Tar Sands campaigners challenge Canada-EU trade talks

    Campaigners will gather in Brussels next week at the start of the latest round of Canada-EU free trade negotiations, to call for the talks to be put on hold due to concerns that they will boost Europe’s involvement in Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.[1] On Monday they will hold a ‘Lobby Tour’[2] of […]



Campaigners will gather in Brussels next week at the start of the latest round of Canada-EU free trade negotiations, to call for the talks to be put on hold due to concerns that they will boost Europe’s involvement in Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.[1]

On Monday they will hold a ‘Lobby Tour’[2] of the offices of organisations who have been pushing to get further rights for European oil companies to exploit the controversial oil source, and undermine the EU’s ability to pass effective climate policy, such as the Fuel Quality Directive.[3] On Tuesday they will participate in a meeting co-hosted by Keith Taylor MEP and Kriton Arsenis MEP in the European Parliament.[4]

Jasmine Thomas, an indigenous woman fighting a proposed tar sands pipeline across her territory in British Columbia [5] and Dr John O’Connor, a local doctor who first blew the whistle on the increased levels of cancers in communities living downstream from the tar sands [6] will be joined by the UK Tar Sands Network and Council of Canadians, as well as activists and NGO representatives based in Brussels.

Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network – who is meeting with UK Government trade officials on Friday 8th July to express these concerns in advance of the talks – said:

‘The negotiations are in full swing, yet most citizens have never heard of them. Climate scientists have warned that further tar sands extraction could lock us into disastrous and unstoppable climate change, but Europe is sleepwalking into major involvement with the project. In the last few months we have seen extraordinary levels of lobbying from the Canadian government and oil companies, and threats that Canada will take legal action if the EU passes the Fuel Quality Directive, which would ban tar sands imports from Europe. This level of meddling is unacceptable.’

Jasmine Thomas, a community member from the Yinka Dene Alliance working with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said:

‘More then 80 Indigenous Nations in British Columbia have banned tar sands and its related infrastructure from crossing their traditional territories and watersheds. Our communities stand in solidarity with the Cree, Metis, and Dene communities of northern Alberta who are opposed to extraction projects that threaten the fundamental rights of First Nations. We are united in exercising our inherent title, rights, and responsibilities to ourselves, our ancestors, our descendants and the people of the world, to defend these lands and waters. Our laws require us to do this. CETA will only undermine these rights, which are also protected under domestic and international law.’

Dr John O’Connor, a local doctor who has seen first-hand the devastating health impacts of living downstream from the tar sands, added:

‘The Canadian government has been purposefully misleading the world about the harmful health impacts of the tar sands for years. It’s important that the EU does not succumb to their misinformation on this issue. As more and more cases of rare cancers and other diseases are discovered in communities living downstream from tar sands extraction projects, we need Europe to play its part in curbing this destructive industry, not getting more heavily involved through trade agreements.’

Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said:

‘Beyond the incessant lobbying from the Canadian government, the trade deal on the table poses a direct threat to climate policy in the EU and Canada. Proposed investment protections in CETA will give European oil companies like Shell, BP and Total a new legal right to challenge attempts to better regulate tar sands development for social or environmental reasons. In the past few years we’ve seen cigarette companies, pesticide makers and mining firms use trade treaties to sue governments over perfectly legitimate public health policies. Communities impacted by corporate activity have no equivalent right to hold firms responsible under trade agreements. These concerns were echoed in a recent European Parliament debate and resolution on the Canada-EU trade deal. [7] Without a major re-write to exclude unnecessary investment rights, Europeans and Canadians must reject CETA.’

– Photo opportunity: 10am, Monday 11 July, Mission of Canada to the EU, Avenue de Tervuren 2, Brussels.

– For more information, interviews and photos call Suzanne Dhaliwal, UK Tar Sands Network, +44 7772 694327.


  1. This is the eighth round of EU-Canada free trade negotiations (CETA), which are due to be completed by the end of this year. Beginning 11th July and lasting a week, this is the most ambitious free trade agreement either party has ever negotiated. A legal analysis (http://www.canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/legal-opinion-CETA-tarsands.pdf) of the potential impact of CETA negotiations reveals that it could undermine climate policy in Europe and give dramatic new powers to Europe’s multinational oil companies. For example, the European Commission has asked Parliament for permission to negotiate an investor-to-state dispute process that would allow EU companies to sue the Canadian government in the event future regulations, water use limits or other environmental protections interfere with their profits. Likewise, Canadian companies will be able to take otherwise legitimate and legal EU decisions before non-transparent arbitration panels with the power to hand out fines. The Canadian government has said negotiating an investor-to-state dispute process is one of its most important objectives in CETA. The chill effect from this process is enough to discourage governments from pursuing effective climate and environmental policy.
  2. The lobby tour will begin at 10am at the Canadian mission to the EU, where there will be a photo opportunity. For more information, see: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/events/lobbytour/
  3. For more information about Canada’s lobbying around CETA and the Fuel Quality Directive see:http://www.neurope.eu/articles/Canada-talks-dirty-on-trade/106814.php
  4. The event, entitled ‘Trading tar sands: how the Canada-EU free trade agreement will affect social and environmental policy in the EU and Canada’ takes placeon Tuesday 12 July, 12.30-2pm, Room ASP 5E1, European Parliament. Speakers will describe in detail the social, health, indigenous and environmental impacts of tar sands development, as well as popular efforts to transition to a tar sands-free future, and how CETA could undermine this. The discussion will be co-chaired by Keith Taylor MEP (Greens/EFA) and Kriton Arsenis MEP (S&D). For more info: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/events/trading-tar-sands/
  5. Jasmine Thomas is a member of the frog clan from Saik’uz British Columbia, Canada. She is strongly opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project that plans to cross through her own and 52 other First Nations unceded traditional territories in British Columbia and Alberta.
  6. Dr. John O’Connor is a family physician, practising in Alberta since 1993. Currently based in Edmonton, he has provided primary care services to Aboriginal communities in the far north of the province including Fort Chipewyan since 1994. In 2006, his concerns regarding high cancer numbers in Fort Chipewyan, which is downstream from the tar sands, began to draw media attention. He was subject to a sustained smear campaign before subsequent health studies were released that backed up his concerns.

For the full text of the resolution, see:http://www.canadians.org/tradeblog/?p=1649

One Response to “Tar Sands campaigners challenge Canada-EU trade talks”

  1. […] great people.  Among them were indigenous leaders Clayton Thomas-Muller, Melina Massimo, and Jasmine Thomas. Clayton works with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Melina with Greenpeace and Jasmine […]

Use the Form Below to Leave a Reply

Your Name: (Required)

Email Address: (Required)


Your Comments: