Poisoning precious water

Water is needed in huge amounts in Tar Sands production and infrastructure. It takes 3 to 7 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. Much of the water used in Tar Sands production ends up in toxic ‘tailings ponds’, so vast they are visible from space. These ponds leak 11 million litres a day of toxic waste into local water supplies. A generation ago, the Athabasca River was clear and drinking from it was common. Now, those that live alongside the river consider it poisonous and off-limits.

"The river used to be blue. Now it’s brown. Nobody can fish or drink from it. The air is bad. This has all happened so fast."

-Elsie Fabian, 63, an elder in a Native community along the Athabasca River



Trampling Indigenous Rights

“We are seeing a terrifyingly high rate of cancer in Fort Chipewyan where I live. We are convinced that these cancers are linked to the Tar Sands development on our doorstep. It is shortening our lives. That’s why we no longer call it ‘dirty oil’ but ‘bloody oil’. The blood of Fort Chipewyan people is on these companies’ hands.”

– George Poitras, a former chief of Mikisew Cree First Nation

Indigenous First Nations in Canada have had a sacred relationship with Mother Earth for thousands of years. But now the Tar Sands development has been imposed on their land. Local communities are seeing high rates of rare forms of cancer, auto-immune and respiratory disease. First Nations have experienced a blatant disregard for their rights in both the management of existing Tar Sands projects, and in the approval of new projects in their territories. In 2008, chiefs from across Alberta and the neighbouring provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia came together to call for a moratorium on all new Tar Sands developments, and threatened to back this up with legal action. While the government continues to approve new projects, several First Nations are fighting them with lawsuits.