Tomorrow I am traveling to northern Alberta to see with my own eyes tar sands development and to meet with local First Nations communities who are impacted. Preparing for this Healing Walk has revealed to me the ongoing battle for rights that First Nations face in Canada today. While we have learned that both the development of tar sands and the subsequent shipping of tar sands to and through the United States would have massive impacts on US citizens, few know how tar sands development is harming the lives of First Nations communities in Canada now.
The Last Healing Walk to occur in Fort McMurray
Jesse Cardinal, Organizer of Healing Walk and Coordinator with Keepers of the Athabasca. ‘not abandoning spirituality, healing central to the event’