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The world’s largest industrial project and the future of Canada


  Autumn 2007 • w w • $0-5 sliding scale
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The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                               3

                Harper’s Index                                                                           ~ ISSN 1710-0283 ~

                e are currently the fifth largest energy producer in the world.
                                                                                                         PO Box 741 Station H
                We rank third and seventh in global gas and oil production
                respectively. We generate more hydro-electric power than                                Montréal, QC H3G 2M7
                any other country on Earth. And we are the world’s largest                            The Dominion is a pan-Canadian
  supplier of uranium. But that’s just the beginning.                                                 media cooperative that seeks
                                                                                                      to provide a counterpoint to
  Our government is making new investments in renewable energy sources                                the corporate media and direct
  such as biofuels. And an ocean of oil-soaked sand lies under the muskeg of Northern Alber-          attention to independent critics
  ta–my home province. The oil sands are the second-largest oil deposit in the world, bigger
                                                                                                      and the work of social movements.
  than Iraq, Iran or Russia; exceeded only by Saudi Arabia.
                                                                                                      The   Dominion     is   published
  Digging the bitumen out of the ground, squeezing out the oil and converting it into synthetic       monthly in print and on the web.
  crude is a monumental challenge. It requires vast amounts of capital, Brobdingnagian tech-          Publisher
  nology and an army of skilled workers. In short, it is an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to     The Dominion
  the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.                                      Newspaper Cooperative
  By 2015, Canadian oil production is forecast to reach almost four million barrels a day. Two
  -thirds of it will come from the oil sands. Even now, Canada is the only non-OPEC country with        Dru Oja Jay
  growing oil deliverability. And let’s be clear.                                                     Managing Editors
                                                                                                        Stuart Neatby
  We are a stable, reliable producer in a volatile, unpredictable world. We believe in the free         Hillary Lindsay
  exchange of energy products based on competitive market principles, not self-serving monop-         Arts Editor
  olistic political strategies. That’s why policymakers in Washington–not to mention investors
                                                                                                        Michelle Tarnopolsky
  in Houston and New York–now talk about Canada and continental energy security in the
                                                                                                      Original Peoples Editor
  same breath.
                                                                                                        Kim Petersen
  That’s why Canada surpassed the Saudis four years ago as the largest supplier of petroleum          Agriculture Editor
  products to the United States. And that’s why industry analysts are recommending Canada               Hillary Lindsay
  as “possessing the most attractive combination of circumstances for energy investment of any        Environment Editor
  place in the world.”                                                                                  Yuill Herbert
                                                                                                      Review Editor
  —Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
   addressing the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce                                                         Linda Besner
   July 14, 2006                                                                                      Gender Editor
                                                                                                        Anna Carastathis
                                                                                                      Chief Copy Editor
                                                                                                        Ross Lockhart
                                                                                                      Copy Editors
          Visit the tar sands issue online to:                                                          Kate Kennedy
                                                                                                        Moira Peters
              • Find out about events and discussions near you                                          Tim McSorley
              • Order copies of the paper to distribute locally                                       Cover Illustration
                                                                                                        Sylvia Nickerson
              • Discuss the tar sands with our journalists                                    
              • Read additional articles and watch videos
              • Donate to help cover the printing and mailing costs                          provided
                                                                                                      contacts, a tour of the tar
          w w w.dominionpa p rsa nds                                                         sands, and informational
                                                                                                      resources that made this issue
Support for printing and distribution of the tar sands issue comes from:

4             Excerpt                                                             The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Tar Sands and the American Automobile
Crude heads south, keeps cars on the road
by Bianca Mugyenyi and
Yves Engler

The following is an edited
excerpt from a forthcoming
book, tentatively titled Stop
Signs: A road trip through the
USA to explore the culture,
politics and economics of the

     Across the globe, sprawling
auto-dependent development
is pushing oil extraction into
increasingly sensitive environ-
ments. Far from the “light sweet
crude” of the Niger Delta, the
heavy oil trapped in Alberta’s
tar sands is among the filthiest
sources in the world; with up
to three-quarters of the final
product destined for the US
market, tar sands oil extrac-
tion has been labelled the most
destructive process known to        A traffic jam during shift change, near Fort McMurray. The tar sands will primarily fuel North
mankind. Viewed from above,         America’s vast fleet of cars.                                                                 Dru Oja Jay
the tar sands are as picturesque
as a pair of dirty lungs and the    half times as much water is         process requires two tonnes of      188 pounds of carbon dioxide
stench of tar can be smelled for    needed to thin-out the mixture      sand. In 2003, Alberta’s Envi-      equivalent into the atmosphere.
miles. Amid a tangle of pipes,      and separate the bitumen from       ronment Ministry reported that      Comparing the greenhouse
waste ponds and smoke, an envi-     the sand. To obtain this stag-      430-square kilometres of land       emissions of a conventional
ronmental demolition derby          gering volume of water, whole       had been “disturbed” for the oil    barrel of crude to a barrel of tar
of 50-ft, 300-tonne monster         streams and rivers in the region    sands. By summer 2006, that         sands oil, a New York Times
trucks roam a wasteland riddled     have been drained and diverted.     number had reached 2,000-           article noted, “A gallon of gas
with 200-foot-deep open pits.       We don’t need Erin Brockovich       square kilometres, nearly a         from oil sands, because of the
Gouged out with dinosaur-sized      to tell us something is wrong       five-fold increase in three years   energy-intensive      production
claws, Athabascan oil is mined,     with the water; sucked out for      (even though only two per cent      methods, releases three times
not pumped.                         the extraction process and then     of the oil sands–now hailed         as much carbon overall as con-
     Describing the tar sands as    spat out again, most of it ends     as one of the world’s largest       ventionally produced gasoline.”
“hideous marvels,” Globe and        up contaminated with acids,         reserves–had been developed).       The oil sands are located in and
Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson      mercury and other toxins. This           Thousands of acres of trees    around Fort McMurray (aka
writes: “They are terrible to       wastewater has left Northern        have already been clear-cut to      Fort McMoney), a region with a
look at, from the air or from       Alberta studded with toxic          make way for tar sands mining       population of 61,000. By 2015,
the ground. They tear the earth,    dumping pools, better known         and if current plans unfold, a      Fort McMurray is expected to
create polluted mini-lakes          as ‘tailing ponds.’ Not only are    forest the size of Maryland and     emit more greenhouse gases
called tailing ponds that can       the tar sands being blamed for      Virginia will be eliminated. The    than all of Denmark.
be seen from space, spew forth      Western Canada’s first ever         decline in forests has led to a          Describing “the rush into
air pollutants such as sulphur      bout of acid rain, the residues     major reduction in both the         the oil sands” a Wall Street
dioxide and nitrogen oxide and      pumped into the Athabasca           region’s grizzly bear and moose     Journal analyst writes: “For
emit greenhouse gases such as       River have increased cancer         populations, with oil explora-      years, environmentalists have
carbon dioxide.”                    rates downstream, particularly      tion also harming prairie birds     argued that higher gasoline
     “They are voracious users of   among First Nations com-            and other animal life.              prices would be good for the
freshwater,” continues Simpson.     munities dependent upon the              The          environmental     Earth because paying more
Extracting the bitumen (crude       waterway. The history of oil        mayhem so far described is          at the pump would promote
oil) from the thick and sticky      extraction has always been the      the tip of the iceberg. The tar     conservation. Instead, higher
mix of clay, sand and water is      history of suffering and the tar    sands represent the biggest         energy prices have unleashed
no easy feat and for every barrel   sands are no exception.             increase in Canadian carbon         a bevy of heavy oil projects
of oil extracted, somewhere              To produce a single barrel     emissions, with every barrel of
between two and four-and-a-         of oil, the tar sands extraction    synthetic oil produced releasing                  continued on page 43 »
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                             Labour                      5
Temporary Labour or Disposable Workers?
Foreign labourers are brought to the tar sands, but are easily sent home
by Tim Murphy                                                                                                       “It’s a totally horrendous
                                                                                                              situation. We need them des-
     “So you believe in the free                                                                              perately, but once they come
market?”                                                                                                      here, they have no rights,” says
     “Well, it’s not so much that                                                                             Yessy Byl, TFW Advocate.
I believe in the free market, it’s                                                                                  “I’ve been pretty busy, it’s
that I demand logical consis-                                                                                 hard to pinpoint numbers, but
tency out of those who demand                                                                                 I’ve got over 100 case files. I
the free market,” answers                                                                                     talk to even more people to give
Jason Foster, director of Policy                                                                              advice. I work with all foreign
Analysis for the Alberta Federa-                                                                              workers in Alberta, from fast
tion of Labour (AFL).                                                                                         food to the trades. Maybe a third
     According to Foster, wages                                                                               of these are in the oil patch,”
in Alberta’s oil industry have                                                                                says Byl.
not been allowed to follow                                                                                          Byl mentions two identifi-
the basic laws of supply and                                                                                  able themes to the types of cases
demand. Companies have used                                                                                   she deals with. The first is that
various tactics to prevent the                                                                                of labour brokers. The second
rise of wages. One such tactic,                                                                               is that of inadequate unemploy-
the Temporary Foreign Worker                                                                                  ment provisions.
Program, is of special concern                                                                                      TFWs usually get here by
to the AFL.                                                                                                   dealing with a broker in their
     Although he acknowledges                                                                                 home country. The broker
the existence of a labour crunch                                                                              offers promises of a job or even
in places like Calgary and Fort                                                                               immigration status in exchange
McMurray, Foster remains                                                                                      for a brokerage fee (reportedly
critical both of the Alberta                                                                                  between $500 and $5000). This
government and of the oil                                                                                     practice is illegal in Alberta, but
companies, citing their incon-                                                                                it is difficult to stop, since most
sistencies in dealing with the                                                                                of it is done from elsewhere, in
problem. The AFL has gone as                                                                                  places like California, or in the
far as to accuse the government                                                                               worker’s country of origin.
                                     Workers’ quarters in a camp near Fort McMurray. Temporary
of causing the current shortages                                                                                    “The brokers charge outra-
                                     foreign workers are often at the mercy of their employers. Dru Oja Jay
by its refusal to pace develop-                                                                               geous fees, contrary to Alberta
ment in the tar sands. The glut      from outside the country who             “It’s a litany of horror        law. They mislead people as
of new construction, they claim,     are prepared to work for less       stories that almost smack of         to what’s covered and what
has led to the current scarcity      and without benefits–you artifi-    servitude. They [the workers]        isn’t. They understate the cost
of skilled tradespeople and the      cially suppress wages.”             are artificially subdued because     of living. They bring them
subsequent push to hire foreign           The numbers seem to            the threat of being sent back is     to Canada and dump them.
workers.                             support Foster’s claims of an       always hanging over their heads      Often, the job doesn’t even exist
     “There are presently more       influx of foreign workers in        and so the complaints part of        anymore,” adds Byl.
TFWs [Temporary Foreign              Alberta’s oil patch. According to   the process is largely silent.”            Employers interested in
Workers] entering the province       Murray Gross, a spokesperson             The permit that allows          hiring TFWs must first apply
each year than there are             for Human Resources and Skills      foreigners to work in Canada         for a Labour Market Opinion,
permanent immigrants,” says          Development Canada (HRSDC),         has their employer’s name on it.     which is basically a survey
Foster. “The entire strategy         in 2006, Citizenship and Immi-      Although they are theoretically      of the Canadian workforce
of the government has shifted        gration Canada issued a total       entitled to the same employ-         designed to determine whether
away from bringing people to         of 15,172 new temporary work        ment and labour rights as            or not the job requirements can
Alberta to allow them to have        permits for Alberta, bringing       Canadian workers, they don’t         be filled locally and whether or
the full rights of citizenship and   the total number of temporary       have the same freedom to act on      not there is a real need to hire
become members of our com-           foreign workers in the province     those rights, since they can be      outside of Canada. In 2004, the
munities.                            to 22,392. By comparison, in        sent home at any time, without       governments of Canada and
     “They’ve now shifted it to      2005, 15,815 were working in        question and at the discretion of    Alberta signed a Memorandum
say we want a revolving door of      Alberta.                            the employer.                        of Understanding (MOU) to
cattle to do a bunch of work and          Don MacNeil from the                In response, the AFL has        help employers who need to
ship them back home again.           Communications, Energy and          hired a lawyer to act as TFW         hire temporary foreign workers
They [the oil companies] have        Paperworkers Union is equally       advocate, taking on cases for        to fill labour shortages on large
found that if you increase supply    critical of the government-run      the workers to help them get
by bringing in a pool of workers     program.                            their rights.                                      continued on page 42 »
6             Maps                                                                  The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Oil Flows South, Impacts Flow North
The reach of the world’s largest industrial project
by Dru Oja Jay                                                           bitumen is trucked away to be          waters, and that the deposits
based on cartography and                                                 processed. The remaining 80            are within Nunavut’s territorial
files by Petr Cizek, for                                                 per cent of the deposits are too       waters. Indian Affairs Minister                                                        deep to be strip-mined. Instead,       Jim Prentice has simply said
                                                                         a technique known as “Steam-           that he disagrees.
Mackenzie Valley Pipeline                                                Assisted Gravity Drainage”
Multi-billion dollar pipelines                                           (SAGD) is used. Steam is               Oil Pipelines
are proposed which will                                                  pumped deep into the earth,            In recent years, the tar
transport natural gas from the                                           which softens the oil sufficiently     sands have become a central
Arctic Ocean to Alberta.                                                 to bring it to the surface. While      component of US “energy
That the gas from the pipelines                                          it does not result in the total        security.”     Proposals       for
is destined for the tar sands                                            destruction of life in the area that   increased pipeline capacity and
was once denied, but plans for                                           is mined, the process has been         new pipelines indicate where the
a “North-Central Corridor”                                               termed “death by a thousand            extracted oil will end up. Three
pipeline make the link clear.                                            cuts” by some environmental            refineries in Canada will receive
First proposed in the 1970s,                                             groups. SAGD covers the land           oil (via Chicago) from the tar
the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline                                            with a patchwork of access             sands, but the vast majority is
has been criticized for being a                                          roads, clearings and industrial        destined for US refineries, auto-
giant step in the industrializa-                                         equipment. The process also            mobiles and military equipment.
tion and colonization of the                                             uses more water and natural gas        Environmental organizations,
primarily-Indigenous      north.                                         than mining-based extraction,          Indigenous groups and labour
The development needed to                                                and leads to groundwater con-          unions have opposed several of
keep gas flowing through the        Steam-Assisted Gravity               tamination, acidification of land      the planned pipelines. Concerns
pipeline would affect a massive     Drainage (SAGD) access roads         and water, and vast increases in       about the environmental impact
area of pristine wilderness.        and drilling areas.  Dru Oja Jay     greenhouse gas emissions.              of potential oil spills, unsettled
Maps projecting the impact of                                                                                   land claims, energy security,
the rapid expansion of northern     shows that Canada is burning         Heavy Oil                              and accountability for impacts
natural gas exploitation show       through its own supply (over         Just south of the main tar sands       after the oil boom passes have
a dense web of access roads,        half of which is sent south) at a    region are several deposits of         been cited.
drilling locations and pipelines    rate that is unsustainable.          “heavy oil”–oil that is closer in
covering a vast area (shown in                                           form to bitumen than normal            Diluent Pipelines
yellow on the map) around Deh       Nuclear Plants                       crude oil, but still extracted via     Because most of the bitumen
Cho, or the Mackenzie River.        With rising prices and declining     traditional means. Internal oil        extracted from the tar sands
                                    supply, natural gas may not be       industry reports note that it is       will not be refined in Canada,
Alaska Highway Pipeline             able to fuel energy-intensive        possible to extract far more oil       and is too thick to flow through
The proposed 2,700 kilometre-       tar sand extraction. So far, two     if SAGD-like methods are used.         pipelines effectively, it is
long Alaska Highway Pipeline        nuclear power plants–Alberta’s       However, one report notes,             necessary to dilute it. For this
would link Alaska’s North Slope     first–have been proposed in          natural gas is necessary, and          purpose, proposed pipelines will
natural gas deposits with the tar   Whitecourt and Peace River.          greenhouse gas emissions are           bring in hundreds of thousands
sands. The project, estimated       However, Parliament’s natural        far higher when these tech-            of barrels per day of light oil for
to cost as much as $30 billion,     resources committee concluded        niques are used.                       the purpose of transporting the
would cross several protected       that 20 nuclear plants would                                                bitumen out of the region.
areas and First Nations lands       have to be built to meet             Sverdrup Basin
covered by Treaty 8.                expected production growth           The Sverdrup Basin, says               Rivers
                                    until 2015. Rising uranium           Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik,           While energy flows from the gas
LNG Terminals                       prices have also led to several      could contain as much as one           fields in the Arctic to refineries
A total of 11 Liquid Natural        new proposed uranium mines           trillion dollars worth of natural      in Texas, Chicago and Cali-
Gas terminals are planned           in the north, including one near     gas. Nunavut has been in a long        fornia, tar sands excavation is
in Canada, on the west and          Fort Chipewyan.                      fight with the federal govern-         using and polluting water that
east coasts. Several US cities                                           ment over rights to the Arctic         flows north. Doctors in Fort
have already rejected similar       Tar Sands                            region’s vast oil and gas deposits.    Chipewyan, for example, have
proposals, which have tankers       Of the estimated 175 billion         In addition to 17.4 trillion cubic     reported high rates of cancer and
carrying natural gas from           barrels of oil hidden in Alberta’s   feet of recoverable natural gas,       other diseases, and fishermen
Russia, Saudi Arabia and other      tar sands, about 30 per cent is      the Basin is said to contain 334       have reported catching fish with
overseas sources. Local oppo-       accessible via surface mining.       million barrels of oil. Okalik         boils and deformations. Experts
sition groups have cited the        The surface of the earth,            says that the federal govern-          warn that if tailing ponds were
devastating effects of potential    including trees, rivers and          ment drew on Inuit use and             to breach, the toxic effects could
spills or explosions. Critics       dozens of metres of “overbur-        occupancy studies to establish         be felt in Great Slave Lake and
say that importing natural gas      den” are removed before the          sovereignty over the Arctic            beyond.
                                            Alaska North Slope
                                            37.5 trillion cubic feet

                                                                                                    Mackenzie River Delta
                                                                                                    9.7 trillion cubic feet
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Sverdrup Basin
                                                                                                                                                                                                             17.1 trillion cubic feet

                       Alaska Highway Pipeline
                       4 billion cubic feet per day

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tar Sands:
                                                                                                                               Colville Hills
                                                                                                                               300 billion+ cubic feet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Extent of proposed
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Proposed Nuclear Plant
                                                                                                                             Sahtú (Great Bear Lak
                                                                                                                                                                    )                                                                   Natural gas deposit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Proposed LNG terminal

                                                                                                                                                                         PORT RADIUM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Proposed oil pipeline
                                                                                                          o (M

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Existing oil pipeline
                                                                                                           ackenzi River)

                                                                                                                                       Mackenzie Valley Pipeline                                                                        Proposed diluent pipeline
                                                                                                                                       1.8 billion cubic feet per day

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cities and communities

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Known tar sands deposits

                                                                                                                                                                          YELLOWKNIFE                                                   Pipeline flow direction
                                                                                                                                    FORT SIMPSON
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        River flow direction
                                                     rs f                                                                                                                               e
                                                              rom C                                                                                                                                                                     Mackenzie Gas Project
                                                                   h    ina a
                                                                                nd P                                                                                            ve                                                      impact area
                                                                                    hilip                                                                                    Sla
                                                                                             es                                                                   Great                                                                 Heavy oil regions
                                                                                                                                                                               FORT SMITH
                                                                                                                            North Central Corridor                                                                                      Labour migration
                                                                                                                            Capacity unknown

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Based on maps by Petr Cizek for
                                                                                                                                                                                      Athabasca                  , Canadian

                                                                                                                                                    FORT CHIPEWYAN                 ke
                                                                                                                                                                                 La                                          Arctic Resources Council,

                                                                                         River                                                                                                                             Wikimedia, Total, and R. Vogel
                                                                                                                                                                             FORT MACKAY

                                                                                                                                                                              FORT MCMURRAY
Di                                                         KITIMAT
                                                                            Peace River Tar Sands

   lu   en
          t fr                                                                                                                                                                                          Athabasca Tar Sands
                     sia »                                                                                                                                                                                «W
                                                                                                                                                                                                            or k

                                                                                                                                                        R iv

                                                                                                                                       At                                                                             from
                                                                                                                                         habasca                                                                              New
                                                                Gateway Pipeline                                                                                                                                                 fo     undl
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               and &
                                                                .35 to .6 million barrels per day                                                                                                                                                      Maritim
             « Oil to Chi                                                                                                                                                                      Cold Lake Tar Sands                                               es

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Joshua Reichert
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Keystone Pipeline
                                    n Die

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         .43 to .59 million barrels per day
                                to Sa

                                                                                                                                                    CALGARY                                  Oil to U
                                                                          VANCOUVER                                                                                                                     S refin
                            « Oil

                                                                                                                                                                                                              eries »
                                                                                                                                                                                     «D          Oil
                                                                                                                                                                                       ilu           to
                                                                                                                                                                                             en       US
                                                                                                                                                                                               t fr      refi
                                                                                                                                                                                                   om       ner
                                                                           SEATTLE                                                                                                                              ies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Chi           »                             Clipper Pipeline
                                                                                                                                                                              Canada                         o                                    .45 to .8 million barrels per day
                                                                                                                                                l                              USA
                                                                                                                                                    to U

                                                                                  CANAMEX Corridor
                                                                                                                                                        S re
                                                                                                                                                   exico »

                                                                                                                                            from M

8             What the tar sands need

                                                                                     The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

                                                                           an estimated 82 per cent came        found in the tailing ponds are
                                                                           from the Athabasca River. Of         known to cause liver problems
                                                                           that, extraction companies           and brain hemorrhaging in
                                                                           were only required to return 10      mammals, and deformities and
                                                                           billion gallons to the river.        death in birds.
                                                                                 Most of the water used              It is difficult to estimate
                                                                           ends up in toxic tailing ponds.      the volume of toxins that make
                                                                           As of 2006, tailing ponds            their way into the Athabsca, but
                                                                           covered 50-square kilometres         downstream communities like
                                                                           of former boreal forest. By          Fort Chipewyan have reported
                                                                           2010, according to the Oil Sands     high occurences of rare cancers,
                                                                           Tailings Research Facility, the      lupus, multiple sclerosis and
                                                                           industry will have generated 8       other diseases in recent years.
                                                                           billion tons of waste sand and       Local fishermen have reported
                                                                           1 billion cubic metres of waste      boils and deformities in fish.
                                                                           water–enough to fill 400,000         One winter, an oil slick was
                                                                           olympic-sized swimming pools.        discovered under the ice.
                                                                           Today, the largest human-made        Syncrude later admitted that
                                                                           dam by volume of materials is        there had been a spill about 200
 A Suncor tailing pond (right), a few hundred metres from the              the Syncrude tailing pond, a few     kilometres upstream.
 Athabasca River (left).             David Dodge, The Pembina Institute    kilometres from the Athabasca             The Athabasca also feeds
                                                                           river.                               Great Slave Lake, Deh Cho

         or each barrel of oil       occuring tar sand. The bitumen              The waste sand and water       (the Mackenzie River) and vast
         produced from the           is later “upgraded” into synthetic    contain naphtha and paraffin,        northern watersheds. Water
         tar sands, between          crude oil.                            which are used in the extraction     from the Athabasca flows all the
         two and 4.5 barrels of            In 2007, the government of      process, and oil leftovers like      way to the Arctic Ocean, and
water is needed. The water is        Alberta approved withdrawal of        benzene, naphthenic acid and         plays an essential role in the
used in the process of extract-      119.5 billion gallons of water for    polyaromatic        hydrocarbon,     lives of Indigenous communities
ing bitumen from the naturally       tar sands extraction, of which        among       others.    Chemicals     and vast areas of Boreal forest.

ENERGY                                                                     greenhouse gas emissions and
                                                                           transition to sustainable fuel
                                                                           sources. According to estimates
                                                                           from the Pembina Institute, the
                                                                           tar sands will account for 25
                                                                           per cent of Canada’s emissions
                                                                           by 2020, if Kyoto targets are
                                                                                 The vast amounts of natural
                                                                           gas needed to extract millions of
                                                                           barrels of oil per day are leading
                                                                           to an anticipated shortage of
                                                                                                                connect Alaska’s north slope,
                                                                                                                home to an estimated 35 trillion
                                                                                                                cubic feet of natural gas, with
                                                                                                                the Mackenzie valley route.
                                                                                                                     In part to make up for the
                                                                                                                natural gas supply taken up by
                                                                                                                the tar sands, Liquid Natural Gas
                                                                                                                terminals have been proposed
                                                                                                                in multiple locations on the
                                                                                                                west coast, east coast and along
                                                                                                                the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The
                                                                                                                terminals would receive natural
                                                                           supply. As a result, several         gas from tankers incoming from
                                                                           energy megaprojects have been        the Middle East, Russia and
                                                                           proposed.                            other overseas sources.
                                                                                 Perhaps       the       most        Natural gas supply is still
                                                                           contentious of the proposals         not enough to keep up with
                                                                           is the $7 billion Mackenzie          anticipated growth, leading
                                                                           Gas Project, a 1,220 kilometre       industry to explore options such
 A Syncrude upgrader.                                       Dru Oja Jay    pipeline that runs along the         as nuclear power. Alberta’s first
                                                                           Mackenzie River Valley, from         nuclear power plant has been

          etween digging up the      about one sixth of the energy         the Arctic Ocean to Alberta’s        proposed in the town of Peace
          tar sand, separating       provided by a barrel of oil is        northern border. The project         River, though it has faced some
          out the bitumen,           expended to extract one barrel        would connect the estimated 82       local opposition.
          and     subsequently       of oil from tar sand.                 trillion cubic feet of natural gas        Much to the dismay of
upgrading it to synthetic                 Opponents of the tar sands       in the Mackenzie River delta         environmentalists, there is
heavy crude oil, the extraction      say that burning a relatively clean   with the tar sands extraction        also discussion of building new
process requires vast amounts        fuel like natural gas to produce      plants to the south.                 coal-burning power plants into
of energy. Because the tar sand      oil undermines any efforts                  A second project, the          future tar sands upgrading
and bitumen must be heated,          to reduce climate-changing            Alaska Gas Pipeline, would           facilities.
The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                     9

                                                                       disputed. Another estimate says      leaves the door open to abuse.
                                                                       that 20,000 new positions will       In one case, 12 men brought
                                                                       be created in the tar sands over     in by a trucking company were
                                                                       the next three years.                charged $500 per month to live
                                                                            The signs of a labour           in a three-bedroom bungalow.
                                                                       shortage are already apparent             The temporary foreign
                                                                       in Alberta. Workers from New-        workers program has sparked a
                                                                       foundland and the Maritimes          debate over the development of
                                                                       are offered flights to and from      the tar sands.
                                                                       Fort McMurray for the duration            “Most skilled workers
                                                                       of their work term. Grocery          would prefer to have twenty
                                                                       stores and fast food joints offer    years of stable employment
                                                                       hourly wages in the double           rather than seven or eight
                                                                       digits, and sometimes offer          years of frantic development,”
                                                                       signing bonuses.                     writes Gil McGowan of the
                                                                            Increasingly,      workers      Alberta Federation of Labour.
                                                                       are brought in from countries        If the pace of development was
                                                                       like China and the Philip-           slowed, he writes, the need for
                                                                       pines. In 2006, Immigration          temporary foreign workers
                                                                       Canada issued 15,172 new             would diminish.
 A work camp near Fort McMurray.                        Dru Oja Jay    “temporary work permits” in               Currently,    development
                                                                       Alberta, bringing the number of      is heading in the opposite

         he Conference Board       current rate of growth continu-     temporary workers to 22,392.         direction, with plans to increase
         of Canada predicted       ing unimpeded), but it seems             Temporary workers differ        production fivefold in the next
         in 2006 that Alberta      to be an accurate reflection of     from immigrants in that they         twenty years. Labour regula-
         would face a shortage     the concern Alberta’s industrial    have no access to immigration        tions are being “streamlined,”
of 332,000 workers by 2025.        sector has shown recently.          services, and can be sent home.      and plans are in place to further
The figure has been dismissed as        That tar sands require a       According to some reports,           increase the number of foreign
exaggerated (it is based on the    massive influx of labour is not     the workers’ temporary status        workers.

                                                                       rerouted. Giant trucks then          sustaining state.” According to
                                                                       remove soil, clay and sand to        Syncrude’s web site, this means
                                                                       uncover the prized tar sands.        “productive capability at least
                                                                       The sands are then removed and       equal to its condition before
                                                                       taken to plants to be processed.     operations began.” Syncrude
                                                                       In the end, an average of four       envisions “a mosaic landscape
                                                                       tonnes of earth must be removed      dominated       by     productive
                                                                       to render one barrel of oil.         forests, wetland areas alive with
                                                                             In addition to tailing ponds   waterfowl and grasslands sup-
                                                                       (see “Water”), vast amounts          porting grazing animals.”
                                                                       of waste sand are generated.              So far, Suncor says it
                                                                       These sands, still containing        has reclaimed 858 hectares,
                                                                       traces of bitumen and other          accounting for less than nine
                                                                       chemicals, are inhospitable to       per cent of the land it has mined
                                                                       life. Near Syncrude’s extraction     since 1967. Syncrude has mined
                                                                       plant, for example, a vast desert    18,653 hectares, a little under
                                                                       stretches over the horizon. The      a fifth of which it says it has
                                                                       expanse shows no signs of life,      reclaimed.
                                                                       and carries the overpowering              None of the land, however,
                                                                       smell of asphalt.                    has been officially certified
 Waste sand creates a moonscape near Syncrude.          Dru Oja Jay
                                                                             The tar sands cover an         as reclaimed by the govern-

           pen pit mining of       “overburden” that is removed        estimated 141,000-square kilo-       ment. Both corporations have
           tar sands, according    is up to 75 metres (about 25        metres, of which approximately       billboard advertisements in
           to the Government       stories) deep, and the underlying   3,400-square kilometres will         Fort McMurray proclaiming
           of Alberta, involves    tar sands are typically between     be strip-mined if currently-         the success of their reclama-
“clearing trees and brush from     40 and 60 metres deep.              approved projects go forward.        tion programs. In the end, it is
a site and removing the over-           After trees and brush are            Government regulations         not clear that land will be fully
burden–the topsoil, muskeg,        clearcut and either burned or       require the strip-mined land to      reclaimed, and government
sand, clay and gravel–that sits    sent to sawmills, the area is       be “reclaimed,” and returned         agencies have been criticized as
atop the oil sands deposit.” The   drained, and local rivers are       to a “stable, biologically self-     lax in enforcing regulations.
10           Visuals                                                            The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

A vast plain of waste sand near Syncrude, about 40 kilometres outside of Fort McMurray.                                    Dru Oja Jay
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                               Environment                          11
Passing Out in Upgrader Alley
“Industrial Heartland” developments rival those of the Athabasca tar sands

Shell’s upgrader in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.                                                            Matthew Dance (Creative Commons 2.0)

by Lori Theresa Waller                   Welcome       to   Alberta’s   The Radkes live and farm on        upgrader in 2003, accidents
                                    Industrial Heartland, a 78,550-     land that was bought from          have occurred at the rate of
     When the sirens go off         acre area about a half-hour         Kathy’s in-laws in the 1980s by    about four or five a year, says
at Shell’s upgrader near Fort       drive northeast of Edmonton.        Atco Gas, which stores natural     Kathy. Last September, there
Saskatchewan, Alberta, nearby       This industrial sacrifice zone,     gas underneath the property in     were two gas leaks in the space
resident Kathy Radke knows          home to dozens of refineries,       salt mines. When Kathy and her     of one week. Nearby residents
there has been another accident.    petrochemical plants and other      husband moved in, leasing their    were instructed to stay in their
As plumes of toxic vapour are       industrial facilities, is where     home from Atco, they were told     homes for several hours. Some
picked up and scattered by the      much of the bitumen pulled          they would be able to live and     later reported sore throats and
wind, she is expected to call an    from Alberta’s tar sands opera-     farm there safely for decades.     headaches that lasted for days.
emergency hotline set up for the    tions will be upgraded. Some is     With the rapid growth of                Shell’s neighbours are
handful of families living in the   already pumped here, through        industry in the area, the Radkes   exposed to routine emissions of
immediate vicinity. The hotline     a 493-km pipeline, to the Shell     were soon surrounded by the        sulphur dioxide and other toxic
is meant to tell residents the      upgrader. With two more             clanking of machinery, heavy       gases, which temporarily spike
severity of the accident, and       upgraders under construction,       truck traffic and air pollution.   above regulated maximum
whether to “shelter in place” or    and another 10 in various stages    Their house is two kilometres      levels on a regular basis. Over
to evacuate the area.               of proposal or development,         east–and downwind–of Shell’s       the past two years, Kathy’s
     “Half the time, the info       the area is popularly known as      massive Scotford operation,        family has lost 45 dairy cows
hasn’t even been updated            “Upgrader Alley.”                   which boasts the existing          out of a herd of 140 and she
when we call,” says Radke.               A few decades ago, it          upgrader, a second under           suspects that the air pollution
She wonders why Shell doesn’t       was mostly farmland. Several        construction and a refinery. To    has something to do with it.
supply the nearby residents         families still live scattered on    the north, BA Energy is also            The region’s flurry of
with air packs that they can put    patches of land between the         building a new upgrader.                          continued on page 43 »
on as soon as the alarms go off.    massive industrial facilities.           Since Shell built its first
12             Original Peoples                                                     The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Oil Versus Water
Toxic water poses threat to Alberta’s Indigenous communities
by Kim Petersen

      Alberta is replete with
precious oil. Recovery of that
oil from the tar sands, however,
is putting another precious
resource at risk: water. Dene
and Cree First Nations people
live close to and in the midst of
the largest tar sand deposit in
the Athabasca River region and
oil extraction is harming their
water supply.
      The recoverable oil reserves
in Alberta’s tar sands are so
bountiful that they vie with
oil reserves in Saudi Arabia
and Venezuela for top status.
Compared to Saudi Arabia,
however, the oil extraction
process is very expensive. What
is extracted is bitumen, a form
of crude oil, mixed with clay and
silica, which must be refined to
produce a barrel of oil. Current
high oil prices make the extrac-
tion and refinement of bitumen
very profitable.
      Scientists at the University
of Toronto and the University
of Alberta have warned that
the excessive water demand
will result in the disappear-
ance of the Athabasca River,
having a devastating impact
on the largest boreal delta in
the world–a UNESCO World
Heritage Site.
      First Nations communities
who live along and depend on
the Athabasca River are also
at possible risk from tar sands      Children play by the shore of Lake Athabasca in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta during a canoe race.
operations. There have been          Residents of Fort Chipewyan have seen rising rates of rare cancers since tar sands mining began
reports of increased illness         upstream along the Athabasca River.                                                           Dru Oja Jay
and signs of toxic chemicals
affecting wildlife.                  the Athabasca River is not being     of the Mikisew Cree First          rights–to hunt, fish, trap and so
      Some elders with Athabasca     protected. “The corporations         Nation, also in Fort Chipewyan,    on.”
Chipewyan         First    Nation    have to deal with us. We’ve          explained:                              The government is not
(ACFN) are concerned with            got environmental agreements              “There’s been a de facto      doing that.
the environmental monitoring         with every one of them,” Marcel      extinguishment of our treaty            “Historically,” said Poitras,
of the Cumulative Environ-           said.                                rights because the govern-         “they attempted to colonize us
mental Management Associa-                “If you’re not able to honour   ment continues to take up land     through policies and legisla-
tion (CEMA), an NGO that is          the treaty that we signed,” said     without any consideration or       tion that are paternal, colonial,
supposed to represent “all levels    Marcel, “we might as well do         consultation with the First        imperial and they continue that
of government,” First Nations        away with that treaty and you        Nations.” The treaty, Poitras      attitude...[the government is]
and other stakeholders.              can get your scrap of paper          told the Dominion, “obligates      simply not dealing with us as
      ACFN elder Pat Marcel          back and we can get our country      the government to consult with     priority rights holders of these
said that CEMA was “dead” in         back.”                               us any time there is a potential
the eyes of the elders because            George Poitras, a member        or adverse impact on our treaty                  continued on page 31 »
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                           Opinion                  13

We Speak for Ourselves
Indigenous peoples challenge the fossil fuel regime in Alberta
by Clayton Thomas-Muller                  Most      Canadian       and   the land, as descendants of the      the Canadian Indigenous Tar
                                     American campaigns against tar      original inhabitants of Canada,      Sands Campaign (CITSC).
      Over the span of 38 years,     sands development have been         we are not merely “concerned         This campaign aims to develop
Northern Alberta has changed         initiated by non-Indigenous         citizens.” Our Aboriginal title      mechanisms for Dene, Cree
from a pristine environment          groups or environmental non-        and treaty rights in Canada          and Metis grassroots peoples to
rich in cultural and biological      governmental        organizations   legally supercede the rights of      have meaningful participation
diversity to a landscape resem-      (eNGOs). Although these tar         the province of Alberta and cor-     in decision-making, to make
bling a war zone marked              sands lie within the traditional    porations and their operation in     informed decisions, to speak
with 200-foot-deep pits and          territories of First Nations and    the region.                          for themselves on energy and
thousands of acres of destroyed      Metis peoples, these campaigns           Dene, Cree and Metis com-       climate issues and to link front-
boreal forests. Lakes and rivers     lack Indigenous involvement.        munities and their leadership        line climate and energy impacts
have been contaminated and                In the words of many elders    must look beyond a dependence        to policy development.
groundwater systems drained.         and land-based community            on a fossil-fuel regime and be             The CITSC campaign will
The impact of the tar sands          members living in the tar sands     visionaries and doers, support-      work towards the establish-
industry is what I am talking        area, concerns for jobs, housing,   ing the development of clean         ment of a sustainable energy
about. This industry has also        income and economic develop-                                             and economic platform for First
resulted in the disruption to        ment have taken priority over                                            Nations and Metis. The platform
the Dene First Nations and           the traditional Indigenous
                                                                         “The river used to be                will include both a moratorium
their treaty rights, including the   values of respecting the sacred-                                         on “new” fossil fuel develop-
cultural disruption to the Cree      ness of Mother Earth and pro-
                                                                         blue. Now it’s brown.                ment, large-scale hydropower
and Metis communities.               tection of the environment.                                              and nuclear energy and, as an
      The areas of concern fall           “The river used to be blue.
                                                                           Nobody can fish or                 alternative to the tar sands, a
under Aboriginal Treaties 8 and      Now it’s brown. Nobody can fish                                          call to prioritize the develop-
11. These are treaties that ensure   or drink from it. The air is bad.        drink from it.”                 ment of clean, renewable energy
lands of First Nations not be        This has all happened so fast,”                                          on First Nations and Metis land
taken away from First Nations        says Elsie Fabian, 63, an elder     production and clean renewable       in Alberta. The campaign will
by massive uncontrolled devel-       in a First Nation community         energy within their lands. There     build a broad-based regional
opment that threatens their          along the Athabasca River.          needs to be a clear strategy to      coalition of First Nations
culture and traditional way of            Some First Nations leader-     motivate First Nations leader-       and Metis grassroots–made
life.                                ship, such as the Dehcho Dene       ship and their grassroots com-       of provincial-, regional- and
      The de-watering of rivers      First Nations in the Northwest      munities to get active in energy     community-level First Nations
and streams to support the           Territories and the Mikisew Cree    and climate change policy, at the    and Metis organizations and
tar sands operations, and the        and Athabasca Chipewyan First       provincial, federal and interna-     Band Council leadership–which
destruction of the boreal forest,    Nations in Fort Chipewyan have      tional levels. Capacity develop-     will advocate for, and realize,
have threatened the cultural         called on Canada and Alberta        ment must be strengthened.           sustainable energy and climate
survival of the First Nations        to support a moratorium on          There is a need for informed         policies. The IEN recognizes,
peoples.                             further tar sands development.      Aboriginal and Indigenous            supports and promotes envi-
      An anticipated $25-billion          Organizations opposing the     organizations to take the lead       ronmentally sound lifestyles,
expansion of the Athabasca           expansion of tar sands develop-     in organizing strategy, advocacy     economic       livelihoods   and
oil sands in Northern Alberta        ment must recognize the First       and training for First Nations.      healthy, sustainable communi-
is underway. First Nations           Nations who share that opposi-      Our Dene, other First Nations        ties. As Indigenous peoples, we
leadership of the Athabasca          tion. As a member of the Indig-     communities and Indigenous           have a sacred responsibility to
Tribal Council (ATC) have been       enous Environmental Network         support organizations must           protect our human rights and
partnering with the world’s          and the Chair of the IEN Native     be more visible locally and in       to practice our cultural and
largest corporations involved in     Energy and Climate Campaign,        national campaigns.                  spiritual beliefs.
tar sands development. Some          we are identifying, and will be          Information is power. This
of these giant developers are        working with, Dene, Cree and        is the reason that there must        Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the
Mobil Oil, Shell, Gulf, Syncrude     Metis community members who         be a major focus on “building        Mathais Colomb Cree Nation
Canada, Petro-Canada and             are concerned about the Alberta     the base” with members of the        (Pukatawagan) in Northern
Suncor      Energy.      However,    tar sands expansion, as well as     First Nations and the Metis          Manitoba, is an activist for
many First Nations and Metis         the broader fossil-fuel regime in   settlements, on starting with        Indigenous rights and envi-
grassroots people have not           Canada.                             the grassroots. The Indigenous       ronmental justice. He has
been part of these negotiations           The rationale behind this      Environmental Network (www.          worked with grassroots Indig-
and are silently opposed to tar      approach is that the govern-, an Indigenous-        enous communities to defend
sands expansion. These people        ment of Canada and the courts       run     environmental      justice   their Inherit, Treaty and
feel disenfranchised by a lack of    recognize treaties between the      non-profit organization based        environmental rights against
knowledge and skills necessary       Crown and Aboriginal peoples.       in the States, along with our        unsustainable energy develop-
for organizing policy for energy-    As Aboriginal peoples with long-    Canadian allies, is working on       ment and transnational energy
and climate-related issues.          standing use and occupation of      this level. IEN will be launching    corporations.
14            Opinion                                                                The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Gateway to Solidarity?
Pipelines and Indigenous communities in northern B.C.
by Carla Lewis

     Two years ago, pipelines
were the furthest concern
from anyone’s mind. But
today, most Indigenous com-
munities in British Columbia
have heard of the proposed
pipelines and company names
like “Enbridge” and, to a lesser
extent, “Pembina” are tossed
around like Kleenex.
     The Enbridge Gateway
Project was the first of the
proposed pipelines to capture       The coast near Kitimat will soon be a route for tankers carrying oil, diluents and liquid natural gas if the
the attention of Indigenous         Gateway pipeline is constructed.                                          Jessica Johnson/Creative Commons 2.0
Peoples in British Columbia,
as this proposed project would      (CSTC) filed a provincial court      and peoples.                          away from us, slowly bled away
directly impact unceded tra-        challenge against the Ministry             It’s not that First Nations     by a thousand paper cuts. Our
ditional territories. If carried    of Environment’s decision to         are against all development,          lands are contaminated and we
forward, the pipeline would         establish a joint review panel       but non-renewable resource            die from cancer, asthma and
transport oil from Alberta’s        regarding Enbridge’s pipeline        proposals that meet minimum           other chronic diseases that are
tar sands to the coast, where it    application. The CSTC made           environmental standards for           increasingly linked to industrial
would be loaded onto tankers for    multiple requests to be involved     maximum economic gain are             environmental hazards by sci-
transport to the US and China.      in the review process and were       often the only options put on         entific evidence. Perhaps even
A second, parallel pipeline         essentially ignored. Since then,     the table. Development that           a greater tragedy is occurring
would transport diluent, which      a First Nations Review Panel         offers sustainable solutions          as our youth turn knives to their
is needed to enable heavy crude     has been formed consisting           doesn’t seem to fit into the dis-     wrists and guns to their heads,
oil to flow from the tar sands      of the CSTC, two other tribal        cussion, despite the oft-stated       as the loss of land and of cultural
to overseas refineries, from        councils and seven other First       commitment to “sustainable            continuity lead to a devastating
tankers originating in Russia       Nations across the province          development.”                         loss of hope.
to Alberta. Enbridge is just        who would be directly impacted             Throughout this battle, the          So where are we to go from
one company planning to take        by the proposed pipeline and oil     role of mainstream media has          here? Sit idly by as pipelines cut
their lines across the province;    tankers off the coast of British     been to portray First Nations         new borders and deep wounds
others plan to follow and each      Columbia.                            as      “trouble-makers”     who      in the earth, disturb hundreds
will require separate right of           The First Nations Review        are trying to halt a booming          of watersheds and leave us the
ways, albeit on similar paths of    Panel proposes to conduct a          economy and, as a result, are         possibility of a spill? Aboriginal
economic gain.                      review that takes into consid-       creating economic uncertainty.        rights and title are possibly the
     Communities         already    eration First Nations’ interests     This relationship continues to        brightest hope that Canadians
dealing with a chronic lack of      over and above the position          be dysfunctional at best.             have to combat pipeline devel-
funding, time and personnel         of other stakeholders, and is              In reality, blockades are       opments in B.C. And of course,
are now being forced to use         based on the necessity of “prior,    used as a last resort when            this is not just of concern to
scarce resources–rerouted from      informed consent” from First         the laws and policies of the          First Peoples; this is a dire
education, social services and      Nations people when exploiting       Canadian state fail to take into      situation for all Canadians and
other community portfolios–to       their unceded territory.             consideration constitutionally        a relationship of solidarity must
try to stay ahead of the wave of         The wanton destruction of       protected Aboriginal rights and       be undertaken between Indige-
large-scale industrial develop-     territories without Indigenous       title. In fact, Indigenous people     nous peoples and the rest of the
ment and pressures resulting        input is no longer the way to do     the world over face similar situ-     population. We must all cast a
from the insatiable advances of     business. The present review         ations in the face of government      glance forward and look beyond
industry.                           process fails to give weight to      and industry. One poignant            the boom to the eventual bust
     For the past two years, our    Indigenous perspectives, per-        difference       for   Indigenous     to decide if oil and pipelines
communities and respective          spectives that often will not fit    people in Canada is that we           are the best option for the next
tribal councils have struggled      into a neat formula. The prospect    aren’t violently evicted, killed      seven generations. Or is a more
to keep up with various assess-     of jobs and “economic gain”          and kidnapped like in other           suitable form of sustainable
ments, studies and communi-         should not trump the health          countries. Or are we?                 development attainable?
cations. We eventually found        of a river that has been the life          We continue to be dis-
ourselves in the courts.            water of people for millennia,       located from our traditional          Carla Lewis,
     In October of last year, the   according to the worldview held      territories and respective lands      Wet’suwet’en First Nation
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council       by many Indigenous nations           as they are slowly legislated
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                              Arts              15
Sublime Tar Sands?
Edward Burtynsky’s photography and Canada’s extractive industries
by Sylvia Nickerson                  overwhelming power of Nature
                                     over Man, represented by a
      For over 20 years, Canadian    vast and pristine vista of land.
artist Edward Burtynsky has          It reminded the viewer that
photographed some of the             Nature can be simultaneously
world’s largest sites of resource    threatening and beautiful.
extraction and processing. He        Burtynsky has imagined the
has documented uranium and           twentieth-century version of
nickel mines, stone quarries,        the sublime as a landscape
oil fields, oil refineries, “urban   transformed through human
mines,” including massive            power into something equally
tire piles and compacted             beautiful and frightening. His
metal waste, giant factories,        photographs of mines and
the recycling of single-hulled       quarries shock the viewer with
oil tankers and the construc-        their otherworldly appearance,
tion of the Three Gorges Dam         especially once one realizes
in China–the world’s largest         that they are portraits of a land
hydro-electric project. As part      made unrecognizable through
of this quest, Burtynsky has also    intensive industrial activity.
documented the oil industry in            By eliminating people
Canada, including the Albertan       from the Canadian landscape,
tar sands. However, there is a       Burtynsky shares something
noticeable difference between        else with his nineteenth-century
his work in Canada and his work      peers. When British painters
overseas. When Burtynsky takes       came to Canada, literally
his camera to Bangladesh or          removing Canada’s aboriginal
China, he reveals human labour       people from the picture served
as the driving force behind the      the British agenda of coloniza-
landscapes of these industrial       tion. In his photographs of
mega-projects. Human beings          other countries, Burtynsky has
are what define these land-          put people back into colonized
scapes. In his photographs of        or capitalist landscapes, but
the Albertan tar sands, however,     by keeping them out of images
the human figure is absent. Why      of Canada, the agenda he is
did Burtynsky choose to remove       serving has come into question.
people from his portraits of         In his Canadian photographs,
Canadian industry?                   the subject of the immense
      The history of landscape       reorganization of land is the
painting and photography may         landscape, not the people. The
help explain his choices. If         images do nothing to challenge
people appeared at all in tradi-     the     prevailing     Canadian
tional landscape images, they        ignorance about the enormous
served to show the overwhelm-        environmental and social con-
ing vastness of the subject. In      sequences that will be the legacy
Burtynsky’s pictures of mines,       of the Alberta tar sands project
mine tailings, quarries and          for generations to come.
urban mines from the 1980s and            For most of his career,
1990s, he follows this tradition.    Burtynsky       has   studiously
People, or their residue in the      avoided politicizing his work
form of tire tracks, parked          and he has come under attack
cars, ladders, or abandoned          for his relentless pursuit to
backhoes, are used to reveal the     aestheticize his subject and
vast scale of these extraction       render it ambiguous. However,
sites.                               this ambiguity is what draws
      Burtynsky has said that        viewers in again and again. It is
he aspires to create sublime         both pleasurable and disturbing
landscapes for our time. The         to see these transformed land-
sublime landscape in the nine-                                             Works by Edward Burtynsky: Oil Fields No. 23 (Cold Lake), Oil
teenth century symbolized the                     continued on page 35 »   Fields No. 24, Oil Fields No. 25 (Fort McMurray)
16            Labour                                                               The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Hard Times Sold in Vending Machines
Worker migration from Atlantic Canada to the tar sands
by Stuart Neatby

     For Atlantic Canadians,
the story of worker migration
couldn't be more familiar.
Leaving the region for the
"boom town" of the day has
been a rite of passage since the
1970s. The successive waves
of worker migration from east
to west have been many–the
last Alberta energy boom in
the seventies, the construction
boom in Toronto in the '70s
and '80s, the collapse of the
cod fishery in Newfoundland,
followed by the collapse of coal
mining in Cape Breton–and
have always resulted in a par-
ticular pull for young workers
away from the region. This
regional story was immortalized
by Donald Shebib's classic 1970
film "Goin' Down the Road,"         An Acadian flag adorns a Fort McMurray home.                                                    Dru Oja Jay
which follows two men who
leave Cape Breton in search of      Reg Anstey, president of the         foundland alone.                   fishery in the early 1990s, is
a better life in Toronto, only      Newfoundland Federation of                Anstey sees many advan-       now in a state of population
to end up bouncing from one         Labour, "is that in the other        tages for Newfoundland from        decline, with more people dying
poorly paid job to another.         outmigrations of significance,       the oil boom. The province,        than are being born. Regional
The shock of rural life colliding   like when the fisheries shut         like other regions of Atlantic     papers frequently carry stories
with urban poverty was aptly        down, a lot of people took pretty    Canada, is in the relatively       about labour shortages for
captured in Bruce Cockburn's        lousy jobs."                         early stages of developing its     local trucking companies and
song of the same name, which             According to Anstey, unlike     own oil and gas sector. Until      fish plants. This shortage, in a
he wrote for the film: "I came      during other times of economic       the Lower Churchill Valley         startling parallel to Alberta's
to the city with the sun in my      collapse in Newfoundland,            hydroelectric project and the      own industry "solution" to its
eyes/ My mouth full of laughter     when workers took jobs in            Hebron offshore oil project are    own tar sands-fueled labour
and dreams/ But all that I          fish or meat-packing plants in       able to deliver high-paying jobs   shortage, is prompting increas-
found was concrete and dust/        Atlantic Canada and Ontario,         for Newfoundland's workforce,      ing calls from east coast business
And hard times sold in vending      Newfoundland labour is now a         Anstey sees the migration of       leaders to fill these positions by
machines."                          much sought-after commodity.         workers, whose return flights      importing Temporary Foreign
     Today, it is difficult to           "This is the first time where   are likely booked in advance by    Workers.
exaggerate the impact that          almost everyone who's working        their employers, as a method of         However,       for    Atlantic
worker migration to the Alberta     out there, their way up is paid      training a generation of workers   Canadian workers travelling to
Tar Sands has had for Atlantic      and their way back is paid by        for these projects.                Fort McMurray, the effects of
Canada. Although credible           the company," says Anstey.                However, the pull of          this migration may not be fully
estimates for numbers of                 As of 2006, the shortage of     workers from the region is         known for years to come.
workers who have been moving        workers across the province was      still somewhat alarming. The            Steve Gaul, a resident of
west are difficult to gauge, few    estimated by the Alberta gov-        populations of Newfoundland        Halifax, worked various stints
doubt that they are in the tens     ernment to be around 100,000         and Labrador and Nova Scotia       in the oil fields for a total of
of thousands. One would be          workers. Canadian National           are shrinking, according to        three years, most recently as a
hard pressed to find anyone in      Resources Limited has begun          Statistics Canada, while New       roughneck on a rigging crew.
the region who does not know        offering three flights a week        Brunswick and Prince Edward        When asked about conditions
someone working out west.           from Alberta to Newfoundland,        Island registered the lowest       on the job, Gaul says he discov-
     But the move by thousands      while Air Canada has added           population growth rate of all      ered that exposure to harmful
of Atlantic Canadians to Fort       a 'Fort McMurray Express.'           provinces in Canada between        chemical agents was frequent.
McMurray in recent years            The National Post reported in        2006 and 2007. Newfoundland             "There's lots of Benzene
differs from past worker migra-     May that almost a third of the       in particular, with an economy     and substances that you're
tions.                              residents of Fort McMurray           that has not yet recovered from
     "The key difference," says     were believed to be from New-        the collapse of the commercial                   continued on page 36 »
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                          Accounts                    17
Working Full-Time
The work camps of Fort McMurray
by Lindsay Bird                                                                                                unnatural way of living. Work
                                                                                                               is the focus of existence. As the
      Two     mechanics      from                                                                              “hotel-style” camps emphasize,
site picked me up at the Fort                                                                                  life is something that happens
McMurray Greyhound station                                                                                     when you’re away from camp.
at 2pm. I had spent the uncom-                                                                                 What exists in camp, then,
fortable six-hour bus ride from                                                                                is a society defined by work
Edmonton beside a large,                                                                                       and routine, out of touch with
sweating man from Bathurst,                                                                                    larger civilization. As one camp
New Brunswick, who worked                                                                                      resident of two years says,
at the same site to which I                                                                                    “Camp life is hard to describe to
was travelling. When this con-                                                                                 anybody who hasn’t been there.
nection was discovered, he                                                                                     Even my family doesn’t get it.”
excitedly phoned his sons, also                                                                                      The drag of the daily
on-site, to tell them ‘a girl was    Institutionalized nomadicism: camp living quarters.         Dru Oja Jay   routine, enforced always by
coming.’ My introduction to the                                                                                rules, is indeed hard to convey
alternate society of work camps      to emulate small towns.             $180 and is entirely picked up        to outsiders. In search of a small
had begun.                           Rather, they reinforce a sense      by the client or contractor. Oil      break in mid-December, my
      Of Wood Buffalo Region’s       of estrangement from the            company logic follows that by         friend Dave bought a toboggan
population of 80,000, over           immediate surroundings; rules       creating too plush an atmo-           and brought it to go sledding
10,000 live in work camps flung      about what personal items are       sphere within camps would lead        on the hill behind the camp. We
far and wide throughout the          allowed are many and domestic       to increased absenteeism and,         had talked about the possibility
bush. Here, being female is akin     comforts are few. Meal times        at the very worst, a home away        of sledding for weeks before-
to having a giant pair of antlers    are set, quiet hours are enforced   from home.                            hand and the potential for an
on your head and wearing neon        and any unusual activities are           This        institutionalized    activity other than watching
clothing adorned with flashing,      investigated by the security        nomadicism has contributed            TV or getting drunk had us all
beeping lights -- all the time. In   guards. Most workers are on a       to the careless atmosphere            excited. Three of us bundled up
my camp, perhaps 30 or 40 of         rotational schedule, working six    most camp residents have              against the -30 degree weather
the 1400 people were women.          weeks at a time, before being       towards Fort McMurray. It is          one night and took the sled out --
The first time I attended meal       flown--at company expense--to       not a pretty town and its air         only to be stopped by a security
hall, I made the mistake of          their home territory for two.       of neglect is palpable: as the        guard after our first run down.
wearing a mid-length skirt and,      Due to intense overcrowding,        saying goes, everyone works           “I don’t think there is a specific
while trying to swallow incred-      many camps have adopted             in Fort McMurray, but nobody          rule against this,” he said,
ibly inedible “food,” I overheard    what is known as “hotel-style       lives there. Many workers             “but you better stop anyway.”
several conversations about          service.” Employees check into      avoid going to town altogether,       Minutes later, we were back in
the possible colour of my            a camp room for their shift and     preferring to wait in line to use     our rooms having a beer and the
underwear.                           leave with all their belongings     the long-distance pay phones.         piercing disappointment we all
      Generally, work camps          at the end, effectively forcing     Town nightlife is fraught with        felt could only be understood by
service the construction sector,     them to live out of a suitcase.     bar fights--especially between        someone else worn down by the
with most contractors’ work-         Company policy states that “this    non-union and union members-          monotony of camp.
forces living in trailers on or      emphasizes that our workers         -centred on how much money                  The sense of mental
close to the worksite--anywhere      are on-site to work,” and not       one can spend at the strip club       isolation,    compounded       by
from 45 minutes to two hours         to establish any type of home       or casino. Outsiders would            geographic remoteness, means
from Fort McMurray. The              within the camp.                    be amazed to learn that it is         it takes a certain hardiness of
trailers each hold between 30             This is exactly what           possible to throw $300 worth          personality to survive in camps.
and 50 men, plopped onto a           makes camps successful in           of toonies at a stripper over the     For those who can, there is the
carved-out section of bush; these    oil companies’ eyes. Workers        course of an evening. The small       benefit of saving large amounts
camps typically house 1,500 to       living in camp are far more         upside of this testosterone fest:     of money within short spans of
2,500 people. Like weird small       likely to have spotless atten-      if you’re female, your drinks         time. The friendships formed
towns, you see the same people       dance records than those living     will always, always be bought         in camps are close-knit, as
over and over again, learning        in town. There is not much          for you.                              people depend on their friends
more about their habits than         point in missing work when all           These alive and alarm-           to stay sane in such an absurd
their personalities. Being a girl,   you can do with a day off is sit    ingly abundant stereotypes            environment. My camp life was
this is naturally amplified. “You    in an 8-by-12-foot bunk. The        contributed to my thoroughly          positively shaped by the people
wore a red shirt yesterday” is       productivity of camp workers        mixed reaction to camp. On the        I met there and they are the
both a brilliant observation and     is therefore worth the expense      one hand, the camp functions          reason I look back at my time
a good pickup line, in camp          of keeping them in camps,           as a refuge from these harsh          there somewhat fondly -- that
terms.                               where the bill for a single day’s   elements of town life; but on the     is, until I remember the meal
      The camps are not trying       lodging can vary from $120 to       other, it subjects one to a totally   hall.
18            Original Peoples                                                      The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

The Richest First Nation in Canada
Ecological and political life in Fort MacKay
by Macdonald Stainsby                they brought many changes,
                                     including       serious    health
     The primarily Indigenous,       problems, to the community.
mostly Cree (also ‘Chipewyan               “People only died of old
Dene’) community of Fort Mac-        age in our days...very seldom–
Kay–just north of the interna-       maybe the odd now and then,
tionally famous tar sand “boom”      but other than that, few deaths,
city of Fort McMurray–is said        very few. But now? [Deaths]
to be the “richest First Nation in   right and left, young people 37,
Canada.” The alleged wealth is       34, their forties, early
largely due to the fact that the     fifties. People are dying here.”
community is surrounded by,                “It’s got something to do
and on top of, tar sand.             with these plants, I’m sure of it
     Home to about 500               myself because I’ve been here
residents, Fort MacKay is the        my whole life–in our day that’s
only official community north        not the way it was.”
of Fort McMurray on highway                After the plants began to
63, and lies 40-odd kilometres       operate, the water began to
down the Athabasca River. On         make people concerned for their
a remote northern highway like       health. Many locals who ran
this one, one would normally         trap lines nearby lost their lines
see car traffic every few minutes.   when the land was “scraped off,”
On this particular road, cars go     in mining terms. Those whose
by every few seconds. When           trap lines were not destroyed
shifts at tar sands processing       describe the disappearance
plants change over–the plants        of many of the animals they
operate around the clock–the         depended upon for their food
traffic is bumper-to-bumper          and their livelihood.
and slows way beneath posted               Blueberries and Saskatoon
limits. Where two generations        berries were once so abundant        A community bulletin board in Fort MacKay features notices from
ago, there was nothing but           that everyone had more than          Suncor about increased flaring, and signs like this one. Dru Oja Jay
muskeg forest, there is now          enough to flavour their favorite
sandy wasteland. Where there         recipes. Now, locals report, they    Indian Affairs has control over    an “open secret” that the Alberta
were rivers, there are now nine-     are not scarce–they are simply       the funding of the Band.) While    Energy and Utilities Board
storey-deep holes. Where there       gone.                                many others oppose the mining,     review process is not much of
were lakes with fish, there are            Today, there is suspicion      they are less apt to go on the     a process. The board has yet to
now “tailing ponds” filled with      about the collusion of the Fort      record in a small community        refuse a single application for
toxic waste left over from the       MacKay administration with           like Fort MacKay.                  tar sand mining.
extraction       process–cannons     Syncrude, Suncor and other                Now, the Fort MacKay               Today, the problems of
are fired to prevent birds from      corporations, companies that         First Nation wants to begin a      Fort McMurray have extended
landing in them and dying.           have been the driving force of       new joint venture with Shell in    to Fort MacKay. There are many
Syncrude’s largest such “pond”       the drastic changes in living        the tar sands themselves. This     victims of random violence in
is surrounded by one of the          conditions that have occurred        means that Fort MacKay will        the small community, violence
largest earthen-built dams on        in Fort MacKay.                      likely find itself opposed by      often tied to drug and alcohol
the planet.                                The facts of the drastic       the two First Nations of Fort      abuse. Downstream of the
     “Every which direction          changes visited upon Fort            Chipewyan, which is down-          massive plant for Suncor along
you look, [tar sands extraction      MacKay by operations like            stream from the tar sands. Fort    the Athabasca River, there is
plants] all around us, they’re all   Syncrude and Suncor are not          Chipewyan has seen a drastic       a collective sense of defeat to
around. And these two up above       disputed. Few speak out as           increase in rates of rare forms    these “side-effects.” And when
us here, those are the worst         defiantly as Harpe. Whether          of cancer and other illnesses,     you cannot see the plumes rising
ones. These two are the worst        because of the perceived inevi-      but has not seen the millions      out of the stacks, you can smell
polluters... that’s Syncrude         tability of tar sands mining or      in investment and “community       them in Fort MacKay’s living
and Suncor, they’re the worst        the millions of dollars in           partnerships.”                     rooms–the smell of burning tar
ones because they’re so close        “partnerships” offered by oil             Perhaps as a result, its      all day, every day.
to us too, you know?” Celina         companies, the local Indian Act      representatives oppose the              A trip out to the Suncor
Harpe told us. An elder in Fort      government–the Fort MacKay           expansion of the tar sands,        plant by river can give one
MacKay, Harpe has lived here         First Nation–is going along          and may find themselves in         a sense of the size of the
all her life. When the mining        with mining. (Under the Indian       conflict with Fort MacKay in the
operations began in the 1960s,       Act, the federal Minister of         approval process. However, it is                 continued on page 35 »
The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007              Excerpt           19

From Extraction!: Comix Reportage, forthcoming from Cumulus Press in November 2007
20            Gender                                                                 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

For Many Women, Alberta’s Boom a Bust
Rising housing costs, lack of alternatives lead to precarious situations
by Maya Rolbin-Ghanie                                                                                        women than men. There are
                                                                                                             not enough absolute spaces
     Driven by the tar sands,                                                                                for women, and there is little
Alberta’s white-hot economy                                                                                  stability in these places.”
continues to make headlines.                                                                                       The shelter situation in
But the gendered repercussions                                                                               Fort McMurray is grimmer still.
of the province’s boom are often                                                                             Currently, no shelters accept
neglected, understated, or alto-                                                                             minors. A report released this
gether denied.                                                                                               month by the region’s Home-
     Alberta’s tar sands opera-                                                                              lessness Initiatives Steering
tions have made the province                                                                                 Committee found that some
an attractive point of relocation                                                                            teenagers are resorting to pros-
for many in the last couple of                                                                               titution in exchange for a bed or
decades. A large number of                                                                                   couch for the night.
jobs have been created, many                                                                                       Jan Reimer, Provincial Co-
paying six-figure salaries. Other                                                                            ordinator of the Alberta Council
industries, most notably the                                                                                 of Women’s Shelters and a
service sectors, have had to                                                                                 former mayor of Edmonton,
compete with these salaries in                                                                               says the need for spaces far
a struggle to retain workers. As                                                                             outstrips supply. “Last year,
wages have been pushed higher                                                                                we served 13,000 women and
in order to lure employees,                                                                                  children. On top of that, 25,000
rent has increased as landlords      Women at a June 11 demonstration organized by the Disability            could not be accommodated and
capitalize on the increases in       Action Force on Housing in Edmonton. Grant Neufeld (Creative Commons)   15,000 simply could not find a
income. Those without the                                                                                    place to stay. Only four shelters
resources or skills to tap into      boom is great if you’re a CEO         “homeless.”                       in Alberta have all of their
Alberta’s renowned boom and          in downtown Calgary,” says                 “If a woman is sleeping      beds funded by the province.
to profit from it are the most       Edmonton NDP MLA Ray                  with her landlord to maintain a   The capacity really needs to be
likely to have to deal with its      Martin. “Saskatoon is now             roof over her head, then she is   increased.”
negative consequences.               experiencing a mini-boom too.         homeless,” says Scott. “Other           Part of the reason there
     In the case of the tar sands,   But this means that more and          women will do it for money for    are so many more women and
women have often been discour-       more people are falling behind.”      drugs, to medicate a trauma       children in need of shelter
aged from pursuing the very          The     “successful”     economy      that they’ve suffered which has   than there is shelter space is
resources and skills necessary       has created an urgent lack of         gone untreated–they are also      that Alberta has no transitional
to capitalize on the booming         affordable housing, transitional      homeless. Others will hang        housing program. As a result,
industry.                            housing, and shelter spaces,          out in a bar, hoping for a bed    there is often nowhere for them
     This is due in part to many     particularly for women.               and a safe place–they are also    to go from the shelter, except
female workers’ experiences               Women tend to be more            homeless.”                        back to the street. Establishing
with sexual harassment, gender       susceptible to losing their homes          The Women’s Emergency        a good transitional housing
discrimination and unequal           due to abuse or conflict with a       Accommodation            Centre   program would help women
wages. Sixteen years ago, Mobil      spouse or caretaker upon whom         (WEAC) in Edmonton is the         dealing with trauma or legal
Oil’s first female landman,          they are financially dependent.       most well known of the few        issues, but more importantly,
Delorie Walsh, submitted a           Because women are more likely         women’s shelters in the city.     it would buy time, which is
claim of gender discrimination,      to have children to look after,       It can accommodate just 75        what many need most. “A lot
a poisoned work environment          and are less likely to feel safe on   women per night, and there        of women can’t find a place to
and unequal pay. She was finally     the street or in shelters where       are generally 25 to 30 women      live, due to a lack of references,
compensated in October 2007.         men are also present, many            staying there for a longer        or a bad history with landlords.
     Those benefiting most           return to abusive relationships       term, which means fewer beds      What they need is physical
from the oil and gas workforce       when there is no alternative          available for those seeking       support in the community,”
are male. For example, current       shelter available.                    emergency shelter.                says Gillis.
male/female ratios are 79 to 21           This is one of the reasons            Amy Gillis, an inner-city          Affordable, quality child
per cent for geoscientists and       men make up the more visible          physician in Edmonton, says       care is one indication of a com-
96 to 4 per cent for trades.         segment of homeless popula-           there are few other options for   munity’s support of women.
     The significant gendered        tions, says author Susan Scott.       women seeking shelter. “There’s   Lack of child care can result
imbalance of access to jobs          Earlier this year, Scott inter-       the George Spadie Centre, but     in women’s inability to access
means unequal access to              viewed over 60 homeless               you usually have to be intoxi-    social services necessary to get
housing. Observers say this          women across Canada about             cated to go there. There’s the    out of shelters. Alberta is the
has led to a steady decline in       their lives. She is critical of the   Hope Centre, but they have
quality of life for women. “The      limited definition of the term        far fewer spaces available for                  continued on page 32 »
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                          Accounts                      21
What in Tar Nation?
Life among the tar sands
by Maya Rolbin-Ghanie                                                                                          “The barbecue was brand new,”
                                                                                                               she says. “You can’t just cook
      We leave Fort McMurray                                                                                   meat on a brand-new barbecue.
and hitch a ride to Fort MacKay,                                                                               There are toxic chemicals all
a Native community 40kms                                                                                       over these things–you have to
north, where we stay for three                                                                                 get the factory off of it before
days.                                                                                                          you use it to cook with.” She
      Celina, the elder with                                                                                   shakes her head at the floor and
whom we stay, speaks of the                                                                                    places her hand on the kitchen
trap lines from which she                                                                                      table to steady herself. “I don’t
and her husband Edward                                                                                         trust other people’s cooking. I
once gleaned a life, and of the                                                                                don’t trust it unless I’ve cooked
bushes teeming with berries                                                                                    it myself. I just don’t trust it at
that tickled this land before the                                                                              all.” She continues to shake her
tar sands plants opened, and                                                                                   head, sadly. “A lot of people
stole their land, along with the                                                                               don’t have a clue. They don’t
health of the fish and animals.                                                                                know how to cook a burger
She lists the kinds of berries:                                                                                right. The woman who cooked it
raspberries, high bush cranber-                                                                                didn’t even know that you can’t
ries, Saskatoon berries. She lists                                                                             just buy something from the
them off in circles, repeating       Smoke and flaring at the Syncrude plant, seen from Fort MacKay.           store and use it right away. She
                                                                                                 Dru Oja Jay
the names, once, twice, three                                                                                  probably had no idea. Half the
times, drawing attention to          Oil and water meet but refuse       being emitted from a Syncrude         time people have no idea they’re
the abundance that she has no        to coalesce in harmony. Like        plant. As a result, the plant was     eating poison,” she says.
pictures to prove. She pauses        Celina, the people of Fort          closed down.                                We meet Billy in the only
after each name, breaking in         MacKay who live upstream                 She shows us pictures, not       restaurant in Fort Chip. He
remembrance to taste each one.       from the plants get their           of high-bush cranberries, but of      works for Parks Canada as a
      We talk about quality of       drinking water from a source        people she’s known, and some          firefighter, away from home.
life. About how apples and           other than the river. Celina        she’s loved. She tells us about       On days off, he has a few
tomatoes, rumour has it, aren’t      doesn’t trust the water anyway      her eldest son, who died six          drinks. He drinks and has a lot
as robust, tasty or nutritious as    and has met with oil plant rep-     years ago. She speaks of how          to say. He tells us of his job at
they were in our parents’ gen-       resentatives and observed for       good-looking and kind he was.         a tar sands plant, how it lasted
eration and that our parents’        herself their own unwillingness     The neigbouring town of Fort          three months. “They clear cut
apples and tomatoes didn’t           to drink tap water. As a result     McMurray, where he died, seems        these huge areas,” he says, “but
measure up to those of previous      of one such meeting, Syncrude       almost entirely populated by oil      instead of giving it to the elders
generations either. Oranges and      agreed to provide and pay for       rig workers, or by those in close     for firewood or something
celery; mangoes and carrots;         all the bottled water that she      association. The town has seen        like that, they just bury it all
fish, moose; the vitamins of life.   and her husband can drink. She      massive growth in recent years:       underground with their huge
I read an article about it that      smiles when she tells us that       more people, more trucks, more        machines.” He raises his voice
recites percentages, that recaps     they hate her big mouth. The        drugs, violence and money.            in anger. “They’ve taken fish
parentages.                          people living downstream from       Before her son was stabbed            from this river with sores and
      Since the Alberta govern-      the plants, most notably in the     in the heart by somebody she          puss all over them. They’ve even
ment implemented its Mineable        isolated Native community of        doesn’t know, Celina knew it          found fish with two heads,” he
Oil Sands Strategy in 2005, its      Fort Chipewyan (farther north       had happened.                         says, eyes wide. “Indians are
priorities have been easier to       and only accessible by plane),           Our last morning in Fort         supposed to live to 100,” he
justify and enforce: the area has    draw water directly from the        MacKay we wake up to find that        smiles, “but I know sooner
been declared a “co-ordinated        Athabasca and are the most          Celina has not returned from          or later, I’m going to catch
zone within which mining has         affected. Five cases of a rare      Bingo the night before. Just          something.” He is well-built,
the highest priority; policy is in   cancer of the bile duct, cholan-    as we’re beginning to worry,          athletic, and seems healthy to
place that specifically stipulates   giocarcinoma, have occurred in      she arrives. She has spent the        me. “These plants know exactly
wildlife in the tar sands zone       Fort Chip’s population of 1,200     night in the hospital with her        what they’re doing,” he says.
will not be protected before or      in the past five years. Normally,   youngest son, Murray. “I think        “They don’t care if they kill us
during mining,” according to         only one in 100,000 people          he ate a bad hamburger,” she          all off. If we survive, it’s a bonus,
the Canadian Centre for Policy       contract it. Years ago, Celina      says. “Maybe food poisoning,”         but if some of us die of cancer,
Alternatives.                        tells us, white, non-native         she seems to hope. I find myself      oh well.” I find myself wanting
      Young people, old people       people in the neigbouring town      hoping as well. How serious           him to become the community
and people in-between are            of Fort McMurray complained         can food poisoning be? White          activist, the one who makes the
dying of cancer. The air here        of difficulty breathing, and        people who eat in fancy restau-
is laced by unrelenting stacks.      of green-black, deadly smoke        rants get it, so it can’t be fatal.                  continued on page 38 »
22            Labour                                                                     The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Roughneck, Bruised Head
One woman’s tale of toughness and safety in Alberta’s gas fields
by Tim McSorley                                                                                                              The challenges started
                                                                                                                       almost immediately, she says.
     Chantal Desharnais is                                                                                             For the first two days she worked
no stranger to the outdoors                                                                                            with all the new employees
or manual labour. Still, the                                                                                           on the line crew–the regular
24-year-old Quebecker, who                                                                                             work for rookies in the field,
had previously worked in con-                                                                                          following the machines clearing
struction and spent a summer                                                                                           brush to lay the explosive line
living on the banks of a B.C.                                                                                          behind it. But on the third day
river picking fruit for income                                                                                         she was sent out as a trouble-
had reservations about going to                                                                                        shooter alongside a 15-year
Calgary to work in the natural                                                                                         company veteran known for
gas industry for the summer.                                                                                           taking few breaks and working
It was the moral dilemma of                                                                                            long hours. While line crew
working in an industry she has                                                                                         follow tracks already cleared by
ethical disagreements with, not                                                                                        machine, trouble-shooters clear
the physical labour, had her                                                                                           their own path, going from one
concerned, says the student                                                                                            trouble spot in a detonation
in international relations at                                                                                          line to another. By the end of
the Université du Québec à                                                                                             the day she was exhausted and
Montréal. As many before her,                                                                                          demoralised. Upon returning to
the lucrative work provided an                                                                                         the camp, two of the older col-
opportunity to make enough                                                                                             leagues asked how her day was.
money over the summer to                                                                                                     “When I told them I was
cover her tuition fees and help                                                                                        out with Paddy, they burst out
with student loan debts.                                                                                               laughing, like it was some inside
     She was prepared for the                                                                                          joke,” she says. None of the
physical rigour of the work, but                                                                                       other new employees were sent
she never expected the sexism                                                                                          out as trouble-shooters.
she would face–or the serious                                                                                                Despite the tough day,
injuries she would sustain. After                                                                                      Desharnais stuck with it and
one month on the job, Deshar-                                                                                          was eventually transferred
nais would need to be trans-                                                                                           to work with someone a little
ferred to an office job in Calgary                                                                                     more easy-going. Then, towards
after suffering a concussion,                                                                                          the end of the month, she was
receiving five stitches to the                                                                                         transferred back to line crew.
back of her head, and a severely                                                                                       While the work atmosphere was
spraining her shoulder.               Culture of toughness: Alberta’s gas fields.   ‘aorr’ (Flickr/Creative Commons)
                                                                                                                       still far from comfortable, she
     Despite what seems to be                                                                                          felt the worst had passed, but
an ample need for workers in          her eventual employer, their         work by the beginning of July,              after three more days on line
the Alberta oil and natural gas       human resources and personnel        flown out to the base-camp in               crew, she was once again unex-
fields (the natural gas industry in   manager claims the company           Grand Cache, Alberta, where                 pectedly reassigned, this time
Canada alone employed 151,327         never refuses to hire women.         the company, which specialises              as a shooter’s helper.
people in 2006 and is growing),            “We never refuse to             in geological exploration, was                    According to Menchuk,
Desharnais found it difficult         hire someone if they are             checking the area for natural               there was another reason for her
to get hired once she hitch-          a woman–we’re an equal               gas deposits. She was one of                constant reassignment. “I didn’t
hiked her way out to Calgary.         opportunity employer,” says          only two women on the crew,                 want to tell Chantal this to her
Company after company refused         Stephen Menchuk, who hired           and says she felt it right away.            face, but I’ve been told that she
to grant her an interview.            Desharnais and is familiar with      Beyond what she saw as a culture            just couldn’t handle the work
While most companies were             her case. “We have so many           of “only the tough survive,” the            out in the field. She isn’t very big
coy about the reasons why,            positions to fill, sometimes we      fact she is a woman seemed to               and it’s tough work carrying 30
she says it was clear that they       even hire 50, 60-year-old men.       make it all that more thrilling             pounds of equipment through
weren’t interested in hiring          They don’t necessarily work out      for others to see her fail.                 the field and up mountains. I
women. Eventually, however,           in the field, but there is a lot          “As people get off the bus,            was told she just couldn’t keep
she started asking companies          of work that needs to be done        you can tell they’re judging how            up. Transferring her to shooter’s
outright if they had a policy of      at the base-camp that isn’t as       long they’ll last. Once you’re              helper was to give her a chance;
not hiring women. While she           physically demanding.”               there for a while, you start to             she would just need to follow
says she sensed hesitation when            Interviewed at the end          hear the comments too. It’s
she first contacted Geokinetics,      of June, Desharnais was at           especially hard for women.”                                continued on page 37 »
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                     Agriculture                        23
The Tar Sands and Canada's Food System
Are beans the only cure for natural gas?
by Dru Oja Jay                                                                                                  homes–over six million house-
                                                                                                                holds–are heated with natural
      Tar     sands     opponents                                                                               gas.
point out that burning natural                                                                                        Climate change–propelled
gas, a relatively clean fuel, to                                                                                by industrial projects like the tar
extract oil will result in massive                                                                              sands–is also slated to have an
increases in greenhouse gas                                                                                     adverse impact on agriculture.
emissions. Yet, some experts                                                                                    “Climatologists will tell you that
say the implications of using                                                                                   evaporation trumps rainfall,”
natural gas go far beyond global                                                                                says Qualman. Small increases
warming.                                                                                                        in temperature could mean
      North American agricul-                                                                                   much drier growing conditions
ture is deeply dependent on                                                                                     on Canada’s prairies, even if
natural gas. Nitrogen fertilizer                                                                                rainfall increases.
is chemically produced using a                                                                                        The decision to invest huge
process that–currently–cannot                                                                                   amounts of natural gas into
be conducted efficiently without                                                                                the tar sands will have ripple
large amounts of natural gas.                                                                                   effects through the Canadian
This fertilizer, in turn, is an                                                                                 food system, says Qualman. “As
essential nutrient in North                                                                                     North America becomes natural
America’s food production                                                                                       gas short, as we pass peak and
system. “In a fairly direct way,”                                                                               become net importers, we’re
says Darrin Qualman, Director        Canada’s industrial food system is deeply reliant on natural gas.          going to set up a competitive
                                                                             Rick Harrison (Creative Commons)
of Research at the National                                                                                     trade-off between the uses of
Farmers Union, “natural gas is       workable,” says Qualman. “But             This basic fact has global       natural gas”–tar sands, food,
a primary feedstock for our food     if tomorrow our fertilizer is       implications.                          heating and power generation
supply.”                             made from natural gas sourced             Vaclav Smil, a professor         among them.
      While “peak oil,” the point    in Russia or the Middle East,       of Environment & Geography                   “We really should have a
at which global production of        we in effect become dependent       at the University of Manitoba,         long-term plan around fertility
oil begins to decline, is subject    on offshore, highly unstable        estimated in his 2004 book             and food before we even think
to speculation, natural gas          supplies for our food system.”      Enriching the Earth that 40 per        about ramping up production in
peaked in North America in                 In terms of fueling the       cent of the protein in human           the tar sands...we have to look
2003. Since then, more wells         current food system, there are      bodies worldwide could not             at the next 100 years of agricul-
have been added, but produc-         few compelling alternatives to      have been produced without             ture and the next 100 years of
tion has declined slowly, while      natural gas. Coal is a possible     the use of synthetic nitrogen.         heating.”
prices have increased sharply.       source of nitrogen but is not       He concludes that roughly 2.5                “We should be saying:
      As a result, says Qualman,     nearly as efficient. In some        billion of the world’s 6.7 billion     ‘Show us the 100-year plan for
fertilizer companies are closing     scenarios, nuclear power plants     people could not exist without         agriculture and then show us
up shop and are moving their         can be used to produce fertil-      synthetic fertilizer.                  you’ve got a surplus left over
operations to places like            izer.                                     The number of people who         that can be used for the tar
Qatar, Egypt and Trinidad,                 A    more     fundamental     depend on synthetic fertilizer for     sands.’”
where natural gas is cheap and       alternative, says Qualman, is       their existence will increase as             In theory, some of the
plentiful, for now.                  to begin restructuring the food     the world population increases         business world seem to agree
      Canada has thus begun          system. Traditionally, nitrogen     by an estimated two to four            that “letting the market decide”
to import natural gas. At            fixing is performed by crops        billion by 2050.                       may not be the most sound
least 10 Liquid Natural Gas          like beans and chickpeas. Or,             For Canada, the problem          energy strategy. A January
(LNG) terminals are planned          it is recycled to cropland from     doesn’t stop at the food system.       2005 article in Canadian
in Quebec, British Columbia,         animal manures. Using crop          “When you think about the              Business asserts that “with no
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia            rotation and natural sources to     Middle East using up its gas           long-term guidelines and no
and New Brunswick, where             provide nitrogen and reducing       supplies,” says Qualman, “that’s       surplus capacity, the only thing
liquified gas will be brought in     energy inputs to agriculture        a non-recoverable resource,            the market can deliver is ‘vola-
from Saudi Arabia, Russia and        requires changes to diets and       but those places aren’t cold.          tility.’”
other producers.                     far more intensive use of human     Canada depends on natural gas                The article concludes by
      It is, he says, a cause for    labour.                             for heating. It’s going to be cold     quoting the president of a
concern in the coming decades.             Says Qualman, “Given the      here for thousands of years and        Calgary-based LNG company,
      “If you’re farming in Sas-     industrial food system and given    we’re using up our natural gas         saying “Economics 101 will
katchewan or Manitoba, using         a meat-based diet, nitrogen         supply in decades.” According          solve the mess, but the trouble
a fertilizer supply based on         and natural gas are absolutely      to Natural Resources Canada,           is it will do so with a machete...
natural gas from Alberta looks       essential.”                         nearly half of all Canadian            It will hurt.”
24            Opinion                                                             The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

A new wave of exploitation
Canada, Alberta defy UN, sell off rights to disputed Lubicon land
by Kevin Thomas

     United Nations officials
were visibly perturbed when the
UN Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights met
in a conference room in Geneva
last year to consider the long-
standing land rights dispute
between the Lubicon Lake
Indian Nation and the govern-
ments of Canada and Alberta.
     Just     seven      months
earlier, the UN Human Rights
Committee      (UNHRC)        had
re-affirmed a 1990 ruling that
found Canada was violating the
Lubicon people's human rights
and told the Canadian govern-
ment to negotiate a land rights
settlement with the Northern
Alberta based First Nation. The
Committee had also ruled that
Canada "should consult with the
                                    Elder Reinie Jobin examines Lubicon land razed by oil companies. The Lubicon were not consulted or
Band before granting licences
                                    notified.                                                                         Friends of the Lubicon
for economic exploitation of the
disputed land, and ensure that
                                    dispute and consult with the        resource exploitation activity      and some control over environ-
in no case such exploitation
                                    Lubicon people before issuing       including logging and large-        mental and wildlife matters in
jeopardizes the rights recog-
                                    new leases or licenses on their     scale oil and gas extraction.       their Traditional lands, Canada
nized under the [International
                                    lands.                              Over $13 billion in oil and gas     has let the situation deteriorate
Covenant on Civil and Political
                                         The Canadian and Albertan      resources have been taken           further. Canada has not sent
                                    governments        have     done    from their lands. By 2002,          a negotiator to the table since
     In the seven months
                                    neither.                            over 1,700 oil and gas well sites   December 2003.
following the October 2005
                                         The Lubicon Lake people        and countless kilometres of               The Alberta government,
UNHRC decision, the Alberta
                                    are an Indigenous Nation of         pipelines were situated within      for its part, has further exploited
government ignored the ruling
                                    approximately 500 people            Lubicon Traditional Territory.      the lack of a land rights settle-
entirely. Without so much as
                                    living near Peace River in               These massive resource         ment by opening up the area
a courtesy call to the Lubicon
                                    northern Alberta, Canada.           exploitation activities have        for "heavy oil" exploitation in
Nation, Alberta sold conven-
                                    They have never surrendered         decimated      the   traditional    recent years.
tional oil and gas leases and
                                    their rights to their Traditional   Lubicon hunting and trapping              "Heavy Oil" is a nicer-
exploration licences to over
                                    Territory in any legally or his-    economy and way of life, and        sounding word for tar sands
65,000 hectares of Lubicon
                                    torically recognized way. When      threaten the very existence of      that, when heated, can be
traditional Territory, approved
                                    a treaty was negotiated with        the Lubicon Lake People as a        extracted through oil wells
50 new oil and gas wells and
                                    other Indigenous peoples in         distinct Indigenous society.        rather than strip-mined.
approved almost 50 new
                                    the region in 1899, treaty nego-    With the onset of resource                Since the province of Alberta
pipelines on Lubicon lands.
                                    tiators never travelled inland to   exploitation has come terrible      began promoting the exploita-
     Then, as UN officials
                                    Lubicon territory and they were     social and health problems          tion of tar sands in the area,
gathered in May 2006 to
                                    therefore left out of the treaty    which the Lubicon people never      huge operations have sprung
review the Lubicon case,
                                    process. Even by its own Con-       had to face before, such as         up downwind and downstream
Alberta announced over 50,000
                                    stitutionally-enshrined process,    asthma and other respiratory        from the Lubicon community
hectares of Lubicon territory
                                    Canada has never secured rights     problems, cancers of all kinds,     despite Lubicon objections. And
would be put on the auction
                                    to the lands in dispute.            skin diseases and miscarriages.     beginning in 2004, a number of
block for new tar sands exploi-
                                         Despite the unresolved              Although the Lubicon           companies proposed to begin
tation without notifying or con-
                                    land rights–which in any            people have fought for years to     large-scale "heavy oil" extrac-
sulting the Lubicon people.
                                    society that valued the rule of     establish a modern treaty with      tion projects on 63-square
     Upon wrapping up the
                                    law should have given pause to      Canada that would provide           miles right in the heart of
hearings, the UN officials issued
                                    further encroachment–Lubicon        them with reserve lands, basic      Lubicon Territory immediately
a sharply-worded ruling again,
                                    Traditional Territory has been      amenities like running water and
pushing Canada to resolve the                                                                                             continued on page 38 »
                                    ravaged by multi-billion dollar     decent housing, a new economy
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                                                                                                             Environment                      25
Smoking in the Greenhouse
Tar sands growth makes meeting Kyoto targets unlikely
by Yuill Herbert                                                                                                                                                                                                                         the end of 2020. As Stéphane
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Dion famously stated in an
     The Kyoto Protocol is a                                                                   900                                                                                                                                       interview when he was environ-
legally binding agreement to                                                                                                                                                                                                             ment minister: “There is no

                                               Greenhouse Gas Emissions (millions of tonnes)
the international treaty called                                                                                                                                                                                                          minister of the environment
the United Nations Framework                                                                                                                                                                                                             on Earth who can stop this [oil
Convention on Climate Change.                                                                  675                                     Government of Canada projected
                                                                                                                                       GHG emissions
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         sands development] from going
Its objective is “the stabilization                                                                                                                                                                                                      forward because there is too
of greenhouse gas concentra-                                                                                                                                                                                                             much money in it.”
tions in the atmosphere at a level                                                                                                                                                                                                            At the UN emergency
                                                                                                                                     2012 Kyoto Target: 572
that would prevent dangerous                                                                   450                                   megatonnes                                                                                          meeting on climate this October,
anthropogenic         interference                                                                                                                                                            2020 Kyoto Target: 447
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Stephen Harper stated, “The
with the climate system.”                                                                                                                                                                     megatonnes                                 core principle of Canada’s
     The Kyoto Protocol aims                                                                                                                                                                                                             approach to climate change
                                                                                                                   2020 estimated GHG emissions from tar sands:
to reduce global emissions                                                                     225                 113 to 141 megatonnes (25 to 32% of target)                                                                           is balance. We are balancing
by five per cent by 2010. The                                                                           Pembina Estimates of GHG emissions                                                                                               environmental protection with
UN’s Intergovernmental Panel                                                                            from tar sands (high and low estimates)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         economic growth.”
on Climate Change states that                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Harper’s greenhouse gas
reductions of 50 to 85 per cent                                                                 0
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         emissions strategy is based on
by 2050 are needed to stabilize                                                                  1990                                 2007                                                                     2020                      carbon intensity. This means
the climate at safe levels.                                                                                                                                                                                                              that instead of reducing overall
     Under the Kyoto agreement,                                                                                                                                                                                                          GHG emissions, oil sands
Canada is committed to reducing       estimate of 2.7 million barrels                                                                   the most recent estimate in 2005                                                                 projects can successfully meet
emissions to 563 megatonnes.          per day by 2005 to the govern-                                                                    was 270 MT, a one hundred per                                                                    the Harper government targets
At current trends, Natural            ment of Canada’s estimate of                                                                      cent increase.                                                                                   while, reports Pembina, qua-
Resources Canada projects             six million barrels per day by                                                                          Pembina Institute offers                                                                   drupling output with the end
Canada’s emissions will exceed        2030.                                                                                             the only concrete numbers. In                                                                    result of tripling emissions.
this level by 36 per cent–or 265           Greenhouse gas emissions                                                                     2003, emissions from the oil                                                                     The regulations also give new
megatonnes–by 2010. By inter-         projections for the oil sands                                                                     sands accounted for 3.4 per                                                                      oil sands projects a three-year
national law, countries that          are complex. For example,                                                                         cent of Canada’s total. As the oil                                                               grace period from any emissions
exceed their targets are required     high pressure steam is used to                                                                    sands continue to grow, Pembina                                                                  restrictions, with an unknown
to make up the difference, plus       melt the bitumen so it can be                                                                     projects that by 2010 they will                                                                  impact.
an additional 30 per cent, in the     extracted from the sand–for                                                                       account for 7.5 to 8.2 per cent of                                                                    The Pembina Institute
next commitment period.               this reason, producing oil from                                                                   Canada’s total emissions, under                                                                  is calling for the oil sands to
     In a detailed analysis, the      bitumen results in three times                                                                    current trends.                                                                                  be carbon neutral by 2020 by
Pembina Institute concluded           the greenhouse gas emissions                                                                            Between 2000 and 2020,                                                                     using a combination of offsets
in 2005 that oil sands are            compared with the equivalent                                                                      the Canada Research Energy                                                                       and carbon capture and storage.
the single largest contribu-          barrel of light or medium crude.                                                                  Institute anticipates that devel-                                                                Such a strategy has its detrac-
tor to greenhouse gas (GHG)           While relatively clean-burning                                                                    opment and production activi-                                                                    tors; organizations such as
emissions growth in Canada,           natural gas is currently used to                                                                  ties in the oil sands will lead                                                                  Carbon Trade Watch argue that
with a rapidly increasing share       provide the steam, proposals for                                                                  to an increase in GDP of $885                                                                    offsets encourage a business-as-
of the country’s total emissions.     coke or bitumen could double                                                                      billion, reaching three per cent                                                                 usual approach, when in reality
Emissions from the oil sands are      the emissions, while nuclear                                                                      of the country’s total GDP by                                                                    dramatic changes are required.
projected to increase between         power would lower greenhouse
450 and 560 per cent between          gas emissions but produce                                                                                                                                900 Projected Emissions
2003 and 2020.                        nuclear waste.                                                                                                                                                        by Province:
     Commercial development                The federal government                                                                                                                                           (Natural Resources Canada)
                                                                                                                                                  Annual GHG emissions (millions of tonnes)

of the oil sands began in 1967.       has not publicly released its
                                                                                                                                                                                               675                                                 Alberta
In 1995, the Alberta Chamber          projections of future GHG
of Resources laid out a strategy      emissions from the oil sands
that envisioned tar sands pro-        since December 1999. However,
duction doubling or tripling          the rapid growth of the oil sands                                                                                                                        450
by 2020. This timeline was            corresponds with the dramatic                                                                                                                                                                Saskatchewan
exceeded by 16 years–oil sands        increases in the government’s
production more then doubled          estimate of how much Canada                                                                                                                                                                                        Quebec
by 2004 to 1.1 million barrels        will overshoot its Kyoto target.
per day. Current projections          In 1997, Canada anticipated                                                                                                                                                                                   Ontario
range from the Canadian Asso-         its emissions would exceed its
ciation of Petroleum Producers’       Kyoto target by 137 MT, whereas                                                                                                                                0
                                                                                                                                                                                                           1990                                                   2020
26            Feature                                                               The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Impacting Unimpaired
SPP and TILMA are aimed directly at unimpeded tar sands extraction
by Macdonald Stainsby

      Demonstrations       against
the Security and Prosperity
Partnership (SPP) began in the
Summer of 2007, but several
of the issues raised by anti-SPP
organizers invoked déjà vu
for many observers: informal
agreements, secret talks, plans
to do away with layers of
national sovereignty in favour of
corporate rules of engagement
set to supersede labour organiz-
ing, environmental regulations
or human rights. The laundry
list of rule changes sounded a lot
like debates of years past–the
      However, a deeper look         Police launch tear gas at demonstrators during a Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meeting in
at the driving force behind the      Ottawa last August.                                                                       Stefan Christoff
new acronyms tells a different       future, is potentially constrained the SPP have specific aims that statement. “Through the SPP
story, one of a world with new       unless expressly excluded in go beyond the usual attempt to and the North American Energy
dynamics like peak oil, tar sands    the agreement. Measures are enshrine investors’ rights and Working Group, the govern-
and the extreme measures that        defined broadly and include protect corporations from gov- ments of Mexico, United States
North American governments           any legislation, regulation, ernment regulations.                      and Canada have formed an
are attempting to use in the tar     standard, directive, require-           Both agreements pave the unprecedented           collaboration
sands to keep an oil-dependent       ment, guideline, program, way–in many cases literally–for with energy corporations to
economy going.                       policy, administrative practice, the largest industrial project promote the continental inte-
      Before the SPP became          or other procedure.”               in history to move forward: a gration of our energy industries
a larger issue nationally and             CUPE also describes the project that calls for the extrac- and infrastructures.”
continentally,      the     Trade,   SPP as “another attempt of tion of over 170 billion barrels                 The result has surpris-
Investment & Labour Mobility         corporate America, in partner- of recoverable oil from the tar ingly few benefits for Alberta or
Agreement        (TILMA)      had    ship with their political and sands of Alberta’s Athabasca, Canada. A massive, ecologically
already been passed in British       corporate allies in Canada and Peace and Cold Lake regions.            rich region will be reduced to
Columbia and Alberta. The            Mexico, to reduce the power of          The SPP and TILMA have an industrial sacrifice area. The
agreement, having passed as          government to protect citizens anticipated popular resistance synthetic crude that it renders
legislation and set to be “phased    from profit-hungry business.       and preemptively removed the will go south to the US. Royalties
in” by April 2009, plays a role           “Their intention is to scale ability of governments to control for Albertans and Canadians
complementary to the SPP and         down government regulations the massive supply of energy, are minimal, and communities
continues to be similarly criti-     and controls that try to protect land, water and labour needed living in the vast area that will
cized by many organizers for         our society, culture and envi- in the tar sands. They similarly be            strip-mined–Indigenous
the anti-democratic way it has       ronment. Specifically, the SPP preempt governments’ ability and settler alike–will be dis-
been implemented.                    will minimize controls in areas to regulate the destruction and mantled.
      According to an analysis       like immigration, food and pollution that the “gigaproject”                 The “Oil Sands Experts
published by the Canadian            agriculture, natural resource will create.                             Working Group,” a part of
Union of Public Employees,           exploitation, public services           The       Communications, the 2006 SPP meetings in
TILMA “encompasses provincial        and entertainment.”                Energy and Paperworkers union Houston, calls the tar sands
and local governments, regional           TILMA is a new set of limi- (CEP) is concerned.                   “a significant contributor to
districts, school boards, health     tations on government’s ability         “As energy workers, we energy supply and security for
and social services.                 to regulate and the SPP is the are compelled first of all to the continent.” According to the
      “Nearly every action by a      removal of a pre-existing set of respond to the SPP energy group, it was founded “when
government, now and in the           regulations. Both TILMA and agenda,” the CEP said in a the three countries agreed to
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                                                                                   Feature                   27
collaborate through the SPP on      lation that affects their profits.                                               breach of the agreement.                                                        policy will be when Chinese
the sustainable development of      A third party then rules on the                                                        These secretive deals and                                                 investment in Canadian tar
the oil sands resources.” The       “dispute” at hand. This has seen                                                 agreements are taking place                                                     sands and Venezuelan oil devel-
working group includes the US,      Canada paying to maintain                                                        during the single largest energy                                                opment make it increasingly
Canadian and Alberta govern-        some of its legislation around                                                   policy shift in North America                                                   difficult for us to get access to
ment representatives.               tobacco and environmental                                                        since the peaking of US domestic                                                the resources.”
     What does “sustainable         regulations, for example.                                                        oil production in the seventies.                                                     That hypothetical situation
development of the oil sands             TILMA, however, starts on                                                         Internationally, the US is                                                has come about more quickly,
resources” consist of? The          the assumption that the investor                                                 in a scramble for remaining oil                                                 since the Iraqi resistance has
same SPP report says that it        is correct. Unlike the resolution                                                reserves. Chinese demand for                                                    cut off access to “stable” flows
requires expanded “integrated       process seen in Chapter 11 of                                                    oil continues to grow. Disasters                                                of petroleum and Venezuela has
long distance pipelines,” plans     NAFTA, the current agreement                                                     such as hurricanes and war–and                                                  reduced its contribution to US
for which are “already in place”    includes an automatic up-to-$5                                                   the fact that only one barrel of                                                energy markets by one third.
to accommodate “the certain         million penalty for a govern-                                                    oil is discovered for every nine                                                The US has shifted their boom
doubling of oil sands produc-       ment body (at any level other                                                    that are used–have brought oil                                                  from Baghdad and Kirkuk to
tion to two million barrels per     than federal) that violates the                                                  prices to record highs since the                                                Fort McMurray and Grand
day by 2010.                        rules of “free access” for capital.                                              US invasion of Iraq in March                                                    Prairie. Many Venezuelans who
     “The five-fold expansion       For example, if a city blocks                                                    2003. With an economic and                                                      oppose their country’s socialist
anticipated for oil sands           the construction of a building                                                   military structure that needs                                                   government have re-settled in
products in a relatively short      for reasons of heritage, costing                                                 vast supplies of hydrocarbons                                                   Alberta.
time span,” the report says,        a corporation a projected $4                                                     everyday, North American                                                             Whether led by Liberals or
“will represent many challenges                                                                                                                                                                      Conservatives, Canada has been
for the pipeline industry.”                                                                                                                                                                          more than willing to help this
     To accomplish this, the                                                                                                                                                                         shift. Approvals for tar sands
report concludes, “Governments                                      Yukon
                                                                   Territory                                                                                                                         operations and newly designed
                                                                                                                 N u n a v u t
are encouraged to streamline                                                              Northwest
                                                                                                                                                                                                     agreements help to take Tar
the regulatory approval process                                    British Columbia
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Sands development to unfath-
and better manage the risk                                                                 Alberta
                                                                                                                                                                                                     omable levels of expansion.
to both pipeline and energy                                                                       Saskatchewan
                                                                                                                                                                                      & Labrador
                                                                                                                                                                                                          The industry that extracts
projects.                                                                                    Edmonton                                                  Q u e b e c                                   bitumen and then crude oil
                                                                               Calgary                                             O n t a r i o
     “Canadian      governments                          Vancouver
                                                                                                                          Winnipeg                                   New   P.E.I.                    from tar sands was once aiming
have already gone a long way to                                                                                                                                                                      to get to production levels of one
                                                                                                                                       Thunder Bay                                  Nova Scotia
                                                                                           . Helena                                             Montreal Quebec
co-ordinating and streamlining                                Canamex                                        Fargo                 Duluth
                                                                                                                                                      Ottawa                                         million barrels per day (bpd)
                                                               Corridor                                  I-29
the environmental and regula-                                  Salt Lake City         .
                                                                                          I-15                                      Port Huron   Toronto
                                                                                                                                                                                                     by 2012. Last year, the average
                                                                                                                                 Des Moines
tory approvals, but more needs                                                                               Omaha
                                                                                                                                          Indianapolis                                               already surpassed 1.3 million.
to be done.”                                                 Las Vegas         .                     Kansas City           p   I-35                                                                  The swiftly rising price of oil and
                                                     Los Angeles
     TILMA sets up a free trade                                             .Phoenix Oklahoma City                                      Memphis                                                      the near-impossibility of a long
                                                                                 Alliance Texas                                   Little Rock
zone between Alberta and B.C.                                        Nogales.             Ft. Worth                   p
                                                                                                                                                                                                     term drop in price has suddenly
that “breaks down barriers”                                        Hermosillo. San Antonio                       p
                                                                                                                          Houston                                                                    allowed a major shift towards
for all industries. April 2007          Map 1                .
                                                                                                                                                                                                     producing this oil, which is only
                                                                               Mazatlan Monterrey
saw the official beginning of        The NAFTA Corridors
                                                                                                                     Bajio/Central                                                                   profitable at a barrel price of at
                                                                                                         p            Tampico
the TILMA agreement, sold                 and Canada     Guadalajara
                                                                                                         Mexico City
                                                                                                                                                                                                     least $30.
as giving Alberta and B.C. a               Existing and under construction                  Lazaro Cardenas
                                                                                                                                                                                                          The production process
“competitive” way to deal with             Proposed and under construction
                                                                                                                                                                                                     of the synthetic oil is unlike
Ontario’s vast size advantage.             Proposed CAFTA corridor                                                                                                                                   anything else: there are huge
                                       p   Inland Ports
In reality, TILMA turns the                                                                                                                                                                          labour and energy needs
provinces into locations where      NAFTA trade corridors will be used to import labour and move                                                                                                     currently unavailable to the
corporations can sue any person     equipment and goods to the tar sands.                  Richard Vogel                                                                                             producers, needs that are being
or entity that tries to legislate                                                                                                                                                                    drawn up and planned through
or otherwise invoke regula-         million, then the governing body                                                 energy concerns have found                                                      TILMA and the SPP.
tions that would make invest-       that invokes the regulations                                                     the oil “boom” in Northern                                                           The US Department of
ment more “troublesome.”            “impacting or impairing” owes                                                    Alberta that was expected in the                                                Energy and Natural Resources
The agreement bans measures         that corporation $4 million.                                                     aftermath of a regime change in                                                 Canada had another secret
which “impact or impair”                 Article 3 of TILMA reads,                                                   Iraq.                                                                           meeting, along with US energy
investment and allows even an       in part: “Each Party shall ensure                                                     In response to Chinese                                                     corporations, in February 2006.
individual investor the right       that its measures do not operate                                                 interest in the tar sands, US                                                   Some details of the meeting
to sue governments to knock         to restrict or impair trade                                                      energy expert Irving Mintzer                                                    were leaked earlier this year to
down such “impediments” and         between or through the territory                                                 blurted out, “The problem                                                       the CBC. The agenda: to reduce
receive compensation for loss of    of the Parties, or investment or                                                 with the Chinese is that they                                                   labour and environmental rights
revenue.                            labour mobility between the                                                      don’t know that the Canadian                                                    in order to ramp up produc-
     What can be seen as an         Parties.” The agreement has                                                      oil is ours. And neither do the                                                 tion from the Athabasca, Peace
impediment under TILMA is           specifically designed protocols                                                  Canadians.” In the same breath                                                  and Cold Lake tar sands to five
extensive. Under NAFTA, cor-        for hearings to be held if one or                                                Mintzer noted, “One provoca-
porations can “challenge” legis-    more of the signatories are in                                                   tion for rethinking US energy                                                                 continued on page 44 »
28            Feature                                                               The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Can Pew’s Charity be Trusted?
US foundations give millions to Canadian environmental groups
by Dru Oja Jay

     Since major foundations in
the US began funding environ-
mental groups in the late 1980s,
many grassroots environmental
activists have sounded the
alarm about the rise of the
“Big Greens.” Featuring six-
figure salaries and foundation
funding, critics say the large
environmental NGOs coopt
grassroots movements and
excercise control over what
issues are brought up.
     Recently, some activists
are warning of a similar shift
in Canada. In 2006, land-use
planner Petr Cizek wrote an         Is money from US foundations slowing down efforts to stop tar sands mines?                        Dru Oja Jay
article for Canadian Dimension,
calling attention to millions of    Heritage Foundation, the John        “industry partners.”                  Pew funding “doesn’t have to do
dollars from US foundations         Birch Society, and the American           Does the money have an           with whether money is tainted,
being given to Canadian envi-       Enterprise Institute.                effect on the groups’ agenda?         but whether a funder directly
ronmental groups.                        In the early 1990s, the Pew     “Our role is convener and             interferes with the agenda of an
     The money comes from the       Trusts began funding environ-        talent scout,” says Innes. CBI’s      environmental organization.”
Pew Charitable Trusts, which        mental groups.                       aim is to be “in a position to              “The Pew Charitable Trusts
is endowed by the fortune of             Since 2003, Pew has spent       advance conservation objec-           have consistently set up front
Joseph Pew and his heirs, as        about $41 million on programs        tives.” In many cases, CBI sets       groups” that act as a drag on
well as more recent donors.         on the Canadian boreal forest.       up meetings between industry,         the overall demands of environ-
Joseph Pew founded Sun Oil,         Much of this money went              aboriginal groups and conser-         mental groups, Cizek says.
now Sunoco, a US oil company        environmental and aboriginal         vationists in order to establish            He sees a “pattern of
with revenues of $36 billion in     groups, and came into Canada         common priorities.                    funding from CBI” correspond-
2006. Under Pew, Sun Oil also       via through the Canadian                  Lindsay Telfer, director of      ing to “a pattern of incredible
founded Suncor, a Canadian          Boreal Initiative (CBI). CBI is      the Sierra Club’s Prairie Region,     timidity among the mainstream
counterpart to Sun Oil and          technically a project of Ducks       which has received CBI funding        environmental organizations,
currently one of the two largest    Unlimited,       a   conservation    in the past, says that groups         who don’t seem to be able to
operations in Alberta’s tar         group operating in the US and        need to be careful with funding       take a principled stand on
sands. Suncor has been inde-        Canada, though this relation-        sources.                              anything.” Cizek notes that
pendent since 1995.                 ship is not stated in materials           “Is there a risk that some       Canadian Parks and Wilderness
     Sunoco’s US refineries         on CBI’s web site. CBI has           environmental groups are going        Society (CPAWS) and the World
process synthetic crude oil from    no board of directors, and no        to go down a more conservative        Wildlife Federation (WWF), two
the tar sands. According to a       official status as an organization   path because they get funding?        major recipients of CBI funding
2004 Philadelphia Inquirer          other than its affiliation with      I don’t doubt that,” Telfer told      listed as “partners” in CBI’s TV
report, a Sunoco-run Ohio           Ducks Unlimited. Critics point       the Dominion. “We have to             ads, have taken a “low-hanging
refinery processes 100,000          out that there that this leaves      keep our eyes on our mandates         fruit” strategy of lobbying for
barrels of synthetic crude per      no mechanism for holding CBI         and our goals.”                       protection of areas that are of
day.                                accountable for how it uses its           “I believe I’ve lost funding     little interest to industry.
     The Pew foundation’s           money.                               because of our positions on the             Innes says CBI was founded
original mission reflects on “the        According to Executive          tar sands, but where I’ve lost it,    to address a “tremendous
evils of bureaucracy, the para-     Director Larry Innes, CBI gives      I’ve picked it up in other places,”   opportunity to do develop-
lyzing effects of government        out approximately $2 million         says Telfer. “It’s a difficult        ment differently in Canada.”
controls on the lives and activi-   per year, though the figure          debate, because in some ways          The opportunity, Innes say, is
ties of people, and the values of   varies. The money is disbursed       all money is dirty money.”            the culmination of a series of
the free market.” Pew money         in roughly equal measure to               “The question to ask is, ‘Are    trends in conservation work:
has funded many right-wing          conservation NGOs and aborig-        there ties to how that money is       the recognition of treaty rights,
Christian groups and conserva-      inal groups. Suncor, among           being spent?’”
                                    others, is listed as one of CBI’s         Cizek says his critique of                    continued on page 46 »
tive think tanks, including the
The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                       Environment                        29
Environmentalism in Alberta?
Activists say communities are beginning to stand up to tar sands
by Samantha Power                                                                                                 one pressure point. Great Bear
                                                                                                                  Rainforest campaigners used
      In Alberta it’s easy to forget                                                                              many tactics. In addition to
what political change looks like.                                                                                 international attention from
Still, in a province coated with                                                                                  Greenpeace, local activists,
deep blue Tory promises of a                                                                                      students and Haida elders stood
stable economic future, the                                                                                       together in defense of Clayquot
paint is beginning to wear thin.                                                                                  Sound, blocking logging and
In three consecutive consulta-                                                                                    defending the last 13 intact
tions Albertans have clearly                                                                                      watersheds–an action that
stated that they desire govern-                                                                                   ultimately resulted in over 900
ment intervention, whether it’s                                                                                   arrests. Clayquot Sound and the
to create housing, to slow the                                                                                    Great Bear Rainforest campaign
pace of growth, or to increase                                                                                    was about aboriginal land rights
the royalties collected from tar                                                                                  and resource management.
sands extraction.                                                                                                       These issues are familiar to
      Following his 1992 election                                                                                 anti-tar sands campaigners.
victory, Premier Ralph Klein                                                                                            With years of environmen-
declared the province ‘open for                                                                                   tal negotiating falling on deaf
business,’ and Albertans, fearful                                                                                 government ears and recent
of growing debt, accepted a                                                                                       public consultations falling by
vision of stable growth after                                                                                     the wayside, civil disobedience
years of economic depression.                                                                                     might be Alberta’s last resort
As natural resources were              “Stop the tar sands man” and other demonstrators appeared outside          in ending a devastating project.
opened up to massive exploita-         a stampede breakfast hosted by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.                “Direct action has always had
tion, however, the result has          Activists say Albertans are increasingly concerned about the               a role in social change because
been an overheated economy,            environmental impact of oil development.                                   it’s had the role of shocking
and a crumbling infrastructure                                                                                    and bringing to light oppres-
unable to handle the influx of         now hearing sentiments saying,          put power back in the people’s     sion ideas that haven’t been
workers and families.                  yes we produce oil here, but ulti-      hands. “We need to be mobiliz-     named,” says Jorge Sousa, an
      Today,     Albertans       are   mately we are living here and           ing communities and people,”       educational policy professor
beginning to stir. Leila Darwish,      we want to have clean water.”           says Darwish, “as a movement       with the University of Alberta
Associate      Prairie     Chapter           After 10 years in the envi-       not just reaching out to join      and a specialist in community
Director of the Sierra Club,           ronmental movement, Darwish             us on our big campaign, but to     governance models. He believes
sees change afoot. “In Alberta,        says it’s about mobilizing com-         help people in a local fight and   all tactics need to be engaged to
for the first time in a long time      munities. “There has been a lot         empower them to step it up in      create public debate. And new
we’ve been hearing more and            of negotiating with government.         their own communities.”            tactics are finally showing up.
more from impacted communi-            It’s one thing to sit at the table if        Valerie Langer, a cam-              With the tar sands defeating
ties that the government they’ve       you have power and a big stick,         paigner with B.C. ForestEth-       Canada’s ability to meet its
supported no longer supports           but if you don’t have any power,        ics’ Great Bear Rainforest         Kyoto targets and carbon
their interests. As an environ-        you can’t negotiate.”                   campaign, thinks Albertans are     emissions estimated to increase
mental movement we have to                   With recent threats of            on the right path. “The popula-    to 80 million tonnes, the world
be ready to act on that.”              nuclear power stations in the           tion of Alberta is in the right    is finally taking notice. Alberta’s
      “For years and years             communities of Whitecourt               place, they’re getting angry       traditionally         conservative
environmental activists and            and Peace River, local activist         and getting wise in how their      political environment might be
scientists have been raising           movements are growing. The              land is given away to corporate    shocked into action by tactics of
the problems of all these issues       Tipping Point project in White-         interests.” Working to save        organizations like Greenpeace,
and for years they have just           court is composed of parents            the Great Bear Rainforest in       an environmental group known
been completely ignored. The           and concerned community                 British Columbia, a campaign       for its radical or militant direct
community has lost a lot of that       members–exactly the composi-            that was ultimately won, Langer    action, which has recently
sense of success about moving          tion growing movements need             credits Greenpeace’s success       opened a new office in Alberta.
that environmental agenda              to see. They’re not alone. The          to boycotts against buyers of            Darwish’s hopes remain
forward,” says Bill Moore-             Sierra Club is in these commu-          paper products. “The market        with the people. “We have a
Kilgannon, Executive Director          nities providing training and           is a very powerful tool and if     government that thinks people
of Public Interest Alberta. But        information on political action.        you can shift the buying habits    are pretty complacent and can
as a long-time Alberta activist,       Holding workshops for activists         you question whether it’s          get away with doing whatever
Moore-Kilgannon             believes   and public forums for the larger        worthwhile for the company to      they need to do and we need to
the environmental message is           community, Darwish says the             invest,” says Langer.              show that people are willing to
finally getting through. “We’re        Sierra Club is attempting to                 The marketplace is just       fight, and to fight hard.”
30            Environment                                                            The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Sustainable Tar Sands Development?
Government is responsible, say experts
by Rachel Penner de Waal                                                                                       ensure the resource is mined
                                                                                                               in an environmentally friendly
     Alberta’s current royalty                                                                                 and sustainable way. We are
regime has likely cost the                                                                                     stewards of the resource on
province more in lost revenue                                                                                  behalf of Albertans.”
than      Trudeau’s      National                                                                                   Woynillowicz says the tar
Energy Program did, according                                                                                  sands are being “mismanaged”
to a senior policy analyst at the                                                                              and the province has been
Pembina Institute.                                                                                             unwilling to address the rate
     Dan Woynillowicz, who                                                                                     of development. The Pembina
works with the environmental                                                                                   Institute advocates a morato-
think tank, says the September                                                                                 rium on new tar sands projects,
18 provincial review of the                                                                                    something the majority of
royalty system proves that                                                                                     Albertans support, says Woynil-
Albertans aren’t getting their                                                                                 lowicz.
fair share from tar sands devel-                                                                                    The rapid development of
opment. The review advises                                                                                     the tar sands is the root cause
increasing the royalty rate from                                                                               of economic inflation, neglected
25 per cent to 33 per cent.                                                                                    infrastructure and environ-
     Alberta Energy spokes-                                                                                    mental damage, he says. But
                                    Currently, industry is making decisions about how the tar sands are
person Tim Markle says the                                                                                     oil producers are responsible
                                    developed.                                                Dru Oja Jay
province will respond to the                                                                                   to their shareholders and won’t
review’s      recommendations       industry has been able to create       resource revenues and dividing      voluntarily decide to slow down
toward the middle or end of         fear over the review because the       it among four areas, including      development.
October.                            sector plays such a significant        the Heritage Fund, the prov-             “This is a matter of public
     “[The royalty system] was      role in job creation and govern-       ince’s savings fund. Kevin Taft,    land. The government has the
developed a long time ago as        ment revenues. If the province’s       leader of the provincial Liberal    responsibility for creating the
an incentive to produce our         economy were more diverse,             party, also believes the province   playing field,” says Woynillow-
oil up north,” Markle explains.     one industry wouldn’t have so          needs to create a long-term         icz.
“While oil sands are certainly      much leverage over the govern-         strategy for tar sands develop-          He points out that the
the future, the majority of what    ment.                                  ment. His approach would            federal government also has
we receive now is the result of           “The government is respon-       include partnering with other       clear areas of jurisdiction, such
natural gas.”                       sible to protect Alberta from          western provinces.                  as in the area of greenhouse
     The oil industry has said      boom and bust,” says Woynil-                “If I were the premier, I      gases and global warming.
an increase in royalties will       lowicz. “It needs to diversify         would be calling a meeting of       However, Ottawa is not living
scare off investors and ruin the    the economy so we are not so           the other provinces to sit down     up to its job of representing all
economy. Woynillowicz says          dependent on energy resource           and look at ways we can work        Canadians due to many reasons,
the industry’s reaction, while      development and a global               together to determine our own       including the support the Con-
expected, is disturbing.            supply and demand market.”             destinies. Right now, the Alberta   servative minority government
     “It is overstated, full of           Woynillowicz says the            government is just shrugging        has from Alberta.
rhetoric and not grounded in        Pembina        Institute    doesn’t    its shoulders,” says Taft. “One          “When they do introduce
reality. Producers are looking      advocate government interven-          million barrels of unprocessed      new regulations that would
to their own interests and doing    tion in oil sales or foreign invest-   bitumen are leaving the country     impact the oil sands, they are
so in a way that is deceiving       ment in the tar sands, but says        every day. We can’t handle it all   creating large loopholes (for the
Albertans.”                         the province needs to manage           in Alberta. Think of what we can    industry),” says Woynillowicz.
     Woynillowicz points out        the rate of development.               do together as a team.”             “To date, the federal govern-
that while producers claim the            As for the royalties the              According to the Canadian      ment has been dodging their
review panel didn’t use the right   province does collect, Woynillo-       Association      of    Petroleum    responsibility.”
data, they were using a 10-year-    wicz says they need to be better       Producers, production from the           He says if Canadians want
old report to substantiate their    managed. Considering that              tar sands is expected to reach      the federal government to play
claims. He also notes that over     petroleum is a non-renewable           four million barrels a day by       a role in tar sands develop-
the past 50 years, “an incredible   resource, the province should          2020.                               ment, they can communicate
amount of money” from the           be saving a portion of revenues             However, Markle says the       their wishes through a variety
federal and provincial govern-      to ensure future Albertans can         province doesn’t have a strategy    of ways, including a federal
ments facilitated technological     continue to have a high quality        for developing the tar sands.       election.
innovations that private corpo-     of life, he says.                      That is left up to producers.            The Canadian Association
rations needed to develop the             The      Alberta     Liberals         “Industry is the driver        of Petroleum Producers did not
tar sands.                          advocate taking almost one             of it,” says Markle. “The gov-      return calls.
     Woynillowicz says the oil      third of annual non-renewable          ernment is basically here to
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                       31
“Oil Versus Water,” continued from page 12 »

lands.”                              different kinds of cancer, as          solutions, is that we can no              “Alberta’s saving grace has
     University   of    Alberta      well as what we call auto-im-          longer be sacrificed.”               been the water that flows out
ecologist   David Schindler,         mune diseases like rheumatoid                Toxins from tailing ponds      of the Rocky Mountains,” said
winner of the 1991 Stockholm         arthritis, lupus, various skin         aren’t the only problem on the       Schindler. “The only reason we
Water Prize (known as “water         rashes,” O’Connor told the             Athabasca, however.                  have developments like Calgary
science’s     Nobel     Prize”),     Dominion. “The malignant–the                 Estimates have oil pro-        and Medicine Hat is because of
expressed concern over indus-        cancerous diseases have been           duction at 3 million barrels         that water. That water is drying
try-related chemicals found in       the biggest concern.”                  per day by 2015. At this rate,       up.”
the water and their effect on             One condition, Cholangio-         the Athabasca tar sands are               “It’s a little bit ironic
human health.                        carcinoma, normally occurs in          projected to last over 400 years.    that the province that’s been
                                     one out of 100,000 people. But         But along with the effects of        opposing greenhouse-gas regu-
                                     in Fort Chipewyan, “We’ve had          climate change, water usage          lations the most is going to be
  “If there’s no                     two tissue biopsy confirmed
                                     cases...and possibly another
                                                                            will exacerbate the drying of the
                                                                                                                 the first to suffer, but that’s
                                                                                                                 where we are,” said Schindler in
 land, then it’s                     three or four which didn’t
                                     actually get to tissue biopsy
                                                                                  Because the Athabasca
                                                                            River is iced-over for long
                                                                                                                 May of this year.
                                                                                                                      That tar sands mining is the
 equivalent in                       diagnosis.”
                                          “In a population of between
                                                                            periods, it is susceptible to low
                                                                            oxygen levels from decompos-
                                                                                                                 cause of toxins in the water and
                                                                                                                 the recent upturn in diseases
our estimation                       750 and 1200, that’s very unex-
                                                                            ing organic matter. Diminished
                                                                            flows could exacerbate low
                                                                                                                 and cancers is a foregone con-
                                                                                                                 clusion for many residents of
to genocide of                            “There are all kinds of sick-
                                     nesses going on,” said Allan
                                                                            oxygen levels. This threatens
                                                                            high flows that flood shallow-
                                                                                                                 Fort Chipewyan.
                                                                                                                      Nonetheless,       O’Connor
    a people.”                       Adam, a councillor with ACFN.
                                     “The elders say that before, in
                                                                            side channels and perched
                                                                            basins in the delta, which are
                                                                                                                 says that the way forward lies in
                                                                                                                 getting the government to inves-
                                     the 70s, people weren’t sick like      critical spawing grounds for fish    tigate the problem and verify
      In an interview with Oil       they are now. That’s when all          like walleye.                        the source of the illnesses.
Sands Truth, Schindler said his      the oil sands started develop-               “About the most positive            “I’ve asked for a baseline
biggest concern is the possibil-     ing.”                                  thing I can say is that I’m glad     health study to be done in the
ity of a breach of massive tailing        Warning signs of toxicity         I’m a human being and not a          community. This has been asked
ponds near Fort McMurray,            have also turned up in animals.        fish in Alberta,” said Schindler.    for before,” said O’Connor. “If
which now cover an estimated         “Some people say that they’ve                While Fort Chipewyan and       the population south of here
50-square kilometres. “Those         seen spots inside the animals,         other communities downstream         is concerned about the health
ponds      are    acutely    toxic   that they won’t eat the                from the tar sands are the first     of this community, I would
material, so they would affect       moosemeat because there’s a            to suffer, scientists say Alberta    expect further pressure for such
things probably well down the        different taste in it now,” said       is not far behind.                   a study to be done will result
Athabasca and into the Slave         Adam. “Fish have different                   The 1900s, said Schindler,     in it being done and will shed
River, and possibly beyond the       growths on them, that weren’t          has been unusually wet in            much-needed light on what is
Slave Delta.”                        there before. Pusses growing           Alberta, but that is not likely to   happening.”
      Such a breach, said            out of their skin, and the gills are   remain the case. “Any farmer              Schindler says that the
Schindler, could conceivably         deformed on some of them.”             will tell you that it was pretty     immediate solution is for
occur in the event of extreme             After O’Connor took his           borderline for agriculture here      the government to install a
rainfall or an earthquake. It is     claims public and called for an        in the twentieth century, and a      water treatment plant in Fort
not just the extreme possibility     inquiry into the effects of the tar    good part of the province had to     Chipewyan, to address the
that has Schindler concerned,        sands operations on water, he          rely on irrigation water.”           problem with the drinking
however.                             became the subject of an official            “If we get a return to         water, and then investigate.
      “We know that those            complaint by officials at Health       those earlier conditions with             For George Poitras, the
[tailing pond] dykes do seep         Canada. He subsequently gained         the effects of climate change        battle over the ongoing mining
some material. They try to catch     the support of the community,          and with the high population         comes down to the fundamental
it at the bottom and pump it         environmental groups and First         and industrial growth here, we       right to exist.
back over the top. I don’t know      Nations. The Alberta Medical           have the makings of a perfect             “If we don’t have land and
what per cent efficiency they        Association          unanimously       storm with respect to effects on     we don’t have anywhere to carry
have, but very few things are        passed a resolution defending          water.”                              out our traditional lifestyle, we
100 per cent efficient.”             his “professional obligation and             While     oil    companies     lose who we are as a people.
      In Fort Chipewyan, there       his right to speak out when he         pumping over 100 billion gallons     So if there’s no land, then it’s
have been reports of increases       observes something.”                   of water out of the Athabasca        equivalent in our estimation to
in diseases and cancers.                  Chief Roxanne Marcel of the       ever year will be the main           genocide of a people.”
      A local doctor, John           Mikisew Cree First Nation has          problem for life downstream on            “Here, we’re living in a G8
O’Connor, reported dispro-           issued an appeal: “Our message         the Athabasca, it is likely to be    country, fully developed, one
portionately high incidents of       to both levels of government,          climate change–fueled increas-       of the most advanced countries
colon, liver, blood and bile-duct    to Albertans, to Canadians and         ingly by the tar sands–that          as far as quality of life and as
cancers in the community.            to the world who may depend            will affect the water supply of      Indigenous people, we’re still
“There have been several             on oil sands for their energy          Edmonton and Calgary.                fighting for our existence.”
32                                                                                The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Women and housing, continued from page 20 »

only Canadian province that         development,” says Ray Martin.      deal which would have to have        between January and May of
has not added child care spaces     “I think that there are just too    been accepted in totality or not     this year, and the number keeps
over the last 15 years. In fact,    many tar sands projects going       at all.                              rising.
it is the only province that has    on right now. There should be             For example, a law                  Alberta’s housing crisis
seen a decrease; between 1992       fewer projects.”                    stipulating the amount of legal      is massive and affects people
                                                                        increases, and a law limiting        across demographic boundaries.
                                                                        rent increases to only once          “Employees at Calgary women’s
  “If a woman is sleeping with her                                      a year, are complementary,
                                                                        whereas picking and choosing
                                                                                                             shelters are as in need of afford-
                                                                                                             able housing as the women they
landlord to maintain a roof over her                                    from the recommendations
                                                                        creates loopholes. “There is
                                                                                                             serve,” says Reimer. “What’s
                                                                                                             worse, the salaries being paid
  head, then she is homeless. Other                                     resistance to approving the
                                                                        whole package,” says Martin.
                                                                                                             in the oil industry are so high,
                                                                                                             they can’t find people to work
   women will do it for money for                                             “One      of    the
                                                                        arguments is that accepting
                                                                                                     main    in donut shops, let alone
  drugs, to medicate a trauma that                                      rent controls would provide               The province has resorted
                                                                        even less incentive for the gov-     to hiring government employees
   they’ve suffered which has gone                                      ernment to create much needed        from the service sector and has
                                                                        affordable housing. But the fact     successfully recruited employees
 untreated–they are also homeless.                                      remains that there are no limits     from       women’s        shelters.
                                                                        on rent and I still haven’t seen     Women’s shelter workers see
    Others will hang out in a bar,                                      more affordable housing being        this as adding insult to injury.
                                                                        created.”                            Reimer cites occurrences of
 hoping for a bed and a safe place–                                           A tenancy law passed in        workers from women’s shelters
                                                                        May that promises tenants a          being lured from their jobs for
       they are also homeless.”                                         full year’s eviction notice (when    positions at Dunkin’ Donuts, a
                                                                        landlords plan to convert their      company known to offer ‘signing
                                                                        apartments to condos) is being       bonuses’ of $1,500 to increase
and 2004, the number of spaces           Federal Liberal cuts to        avoided in practice through a        their chances of acquiring staff.
dropped by 7.2 per cent.            social infrastructure in the        number of loopholes. The full             “What needs to happen
     Despite a serious lack of      1990s and decades of provin-        year’s notice only applies to        immediately,” says Reimer, “is
child care spaces, Alberta’s pop-   cial Conservative inaction on       periodic tenants, whose leases       a government investment that
ulation is growing at five times    social housing have together set    are renewed without notice. For      will allow the [human services]
the national rate, and faster       the stage for Alberta’s current     everyone else, the majority of       sector to provide competitive
than anywhere in the Western        housing crisis. Alberta’s Afford-   whom are fixed-term tenants,         wages and benefits that will
world. The strong economy has       able Housing Task Force, which      the lease ends on the date           attract and retain a workforce.
encouraged migration to the         toured in the spring of this        indicated, and no notice has to      Frontline shelter workers need
province, which has contrib-        year, found that Calgary’s 2006     be given by the landlord to end      to be respected by the govern-
uted to a 10.4 per cent increase    homeless count indicated a 32       the tenancy.                         ment.”
in total population since 2001,     per cent increase over the past           Dania        Kochan,      an        Susan Scott says that
and a rental vacancy rate of 0.9    two years. Edmonton showed          Edmonton resident whose              there is no substitute for a real
per cent–the lowest in a genera-    an increase of 19 per cent, while   lease had expired, had made an       strategy for dealing with home-
tion, and a third of the national   Fort McMurray’s homeless            agreement with her landlord          lessness. The responsibility, she
average.                            population rose by 24 per cent.     to rent on a month-to-month          says, lies with the government
     If current economic growth     Housing prices in Calgary have      basis. In June, she was given        and with the people of Alberta.
continues apace to 2025, the        soared by 50 to 60 per cent in      one month’s eviction notice,              “Alberta is really good at
province could face an estimated    the last year alone, and by an      and told by Service Alberta,         band-aid solutions,” says Scott.
shortfall of 332,000 workers,       average of 14 per cent in all of    the government branch that           “People will give at Christmas,
many of whom are expected           Alberta.                            oversees and enforces tenancy        and Thanksgiving, so you can
to come from other countries,            Alberta has yet to adopt       laws, to “get a lawyer” when she     see it’s really not a thorough
and will also need places to        rent-increase guidelines similar    complained.                          process; we give, and we turn
live. Already, housing formerly     to those employed in Ontario or           Jim    Gurnett      of   the   right around and blame the
considered affordable has been      B.C. Of all the recommendations     Edmonton Coalition on Housing        victims. No housing means that
purchased for “worker housing.”     made by Alberta’s Affordable        and Homelessness (ECOHH)             people will be homeless. Shelter
There now exists a new group of     Housing Task Force, the most        finds the situation tiring. “Poor    is a right. Society has set it up
workers that cannot afford to       controversial item by far was       tenants are not a high priority,”    so access is limited to those who
pay rent. In Fort McMurray, for     the proposal to introduce rent      says Gurnett.                        can afford it.”
example, it is common to pay        control. According to Martin,             “Just as long as the govern-
over $1,000 for one room.           who supports the recommenda-        ment can point to a law that’s       The Edmonton Small Press
     “Not enough money is being     tions, the Task Force, for the      there to protect them,” they feel    Association contributed infor-
spent on infrastructure to keep     purpose of proposing effective      that’s enough. There were 4,100      mation and contacts to this
up with the speed of tar sands      measures, presented a package       condo conversions in Calgary         article.
The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007   Visuals         33

A tar sands strip mine operated by Syncrude.                      Dru Oja Jay
34   Maps   The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                        35
“Sublime Tar Sands,” continued from page 15 »
scapes. But the works cannot presents the most distasteful               he has spent his career docu-          despite his undisputed talent as
be labelled “eco-propaganda,” industrial wasteland as one of             menting. He has collaborated           a master photographer, “Alas,
nor do they clearly glorify the most spectacular places on               with Jennifer Baichwal on the          as an environmental activist, he
the industrial practices they earth. This ambiguity allows a             documentary      Manufactured          is a failure.”
present. Sometimes it is even myriad of different meanings               Landscapes, a poignant portrait              Indeed, while Burtynsky’s
difficult to tell what the subject to be read into his photographs:      of what industry is doing to the       photographs       of    Canadian
is. The hundreds of black hills industry CEOs choose them for            people and land in China, and          industry make for great art, they
of processed earth that have their walls; activists point to             he recently wrote an article for       operate within the Canadian
been photographed with the them as evidence of environ-                  The Walrus, in which he decries        political mainstream and do
same sensitivity one would mental catastrophe. This is both              the resource extraction taking         little to shake up the conscious-
expect from a postcard of the the potential power of his pieces          place in Canada. In the article,       ness of a public content to keep
Grand Canyon turn out to be Oil and the largest point of political       he calls for the Canadian gov-         looking away from the social
Fields No. 24, Oil Sands, Fort criticism of them.                        ernment to mandate sustain-            and environmental degradation
McMurray, Alberta (2001).               Recently, Burtynsky has          able practices in the extraction       that is taking place in its own
What looks like a vibrant river started to dispel some of the            and sale of Canada’s natural           backyard.
of fire is actually the enduring uncertainty of his environmen-          resources, including the Alberta               Edward Burtynsky’s pho-
liquid waste of a nickel mine. In tal views by speaking publicly         tar sands. However, a letter to        tographic works can be viewed
this way, Burtynsky masterfully about the industrial processes           the editor sharply notes that,         online at

“Richest First Nation,” continued from page 18 »
intrusion. The plant is located      fathered by workers who are         Energy Oil Sands would like            into desert. Some community
approximately 12 kilometres          long gone.                          to notify local residents that         members will no longer eat the
from MacKay as the crow flies.             Perhaps nowhere are the       throughout June and July there         fish or moose and many can’t
There, huge volumes of water         symptoms of this breakdown          is a potential for increased flaring   trust the water flowing from
are sucked out of the river.         more acute than in Fort MacKay,     and emissions for a scheduled          their own taps. “You can’t drink
Some of the worst effects are        where the niece of a top band       tie-in event. Increased flaring        oil to live. You can’t eat money to
the various forms of pollution       council member was hospital-        may occur during the shut down         live,” said Harpe. “If you’ve got
that are expelled into the air       ized after being beaten over the    and start up of Upgrader 2...If        no water, you’ve got no life.”
and the water in the area right at   head days before our visit.         you have concerns, call Suncor’s             Most residents of Fort
the plant. Suncor has colonized            Today in Fort MacKay, there   Community Consultation Office          MacKay aren’t as publicly
an island in the middle of the       is a resignation of fate for many   at...”                                 outspoken. But when they get to
Athabasca River–turning it into      members of the community.                 Elsewhere       in    Alberta,   talking, a transition sometimes
a giant tailings island of waste     Syncrude and Suncor make it         flaring is blamed for premature        takes place. Talk of the inevi-
material. The size of the dykes      known that they want to be seen     deaths and stillbirths in              tability of the projects–of the
has been growing for 40 years.       as the companies who “take          livestock and human beings.            “it’s bad, but what can you do?”
Some day, they may give way.         care” of the community and                Throughout        the    area,   variety–is briefly sidelined, and
     The speed of growth of          work in constant co-operation       Syncrude and Suncor make               anger shines through. Words
the tar sands, the quantities        with the residents. Yet there are   their names as public as pos-          like “crime against humanity”
of money that will be infused        no open forums and holding a        sible–on calendars, on booths          and “getting away with murder”
to develop them, and the vast        referendum or giving any actual     at events, at parks and cultural       issue from people who now
influx of migrant workers from       decision-making power to the        happenings; their names even           make their living from the tar
other parts of Canada and            original owners of the territory    permeate annual Treaty Day             sands and related employment.
beyond trigger social breakdown      is out of the question.             celebrations.                          In many cases, it surprises the
in varying degrees. Alienated,             “Keeping you informed” is           The Indigenous peoples           person speaking as much as
unhappy work forces will abuse       the slogan attached to a notice     of the Athabasca region, in            it surprises us. It seems that
drugs and alcohol, leading to        posted recently in the Band         particular the community of            having the names “Suncor” and
violence, prostitution, elder        Council’s office building in        Fort MacKay, have watched the          Syncrude” attached to radio
and spousal abuse and children       town. The notice reads: “Suncor     water turn toxic, muskeg turn          commercials, books, events and
                                                                                                                more has an isolating effect on
                                                                                                                believing what one sees with
                                                                                                                one’s own eyes.
                                                                                                                      It makes one wonder what
                                                                                                                prevailing opinion would be
                                                                                                                if it were not widely assumed
                                                                                                                that the unlimited expansion
                                                                                                                of the tar sands is inevitable
                                                                                                                and unstoppable. Perhaps that
                                                                                                                confidence will come in a small
                                                                                                                community if challenging the
                                                                                                                tar sands’ rights to operate
                                                                                                                starts first in larger centres.
Katie Beaton,
36                                                                                     The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

“Hard Times Sold in Vending Machines,” continued from page 16 »
gonna come in contact with            ment.                                 there were two serious injuries        was laughed at by instructors
fairly frequently. These kinds of                                           at his worksite: a structural steel    and workers alike during one
things are very unhealthy; they        According to WCB statis-             worker injured both heels after        of his training courses. He also
even [result in] birth defects,"       tics, the WCB accepted 29            a fall and a platefitter sustained     believes that the long hours of
said Gaul.                             new claims for work-related          facial cuts from a piece of steel.     work, coupled with the boredom
     Material Safety Data Sheets       cancer and recognized 38             He believes that some contrac-         of camp life, often leads to a
detailing information about the        fatalities due to occupational       tors deliberately undercount the       general feeling of isolation.
various chemicals with which           cancer in 2005. However,             number of workplace injuries.               "As far as the social
workers might come in contact          the Alberta Cancer Board                   Fraser     had      difficulty   atmosphere in the camps, it's
were "diligently provided" to          estimates that eight per cent        adjusting to life within the work      not really the most healthy
workers, but Gaul says that            of all cancers in Alberta are        camps, which he says resembled         environment. There's a lot of
workers are not given time to          work-related. This means             university dorms, aside from the       negativity and built-up misery
read them.                             over 1,000 new cases of              fact that they "basically look like    being shared and communi-
                                       work-related cancer are              a bomb dropped [on them]."             cated. There are a lot of people
 Fraser had difficulty                 diagnosed and more than                                                     that are in the situation where
adjusting to life within               400 workers die of occupa-                                                  they're spending way too much
                                       tional cancer each year.
                                                                               “over 1,000 new                     time away from their family to
the work camps, which                  Fewer than one in 10 occu-           cases of work-related                  have any kind of semblance of
   he says resembled                   pational cancer fatalities are       cancer are diagnosed                   regular family life."
   university dorms,                   recognized by the WCB.                                                           It is likely due to these
aside from the fact that                                                        and more than                      "quality of life" issues that many
  they “basically look                     In     addition,      Alberta      400 workers die of                   workers from Atlantic Canada
                                      currently has one of the highest       occupational cancer                   view their positions in Alberta
 like a bomb dropped                  rates of workplace deaths in                                                 as being largely temporary.
       [on them].”                    the country, and the number of              each year”                       Fort McMurray, with its over-
                                      workplace accidents reported                                                 whelming growth rate and its
     Despite this, Gaul is quick      in the province in 2006 was           After work, there was little to do     infrastructural inability to cope
to point out that his contractor      181,159–an increase of 7.4 per        within the camps.                      with this growth, is an unlikely
instituted a "safety bonus" each      cent from the previous year.               "I've had problems with           candidate for long-term settle-
hour for crews who maintained              Stories of injuries and close-   alcoholism and I just drank            ment for Atlantic Canadian
the safety of all members.            calls are not hard to come by.        every night for five weeks."           workers. East Coast workers,
Overall, however, he notes that       George Marshall, a 26-year-old             Fraser also had a number          though perhaps as naive to the
rigging work is "a dangerous job      PEI resident worked only a few        of moral qualms with his work,         hazards of the oil industry as
by nature."                           days in 2006 as a labourer but        which he believes may have             their predecessors were to the
     The     effects   of    such     "almost died twice" on the job.       contributed to his drinking.           reality of life in Toronto in the
chemicals may appear long             The first close call, according            "Nobody ever thought              1970s, are by now no strangers
after a worker has left a job site.   to Marshall, was on account           about     the      environmental       to moving to where the work
As pointed out in an April 2006       of a fall, while the second was       impact," he says. "I had a lot of      is. Many recognize the higher
column by Alberta Federation of       due to "a piece of the rig [that]     moral repression. I felt really        cost of living in the West, as
Labour researcher Jason Foster,       disconnected and came hurtling        bad for what I was taking part         well as the sky-high rate of
cancer caused by workplace            toward me."                           in."                                   inflation in Alberta and realize
exposure to chemicals like                 Jason Fraser, a 24-year-              Gaul also points out that         that their money will stretch
benzene are not recognized, nor       old iron worker from Chester,         few workers showed regard to           further on the East Coast than
even recorded by the Alberta          Nova Scotia, recently spent six       the ethics and sustainability of       it will in Alberta. Some, like
Workers' Compensation Board           weeks working in Fort MacKay.         the oil projects, and recalls that     Anstey, see the abundance
(WCB) or the Alberta govern-          During his last week on the job,      the subject of climate change          of Atlantic Canadians in the
                                                                                                                   Alberta oil patch as an interim
                                                                                                                   gig, as workers tide themselves
                                                                                                                   over in advance of the opening
                                                                                                                   of the Hibernia and Lower
                                                                                                                   Churchill Valley projects. These
                                                                                                                   mega-projects are likely to yield
                                                                                                                   their own environmental and
                                                                                                                   social impacts as well in the
                                                                                                                   years to come, as the East Coast
                                                                                                                   as a whole shifts its economy
                                                                                                                   towards the production of oil
                                                                                                                   and gas resources for export.
                                                                                                                        Still, many expect to one
                                                                                                                   day see a similar job boom in the
                                                                                                                   east, one that they believe might
                                                                                                                   break their diet of hard times
                                                                                                                   sold in vending machines.
                                                                               Katie Beaton,
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                      37
“Roughneck,” continued from page 22 »
behind and clean up after him.”       along, however, she assumed         hurt, and we’re sorry that she      The ensuing reports, except for
     According to Desharnais,         she would receive some kind         did.”                               the one she wrote herself, were
she was constantly at the head        of warning that the detonation           Desharnais sees something      based mostly on the shooter’s
of her group and was in fact told,    was about to go.                    more troubling. “There was a        account of the incident and
along with one other colleague,             “All of a sudden the          constant diminishing of my          downplayed the lack of training
to slow down so the others in         explosion went off, with debris     concerns,” she says. Deshar-        she received and the lack of
her group could keep pace. And        in the air. All I remember was      nais feels that if she was a man    communication on site. She still
while working as a trouble-           being hit in the head and the       perhaps her co-worker would         has copies of the reports she
shooter or a shooter’s helper         shoulder,” she says. While          have paid more attention when       refused to sign because of her
meant carrying less equipment,        Menchuk says he was informed        she said she had injured her        disagreement on the facts.
it definitely wasn’t easier when      she was 30m from the explosion      head and not just her shoulder.          It is clear that many may
it came either to cardio or to the    (the required distance) and         “They just seem to think you        think that Desharnais’s com-
safety issues involved. “It was       behind a tree, Desharnais           complain for nothing.”              plaints are simply sour grapes
clear that they wanted to put me      says she can’t really be sure            Menchuk agrees that it is      because she was hurt on the
in a difficult position,” she said.   how far she was because she         not always easy for women in        job. Menchuk claims he isn’t
     The job of a shooter is to       was never signaled where the        the oil industry. “It’s both the    sure why Desharnais is still
detonate underground explo-           explosion was coming from.          work and the atmosphere,”           pursuing the matter. “We
sives sending out seismic waves       Upon returning to find her, her     he says. “You’re sending out        treated her the way we would
to see if there are gas or oil        colleague radioed in that she       a woman with a crew of 50           treat any employee. She decided
deposits; a shooter’s helper is       had been injured. “But he would     other guys. Issues come up,         to quit her modified work load
a kind of a sidekick, helping to      only say I had hurt my shoulder,    things like separate bathrooms      [an office job in Calgary given to
set up the area, and clear away       and not that I thought I was hit    and you need to share with the      her at full pay after her injury]
the wires after the explosion.        in the head. He told me the         cooking crew because there are      and go back to Grand Cache to
Desharnais was assigned as a          blood on my neck was just from      only three toilets on site.”        try and convince her supervi-
shooter’s helper in the morning,      scratching it on branches when           Diagnosed with a sprained      sors to change their reports.
and, according to her, not given      I fell,” she says.                  shoulder and receiving five         We’re sorry for what happened,
proper training except for one              “Even I didn’t really know    stiches to the back of her head,    but there isn’t much we can do
colleague who offered her some        the extent of my injuries until     it was unclear for three days,      now.”
advice on what equipment to           I got into the helicopter, but I    before she was able to return            In an industry that is
bring. According to Menchuk           knew I had hurt my head,” she       to Calgary, whether she had         continuing to grow in Canada,
all employees receive interna-        continues. “It was only once I      a concussion. While she was         Desharnais feels stories like
tionally recognised training at       saw the look of the pilot when      X-rayed in Grand Cache, there       hers need to get out. It isn’t
the beginning of their employ-        I took off my helmet in the         wasn’t a head trauma expert at      about the fact that the work is
ment and are updated in the           helicopter and the blood started    the hospital who could tell her     hard, she says, or even so much
field. While he wasn’t on the         going everywhere.” The impact       the extent of her injuries.         that she got hurt–even though
ground in Grand Cache, he says        of the collision with the rock           Desharnais’ troubles didn’t    she still suffers from headaches
he couldn’t imagine someone           had cracked part of her helmet      end with the injuries. According    and concentration problems
being sent out without proper         and cut her head badly enough       to     Menchuk,       Desharnais    from her concussion and has
training.                             that she would need five stitches   “declined” to go back out to the    mobility problems with her
     “We always ensure our            once back at the base-camp, and     site when safety personnel went     right shoulder. It’s about the
employees wear the proper             would eventually be diagnosed       with her partner to examine the     fact she wasn’t properly trained
safety      equipment.      Safety    with a severe concussion. “When     area in order to file an incident   and her safety wasn’t ensured in
equipment doesn’t eliminate           we got back to base-camp, the       report. Desharnais remembers        the field, and that in large part
hazards, but it reduces them          medic even said that if he knew     it differently. “They asked if I    she believes this was because
as much as possible.” Attempts        I had injured my head he would      wanted to go with them, and I       she is a woman. “I may keep
were made to contact Deshar-          have flown out to get me instead    said yes. I wasn’t feeling well     looking into this and talk to
nais’ on-site supervisor, but         of waiting back at the camp.”       [from her injuries] and went to     lawyers. But really I just don’t
Menchuk said he is currently                According to Menchuk,         lie down. I found out later that    want to see this happening to
out of the country and not            the type of injury sustained by     they had gone without me.”          anyone else,” she says.
available for comment.                Desharnais is rare in general,
     According to Desharnais,         and a first for a shooter’s
upon arriving on site her             helper. (Desharnais disputes
partner, the shooter, had no          this, saying she was told on
time to show her the ropes. After     several occasions of shooters
being dropped off by helicopter       and shooter’s helpers being
they walked half an hour into         seriously injured on the job.)
the bush to the site where they       “We do everything we can to
would be detonating explosives.       ensure our employees’ safety,”
When one of their two walkie-         he explained over the phone
talkies died, the functioning one     from Calgary. “But as I tell
was given to her partner. She         everyone, in the end you need to
stayed back while he went to lay      be aware of your surroundings.
and detonate the explosives. All      No one wanted Chantal to get
                                                                                                               Katie Beaton,
38                                                                                   The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Lubicon, continued from page 24 »
adjacent to proposed Lubicon         barrel of oil produced. Most,         River to power tar sands exploi-    further degradation of the
reserve lands and surrounding        if not all, of this water is taken    tation, claiming that 70 per cent   groundwater, increased toxic
two lakes upon which they rely       out of the natural cycle and lost     of their power output will go to    emissions, further decimation
for fish. These companies plan       forever. Where this huge volume       fuel a major tar sands project in   of fisheries and wildlife, more
to drill 512 "heavy oil" wells in    of water will come from and the       the region.                         roads, trucking, seismic lines
this sensitive area, ultimately      environmental consequences                 This new tar sands boom        and the spectre of nuclear waste
producing an estimated 820           of injecting it in to the fragile     in the Peace River area has         haunt their future.
million barrels of oil.              boreal subsurface are unknown.        the potential to be even more            A better future is possible.
     The 50,000 hectares of          Some years ago, an experimen-         damaging than the first wave        The United Nations committee
tar-sands auctioned off while        tal heavy oil/tar sands facility to   of resource exploitation in the     identified two easy steps towards
the Lubicons were at the UN          the west of the Lubicons built a      early 1980s.                        that future–negotiations and
were in addition to these prior      pipeline to a neighboring lake to          The     Lubicon      people    consultation.
developments. And this year          obtain the water they required.       suffered the full environmen-            But that would require that
another 15,500 hectares just         Within a few months they had          tal, economic, cultural, social     Canadian governments listen
north of the proposed Lubicon        drained the lake so far that it       and health impacts of that first    to the UN rather than openly
reserve lands have been sold to      froze solid in the winter, killing    wave of conventional oil and gas    flaunting their rulings and
tar sands companies.                 all the fish.                         exploitation in their unceded       selling off the very lands and
     Liquefying the "heavy oil"            Until recently, it was also     territory.                          resources that are under dispute
so it can be pumped out of the       unclear how the huge energy                With a new wave of even        even as the UN is hearing the
ground is done with super-           needs of this process could be        more       damaging     resource    matter.
heated water or steam and            sustained by the companies in         exploitation arriving at their
typically requires that three to     the area. Now a new company           doorstep, the Lubicon people        Kevin Thomas is the Chief
six barrels of water be injected     has announced plans to build          are bracing for the worst.          Negotiator for the Lubicon
into the subsurface for each         a nuclear reactor near Peace          Reckless water use, oil spills,     Lake Indian Nation

“What in Tar Nation,” continued from page 21 »
noise. He’s got it; he should        hear. He seems to agree with his      what can you do?” He exhales,       he says, “You know, maybe I
start something. “I buy all my       entire body. On-screen Celina         leans back in resignation and       will get some guys together and
food in the store. I don’t touch     says: “Once they take all the oil     pats his daughter’s head. I can     start something.” He sits up
any wild meat,” he says. “Would      out of this place, what are our       see him thinking and I hear         straighter. We shake hands to
you eat a fish with puss all over    kids going to live on? You can’t      his outrage shifting back into      say goodbye. When the door is
it?” When we ask if he drinks        drink oil. You can’t eat money.”      motion by the sound of his          closed I lose sight of everything
the water, he nods, solemnly.              “She knows what she’s           breathing and the grinding of his   but Billy and his daughter and
“My baby bathes in it.”              talking about,” he says when          jaw. He continues to stroke his     a sad part of me wants him to
     The fish plant in Fort Chip,    it’s over, shaking his head. “But     daughter’s hair. After a while,     leave while he can.
not surprisingly, has gone
straight downhill in the last 10                                                                                Katie Beaton,
years. But the biggest problem,
according to one employee, is
the lack of fishermen. Appar-
ently the government is making
it harder and harder to get a
fishing license. People can’t
afford to fish, and so they don’t.
Many believe that this is a gov-
ernment tactic to keep the actual
number of sick fish quiet.
     Billy invites us to sleep at
his house and we meet his wife
and three-year-old daughter.
He is generous with his home
and his food and insists that we
help ourselves to anything, that
when he visits Montreal he will
expect the same.
     In the morning Billy seems
to have lost some steam. He
seems dejected and less eager
to talk about the tar sands.
But when we show him a video
interview with Celina he pulls
his chair up close and leans in to
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                           Labour                 39

Piles of bitumen near Syncrude’s tailing pond, which is contained by the world’s largest man-made dam by volume.                  Dru Oja Jay

The Christian Labour Association of Canada
by Stuart Neatby                    1952 by Dutch immigrants,          employers. Under voluntary           most labour relations rules
                                    largely    members      of   the   recognition, according to AFL        in construction and allowed
     Few subjects inspire more      Christian Reformed Church          President Gil McGowan, CLAC          the CNRL to negotiate almost
ire within the Canadian labour      who were disgruntled with the      locals often organize within         exclusively with CLAC. CLAC,
movement than the Christian         Canadian Labour Congress and       workplaces “with the full co-        in turn, has supported the rapid
Labour Association of Canada        its member unions. Most of         operation of the boss.” The AFL      expansion of the Temporary
(CLAC).                             its locals remained in Ontario     believes that CLAC has been          Foreign Worker program on
     CLAC's website presents the    until CLAC won a breakthrough      used by employers to depress         this site, which has resulted in
organization as an alternative to   campaign to represent 2,500        wages and discourage workplace       a rapid influx of thousands of
the “adversarial” relationship of   workers at the Save-On Foods       disruption. About one in five of     migrant workers. The AFL and
other unions with employers         grocery     chain    throughout    CLAC's locals have been certified    the Alberta Building Trades
favouring a more “co-operative      Alberta, through voluntary         under voluntary recognition.         Council claim that the 'special
approach to labour-manage-          recognition by the employer. By    In addition, CLAC has been           status' of the project is an open
ment      relations.”   Although    the mid-1980s, CLAC had begun      criticized for its unwillingness     attack upon organized Labour
apparently not a Christian orga-    moving into the construction       to support employment and pay        in the province and is a direct
nization, CLAC's approach to        sector. They currently have 11     equity legislation, which they       attempt to depress wages and
workplace organization is based     regional offices, 150 full-time    claim “undermine the founda-         working conditions on-site,
upon the “Christian social prin-    staff members and a member-        tions of such institutions as        through the exploitation of
ciples of dignity and respect for   ship of 43,000.                    marriage and the family."            temporary foreign workers.
all people.” This “non-confron-          CLAC has been roundly              Most recently, CLAC played
tational” approach is evident in    criticized as being a “company     a key role during negotiations for
CLAC's background; over the         union.” The Alberta Federation     the Canadian Natural Resources        For Stuart Neatby’s timeline
past 30 years, CLAC members         of Labour (AFL) website criti-     Ltd's (CNRL) Horizon Project,         of the 2007 wildcat strikes
have been engaged in only four      cizes CLAC's close relationship    one of the biggest projects of the    and other online-only
strikes, the most recent of which   with management and questions      Athabasca tar sands. The Klein               features, visit
(in 2002)lasted two hours.          the high rate of 'voluntary        government granted this project
     CLAC was established in        recognition' of CLAC locals by     'special status,' which exempted
40            Visuals                                                              The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Syncrude upgrader plant, offices (foreground), sulphur stockpiles (back left) and tailing pond (back right).                  Dru Oja Jay
The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                  Visuals         41

Syncrude tailing “pond” (foreground), a few hundred metres from the Athabasca River.             Dru Oja Jay
42                                                                                 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

Temporary Foreign Workers, continued from page 5 »
construction projects including      employer’s responsibility to find
in the tar sands. The MOU            the employee housing. Foster
also allows employers to enter       claims that this too is done with
into an agreement-in-principle       minimal concern or respect for
with HRSDC that will facilitate      the well-being of the workers.
and speed up the processing of       He cites an example of 12 Indo-
Labour Market Opinion appli-         Italians brought in by a trucking
cations.                             company who were put up in a
      A “Regional Occupations        three-bedroom bungalow and
under Pressures List” was estab-     charged $500 per month in
lished for Alberta, which speeds     rent.
up the application process                 “If you are an employer and
for hiring temporary foreign         you can hire a worker where you
workers in certain occupations.      can get half of the wages back on
The lengthy list includes many       rent, that’s a bonus...They find
occupations that would be            these ways to nickle and dime
required for tar sands projects,     them. There are guys that come
such as construction managers,       here, work here for six months,     have six months to pass an           for hiring foreign workers.
electricians and heavy-duty          then go home without having         exam, part of which is practical,         “I’ll give some credence
equipment mechanics, but also        earned a penny.”                    the other part being written.        to those statements [of labour
food and beverage servers,                 I ask Foster whether the      Foster says they usually fail        shortages], but I don’t think
cashiers and even funeral            TFWs encounter racism and           the written part and excel at        they’re        all-encompassing.
directors and embalmers.             whether they are successful at      the practical component. Since       For example, if we look at the
      “They [the companies]          integrating into their new com-     the TFWs can work during the         demographics of our First
came up with a pretty interest-      munities.                           six months leading up to their       Nations people in Western
ing method of justifying the               “They’re not and that’s by    test, employers generally do         Canada, if we look at the non-
access to the program. They          the design of the employers,” he    not concern themselves with          traditional, at women, at people
would have job fairs, in my view     answers.                            helping them pass the test, since    with disabilities, there is a huge
very poorly advertised, in weird           Foster details how the TFW    they can easily replace them         pool of workers that we’re not
timing and weird locations and       are picked up by a representa-      with a new batch of workers.         attempting to reach out to,”
nobody would come. That’s one        tive of the employer, driven to          “They don’t want to invest      says MacNeil.
of the major hoops that they         a camp exclusively for TFW          in training, they don’t want to           “There is a shortage, we
would dance through,” says           and that is the last that anyone    increase their wages. It really is   don’t dispute that. It’s just a
MacNeil.                             sees of them. Immigrant service     a case of disposable workers.”       matter of the degree of the
      Temporary           Foreign    agencies, he says, are forbidden         All involved agree that         shortage and the solutions of the
Workers are guaranteed a set         under their funding arrange-        there exists a wide range in         problem. We don’t think that
number of work days as stipu-        ments with the government to        the ways that companies treat        the Temporary Foreign Worker
lated under the terms of their       serve TFWs. So if they come         their workers, and that not          Program is a real solution. We
work permits. If a worker loses      looking for language classes or     all companies resort to using        think it’s short-sighted and it’s
his job, or leaves it voluntarily,   information on how to set up a      TFWs. The basic existence of a       ineffective. We believe there
he may choose to seek employ-        bank account, the agencies have     labour shortage is another point     are many other ways to go and
ment elsewhere. According            to turn them away or risk losing    of general agreement. However,       it should certainly be the last of
to Byl, this is not always as        their funding.                      the extent and the cause of the      the last choices.”
straightforward as it may seem.            I ask him about creden-       shortage remains up for debate,
      “If you’re not working,        tials. He explains that workers     as does its use as a justification        with files from Stuart Neatby
it’s a minimum of four to five
months wait, up to a maximum
of eight months, to go through
the process of obtaining new
paperwork, including a new
Labour Market Opinion. The
lack of unemployment provi-
sions drives people under-
      “Without a job and without
employment insurance, workers
can’t very well just sit around
until they are able to legally
work again. Instead, they work
underground for less pay, or
they go home.”
      When an employer brings
in a worker, it is also the                                                                                    Katie Beaton
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                         43
Upgraders, continued from page 11 »
upgrader construction is linked        bitumen, however, is still           wrestling of oil from tar sands,     is full,” the city’s mayor recently
to the fact that what comes out        upgraded in the United States–       while capturing only a small         told a parliamentary committee.
of the tar sands is not in fact oil    where the vast majority is also      fraction of the profits. Greater     Is this what Fort Saskatchewan
or tar, but bitumen, a low-grade,      refined, sold, and consumed.         involvement in the value-added       has to look forward to?
heavy fossil fuel. Upgrading is        Alberta      politicians     have    process of upgrading would                 “What we’re facing is
the process by which the thick,        been calling for a dramatic          increase the public’s economic       a huge expansion to roads,
tarry muck is turned into a            ramping-up of the province’s         return, but it would concentrate     infrastructure, sewer systems,
synthetic crude oil that can be        upgrading capacities. “If we         even more of the pollution in        water systems, bridges. How is
sent to refineries. This extra         insist on just sending raw           Alberta.                             that going to be paid?” asked
step is part of what makes the         product out of this province and          There is also the possibility   Edmonton mayor Stephen
production of oil from tar sands       adding value to that product in      that the upgrader boom could         Mandel in 2006. He estimated
so energy-intensive, with green-       another jurisdiction, the taxes      overwhelm Fort Saskatchewan          that the money invested in the
house gas emissions three times        on the value-added product           and other towns in the area, in      last five years in Fort McMurray
higher than those associated           will be paid in that jurisdiction,   much the same way that Fort          pales in comparison to what is
with conventional oil produc-          not in the province of Alberta,”     McMurray–epicentre of the tar        proposed for the “Industrial
tion. More natural gas is eaten        Premier Stalmach told reporters      sands extraction operations–is       Heartland.”
up by bitumen upgrading than           last December. Energy minister       already     overwhelmed        by          For now, the protests of
by the mining process itself.          Mel Knight has been quick to         economic growth that most            Kathy Radke and the handful of
     Some of the upgrading             reassure the public that Alberta     locals say is too big, too fast.     other residents directly affected
happens in Alberta’s north,            should have the capacity to          The growing pains experienced        by the upgraders are largely
where the bitumen is extracted.        upgrade about 80 per cent of its     by Fort McMurray include             overshadowed by the spectre
But with its lower costs and           bitumen within a decade or so.       rocketing housing costs, a           of jobs and money rushing
easier access to workers, the               Albertans face a paradox.       homelessness crisis and a severe     into the region. But if things
industrial region northeast            With the havoc created by the        shortage of health care and other    go the way of Fort McMurray,
of Edmonton has become the             mining and in-situ extraction        services. “Our water treatment       it won’t be long until all of the
place of choice for upgraders in       of bitumen from the tar sands,       plant will be at capacity next       area’s residents experience the
the province.                          they already shoulder the brunt      year. Our recreational facilities    ugly side of Alberta’s bitumen
     The bulk of Alberta’s             of the pollution created by the      are overtaxed. Our landfill site     boom.

“Tar Sands and the American Automobile,” continued from page 4 »

that will increase emissions of        increase to 1.25 billion cubic       dollars projected in oil sands       proposed Mackenzie Valley
carbon dioxide.” Rather than           feet daily by 2016. The process      investments between 2006 and         natural gas pipeline, which, if
deter exploration, rising prices       is so inefficient that the natural   2016, the industry is looking        built, would ship natural gas
have led to increasingly uncon-        gas required to produce one          for a long-term, cost-effective      almost exclusively for use in
ventional and hazardous oil            barrel of tar sands oil could        energy source. High natural          northern Alberta oil extraction.
exploration exemplified by the         heat a family home for two to        gas costs have the tar sands              The natural gas pipeline
Alberta tar sands.                     four days. This process uses a       companies thinking big and           seems almost benign compared
     The tremendous energy             relatively clean fuel to assist      looking north.                       to some of the ideas being floated
required to bring the sand to          in the production of a dirtier            Not everyone is happy           by some oil companies who are
the surface for separation is          one, prompting oil analyst           about this increasingly sticky       described in the National Post as
largely provided by natural gas.       Matt Simmons to describe the         situation. “Don’t ruin our           “warming to the idea of nuclear
Oil sands consume about 500            process as “making gold into         land to fuel the US gas tank,”       power as a source for their
million cubic feet of natural          lead.”                               demanded Grand Chief of the          massive energy needs.” This is
gas a day, an amount likely to              With over a hundred billion     Dehcho in response to the            not the first time nuclear power
                                                                                                                 has been proposed to liberate
                                                                                                                 crude oil from the tar sands. In
                                                                                                                 1959 California's Richfield Oil
                                                                                                                 drew a plan approved by the
                                                                                                                 US Atomic Energy Commission
                                                                                                                 to separate bitumen from sand
                                                                                                                 by detonating a nine-kiloton
                                                                                                                 atomic bomb. It was argued
                                                                                                                 that the heat and energy created
                                                                                                                 by an underground explosion
                                                                                                                 would free the oil from the sand,
                                                                                                                 but after the success of initial
                                                                                                                 tests in Nevada, the idea was
                                                                                                                 shelved due to concern among
                                                                                                                 Canadian officials over the use
                                                                                                                 of the A-bomb.
    Katie Beaton,
44                                                                                 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

“Impacting Unimpaired,” continued from page 27 »

million barrels per day.             promote nuclear power for the       mobility’ and allowing non-             The truly daunting reality
     The United States has reor-     Peace Region, where Sag-D has       citizen workers to be exploited    is that the production level
ganized their long-term plans        barely even begun to operate.       at rates currently unreported.     being proposed will have no
for petroleum energy by setting                                                                             other option: the only way to
a goal to get up to 25 per cent                                                                             keep up with projected produc-
of their daily oil from tar sands                                                                           tion rates is to bring in people
based operations (in addition                                                                               from outside.
to Canada’s conventional oil).                                                                                   The guest worker programs
In 2003, the US Department                                                                                  keep non-status workers in
of Energy began declaring tar                                                                               camps where they are not
sands reserves part of their                                                                                allowed visitations by any
calculation of oil imported                                                                                 union. The only means by which
from Canada. This will include                                                                              such a “guest” will be allowed to
massive pipeline construction                                                                               stay beyond the term of their
across territories within British                                                                           contract (up to 24 months) is
Columbia, made nearly impos-                                                                                if the employer applies, not the
sible to block by TILMA.                                                                                    individual. Figures on pay and
     The SPP is setting the stage                                                                           to whom it is delivered are not
for the creation of a series of                                                                             available and have not yet been
“super highways” that may                                                                                   obtained by organized labour in
extend from as far as Panama                                                                                Alberta–we simply do not know
City north to Edmonton and                                                                                  how much migrant workers in
branching off to the three “hot                                                                             the tar sands are being paid.
spots” of the Albertan Peace                                                                                     The “guest workers” may
and Athabasca Regions and                                                                                   not end up only in the camps.
northeast British Columbia.                                                                                 The proposed size of tar sands
     Along with the reduction                                                                               expansion is such that con-
in labour rights across both                                                                                structing infrastructure for vast
provinces through TILMA, the                                                                                new energy “inputs” will take
SPP will provide much-needed                                                                                thousands of workers as well.
labour through the expansion of                                                                             Two pipelines of various gas are
the “temporary foreign workers”                                                                             needed “in” to the tar sands for
program. The growth of                                                                                      every pipeline going “out.”
Alberta’s economy has already                                                                                    The energy needed to go
exceeded the available popula-                                                                              into the tar sands are slated to
tion of workers. Workers from                                           come from the natural gas in
the Maritimes are paid to fly to                                                                            such places as Alaska’s north
Fort McMurray from Moncton,               The two maps included               The Alberta Federation of     slope, coal-fired mega plants
Halifax or St. John’s and work       show the plans for this vast        Labour points out that 2006        in Alberta, proposed nuclear
in camps in the tar sands.           expansion, both in terms of the     was the first year that the        reactors in the Peace Region
     The energy needs of pro-        importing of labour by highway      number of people admitted          and near Whitecourt, along
duction in the tar sands pro-        and the construction of needed      into Alberta who were not even     with the industrialization of the
cess–whether the strip-mining        energy supplies by pipeline to      allowed to apply to become         Mackenzie Valley (and much
operations or the “in-situ”          get to the planned five million     landed immigrants (let alone       more). The outward shipping
underground “Steam-assisted          bpd.                                citizens) exceeded the number      of     bitumen-sludge       (later
gravity     Drainage”     (Sag-D)         The first one shows the flow   of new immigrants. With agree-     converted to mock oil) entails
procedure–are equal to almost        of goods and labour. The aim        ments like the SPP in place,       corridors across Saskatchewan
a third of what is produced.         of TILMA and the SPP is the         this will increase sharply. With   and Manitoba, the Dakotas,
(For comparison purposes, the        immediate creation of far more      TILMA, every time a labour         Nebraska, Kansas and more, all
crude in Iraqi reserves produces     labour inflow from places such      right is undermined, it becomes    the way to Texas and Louisiana.
about 100 times the energy that      as Mexico and China, most of it     the new bottom line.               These schemes, in particular
is needed to pump it out.) Sag-D     ultimately destined to work in           According to Gil McGowan      the one known as the Keystone
consumes more energy and             the tar sands. Canadian Natural     of the Alberta Federation of       Pipeline headed by TransCan-
water than strip-mining opera-       Resources Limited (CNRL)            Labour, “Employers are using       ada, is already causing the AFL
tions, setting the stage for the     began using 500 Chinese             temporary foreign workers as       to warn of dire consequences
requisite equivalent of four to      labourers on a “guest worker”       a way to suppress wages and        for job loss and deregulation
five billion cubic feet of natural   program at their Horizons           working conditions and to avoid    of currently union-run opera-
gas per day required in tar sands    Oilsands Project last year. The     legitimate unions...we oppose      tions.
operations if they become fully      SPP is a cost-effective means of    the importation of hundreds of          The other corridor for
operational.                         importing needed labour and         workers just to complete a job     sending sludge to refineries
     This reality is what is         keeping costs down at the same      and then sending them back         is slated to be across British
leading Energy Alberta to            time, through enacting ‘labour      home. That is exploitation.”       Columbia, over the lands of
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                   45
the Carrier, Gixtsan, Haisla,       was announced. The map                export growth to make the West     climate emissions, the second-
Tsimshian and other unceded         shows only some of the refiner-       Coast of Canada a major hub of     fastest rate of deforestation
nations to a yet-to-be-con-         ies planning to receive tar sands     de-regulated trade with Asia.      on earth, the dismantling of
structed port to operate out        bitumen.                                  It could soon be illegal       previously won workers’ rights,
of Kitimat, where oil could              Under the Alberta Energy         and not merely politically         a sacrifice area in Alberta the
theoretically be shipped to         and Utilities Board, every single                                        size of Florida and the removal
California, Japan and China.        project in the Athabasca, Cold                                           of     meaningful      democratic
                                    Lake and Peace River tar sands
                                                                               “The primary                  oversight at the community
                                    region has been approved.              legacy of the project             level.
  “We simply do                     TILMA will streamline the regu-
                                    lations in line with these projects
                                                                             will be run-away                     The usual critiques of the
                                                                                                             SPP and TILMA are not inaccu-
                                                                            climate emissions,
   not know how                     across all of B.C. and Alberta. It
                                    will also mean the elimination
                                                                                                             rate. Placing new developments
                                                                                                             in a global context, however,
                                                                             the second fastest
                                    of a long-time moratorium on                                             changes our understanding of
   much migrant                     oil and gas offshore tankers on       rate of deforestation              what is driving this latest set
                                    the central coast of B.C.                   on earth, the                of deals. Instability around
  workers in the                         Kitimat and Gitamaat
                                                                               dismantling of
                                                                                                             the planet, dwindling reserves
                                    Village, currently host to major                                         of oil, a collapsing American
   tar sands are                    Gray and Humpback whale
                                    migration, would see 330 super
                                                                              previously won                 dollar and more are exposing
                                                                                                             imperial economic structures
                                    tankers of oil and gas a year            workers’ rights, a              to a level of insecurity unknown
     being paid.”                   migrating offshore, according to      strip-mine in Alberta              in a generation. By lurching
                                    the Dogwood Initiative. Nations                                          headlong in 2003 towards the
                                    up and down the proposed                 the size of Florida             Albertan tar sands, the US has
The same port would serve to
import “diluent” from Russia, a
                                    corridor would see a loss of              and the removal                made the rising price of oil work
                                    forest cover in areas where                                              to their advantage, rather than
kerosene-like substance used to
                                    giant grizzlies still roam near            of meaningful                 its opposite; when the price of
make the thick mud of bitumen
flow like oil in a pipe.
                                    ranchlands.                           democratic oversight               oil goes up, those who invest
                                         The oil and gas going to                                            heavily in expensive, unconven-
     “Pipeline ruptures happen,
                                    and from the tar sands would             at the community                tional oil gain a larger foothold
they’re inevitable,” says Gerald
Amos of the Haisla Nation from
                                    cross rivers and streams and the                level.”                  in market share.
                                    tankers will come near 1,000                                                  The SPP and TILMA have
Gitamaat Village on the Coast
                                    salmon spawning areas. Upon           difficult to regulate how these    been drawn up to increase
of B.C., where the construction
                                    completion, the entire 1,200-         constructions go ahead. Envi-      and integrate this into a
of a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)
                                    plus kilometre pipeline systems       ronmental regulation, revenue      decades-long strategy for North
port is being planned.
                                    would provide 75 full-time            for nations who approve the        American economic stability, a
     “We just don’t know the
                                    jobs. Enbridge has quietly            use of their lands, taxation for   strategy that does not address
location yet...All of the propo-
                                    shifted gears towards building        reclamation purposes, require-     our dependence on oil. Under-
nents of the Gateway project
                                    the infrastructure to send the        ments on unionization for the      standing the true nature of these
and all the other pipelines
                                    current bump in oil production        construction–all of these things   plans allows people to make
which would mean more tanker
                                    to Texas, promising to complete       are being legislated and signed    informed decisions about what
traffic here point out that we’ve
                                    this project at a later date.         away.                              to do during the rapid changes
had tanker traffic here, big
                                         That later date may well              With TILMA, Alberta and       in energy politics–changes that
ships coming in for about 40 to
                                    coincide with the B.C. govern-        B.C. have united to ensure that    will affect the entire popula-
50 years now. I think you are
                                    ment’s other “Pacific Gateway         the oil dug out of the earth is    tion of North America (and the
talking about a substantially
                                    Strategy,” designed to use            sent south, at an incomprehen-     planet) for decades to come.
different ball game when you
                                    TILMA, the SPP, the 2010              sible rate. The primary legacy
talk about supertankers.”
                                    Olympics and vast tar sands           of the project will be run-away
     This project, the “Enbridge
Gateway,” is currently delayed
due to lawsuits launched by
seven First Nations, Indian Act-
mandated governments and
the China National Petroleum
Company’s withdrawal from the
     Other pipelines heading
southward are the Alberta
Clipper     Project      and  the
Spearhead Expansion Project,
also led by Enbridge, a self-
described “leader in energy
transportation.” In June of this
year, the first new refinery in
the United States in decades           Katie Beaton,
46                                                                                     The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007

“Can Pew’s Charity be Trusted,” continued from page 28 »

the willingness of some corpo-                                                                                    ForestEthics celebrated a major
                                                Boreal Forest Network • Center for Science in Public
rations to embrace “sustainable                                                                                   agreement for the preservation
                                      Participation • CPAWS • Ducks Unlimited • David Suzuki Foundation
practices,” and the trend among         • Ecotrust Canada • Fondation de la faune • Forest Ethics • Forest        of the Great Bear Rainforest.
conservationists to protect            Stewardship Council of Canada • Global Forest Watch • Manitoba             A year later, however, logging
entire areas instead of chasing        Wildlands • Miningwatch • Nature Canada • Nature Conservancy               companies have ramped up
biodiversity “hotspots”.                  of Canada • Nature Quebec • Northwatch • Ontario Nature •               clearcut logging to levels that
     “It’s one thing to walk in        Pembina Institute • Protected Areas Association of Newfoundland            are “unprecedented in 15
as an environmental group”                   & Labrador • Reseau Quebecois Groups des Ecologistes •               years,” in order to gather as
and speak to policymakers,             Saskatchewan Environmental Society • Sierra Legal Defense Fund             much timber as possible before
                                        • Silva Forest Foundation • SNAP • The Sustainability Network •
says Innes, “and another thing                                                                                    the agreement takes effect in
                                        The Wild Foundation • Western Canada Wilderness Committee •
to walk in as an environmental         Western Newfoundland Model Forest • Wildlands League • Wildlife            2009. To make matters worse,
group, shoulder to shoulder                        Conservation Society • World Wildlife Fund •                   “ecosystem-based          manage-
with First Nations and industry                            Yukon Conservation Society                             ment” techniques named in
representatives and saying,                                                                                       the agreement have yet to be
‘we’ve got a solution.’”                   Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation • Bloodvein First Nation •            defined. Meanwhile, environ-
     The CBI is “pretty up-front       Carrier Sekani Tribal Council • Centre for Indigenous Environmental        mental groups agreed to stop
about wanting to protect at least       Resources • Dehcho First Nations • Grassy Narrows First Nation •          the direct action campaign that
                                      Innu Nation • Kaska Dena Council • Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug
half of Canada’s boreal, and do                                                                                   had previously halted logging,
                                       First Nation • Little Grand Rapids First Nation • Little Red River Cree
responsible management where          First Nation • Lutsel’ke Dene First Nation • Moose Cree First Nation •      enabling the sped-up clearcut-
development is going to occur,”       Mistissini Cree First Nation • National Aboriginal Forestry Association     ting to continue unimpeded.
says Innes.                              • Nishnawbe Aski Nation • Pauingassi First Nation • Poplar River              “We’ve found organized,
     It’s this industry-friendly       First Nation • Prince Albert Grand Council • Treaty 8 First Nations of     institutional environmentalism
approach to conservation that          Alberta • Treaty 8 Tribal Association (BC) • West Moberly First Nation     has failed over the last four years
many activists object to. The                                                                                     to accomplish anything,” Nuxalk
problem with the consensus-            Groups in Canada that have received money from the Pew                     hereditary chief Qwatsinas told
building approach, critics say,        Charitable Trusts via the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI),                the Dominion earlier this year.
is that avoiding conflict with         according to CBI director Larry Innes.                                     “The successes have come from
corporations means that the                                                                                       individual grassroots efforts
fundamental problems with           because they are not controver-         one of the Pew Trusts made            that have basically bypassed
mining or logging that provoked     sial.”                                  $205 million in “investment           the entrenched, bureaucratic,
popular resistance in the first           In his 1996 book Washing-         income” in 1993 from invest-          environmental         institutions
place are not addressed.            ton Babylon, US-based author            ments in companies like Wey-          that have been sucking up the
     “In the 1970s and 1980s a      Alex Cockburn noted that “the           erhaeuser, International Paper,       enviro-buck and just not getting
vibrant, truly grassroots public    Pew Trusts’ endowment is                and Atlantic Richfield. Cockburn      the kind of accomplishments we
land protection movement            wisely invested in the very cor-        notes that at the time this was       need.”
emerged–first in the West and       porations that a vigorous envi-         “six times as large as all of Pew’s        Cizek agrees. “In the US,”
then nation-wide,” writes Felice    ronmental movement would                environmental dispensations.”         he says, “it has been pointed out
Pace of Oregon’s Ancient Forest     adamantly be opposing.”                 Today, however, Pew is report-        that the organizations that are
Campaign in a 2004 article.               “In its initial National Forest   edly not as heavily invested in       taking a principled stand are
“During the 1990s Pew, with         Campaign, Pew demanded                  resources extraction.                 the community organizations,
support from other foundations,     that recipients of grant money               A more recent attempt at         the ones whose neighbourhoods
moved decisively to control this    agree to focus their attention on       co-operation between industry,        are being destroyed.” The “Big
movement.”                          government actions; corporate           First Nations and environ-            Greens,” says Cizek, often serve
     “Pew favors concentrating      wrongdoers were not to be               mentalists in British Columbia        to tell local groups that they’re
on ‘low hanging fruit,’” writes     named. This extreme plan was            has recently drawn the ire of         asking the impossible, but when
Pace. “That is, wilderness areas    modified after some recipients          grassroots activists. In 2006,        proven wrong, take credit for
which local congressmen and         balked.”                                Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Rain-        their achievements.
senators are eager to support             Cockburn writes that just         forest Action Network and                  “And they often win the
                                                                                                                  biggest victories.”
                                                                                                                       “Victories,” says Cizek, “will
                                                                                                                  not be achieved in Washington,
                                                                                                                  DC, or in Ottawa. They will be
                                                                                                                  achieved on the front lines. The
                                                                                                                  people on the front lines are
                                                                                                                  the ones who are under attack
                                                                                                                  directly. They’re not policy
                                                                                                                  wonks trying to figure out what
                                                                                                                  public opinion will tolerate. For
                                                                                                                  them, it’s a matter of survival, in
                                                                                                                  many cases it’s a matter of life
                                                                                                                  or death.”
                                                                                                                       When discussing the tar
                                                                              Katie Beaton,
 The Dominion, Tar Sands Issue— Issue #48, Autumn 2007                                                                                      47
sands, Cizek says that the           top to manage their dissent into     projects like the tar sands and          The CBI’s Larry Innes says
groups receiving CBI funding         appropriate channels, so that        the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline.         that the issue of accountability
have been extremely timid.           the industries maintain their              But he emphasizes that        is “an interesting question.” His
CPAWS, WWF, Pembina, the             right to operate.”                   “it’s not about quibbling about     response to it is candid.
Sierra Club and others signed a           Sierra Club’s Lindsay Telfer    calling for a moratorium or a            “We’re accountable to
statement calling for a “carbon      says that too much time is spent     shut down,” but “what were the      those people who write us a
neutral” tar sands by 2020           denouncing others within envi-       processes by which you came to      cheque every year,” says Innes.
through the purchase of “carbon      ronmental and social justice         this point, and how might your      “If we don’t achieve the kind of
offsets,” but said nothing about     circles. “That’s something I’ve      funders have influenced this        goals that they’re interested in
slowing down or stopping tar         always     found      frustrating–   decision? What do they actually     spending their money on, the
sands development itself. A          divisiveness,” says Telfer. “I’m     expect to settle for?”              funding stops.”
short time later, the Sierra Club    more than supportive of other                                                 For Innes, “a more interest-
                                     groups that call for more than                                           ing question is why we need US
                                     what the Sierra Club calls for.”      “...the organizations              funding at all. Why is the envi-
     “In its initial                      Telfer also comes to the           that are taking a                ronmental movement in Canada
  National Forest                    defense of those who call for
                                                                              principled stand                so small and poorly funded?
                                     less. “I don’t buy into the                                              Where is all the Canadian
  Campaign, Pew                      arguments that CBI is all bad,         are the community                 money? Why aren’t Canadian
   demanded that                     that Pew is all bad,” says Telfer.        organizations,                 philanthropists (with a few
 recipients of grant                 “I try not to get involved in the
                                                                               the ones whose
                                                                                                              notable exceptions) investing
                                     infighting.” She says she would                                          in Canada’s environmental and
  money agree to                     take money from the CBI in            neighbourhoods are                 social justice movements?”
focus their attention                the future if it fits the needs of
                                                                            being destroyed...”                    Depending on which expla-
   on government                     a particular campaign. “If we’re                                         nation of foundation funding
                                     fundraising for a project that has                                       one finds more convincing, what
 actions; corporate                  specific goals, I’ll take money           “Do they actually believe in   CBI is accountable for accom-
wrongdoers were not                  from people who support those        this insane program of the tar      plishing and why Canadians
                                     goals,” though she adds that the     sands becoming carbon neutral       aren’t providing the same levels
    to be named.”                    Sierra Club has strict standards     by purchasing carbon offsets?”      of funding to conservation-
                                     concerning who it accepts            he asks, referring to a statement   ists will have very different
called for a moratorium on tar       money from.                          signed by several groups before     answers.
sands development. But it was             Cizek sees a need for a         Lougheed called for a morato-
only after arch-conservative         “profound dialogue about the         rium.
former Alberta Premier Peter         democratic and non-democratic
Lougheed called for a morato-        aspects of environmental orga-
rium that CPAWS and Pembina          nizations.” Many environmen-                                        Ed Stelmach doesn’t
followed suit. WWF Canada has        tal organizations are private
remained silent, though its UK       non-profits with few account-                                        read the Dominion.
counterpart has recently called      ability mechanisms. The WWF,
for a moratorium.                    for example, has only subscrib-
     “To their utter embarass-       ers, no members. The Pembina                                                   Find out what
ment, the Big Greens found           Institute, he says, takes money
themselves trailing far behind       directly from oil companies, to                                                 he’s missing.
the curve of public opinion,”        which it sells carbon credits.
says Cizek, “and had to scramble     The Sierra Club is “one of the
to catch up.” But the morato-        more democratic of these envi-                                            Subscribe today.
rium on new developments,            ronmental organizations,” he
according to Cizek, still does not   says, and that is “perhaps why
address the damage that will be      they were able to initially take
done to the water and land by        a more principled stand” on
operations that have already
been approved.
     CPAWS did not respond
to an interview request, and a
WWF representative declined
to be interviewed.
     “This is a very high-level
political process that’s going
on,” he adds. “This is about
cutting closed back-room deals
at the very political top, and
allowing the environmentalists
to achieve some concessions
through dealings at the political                                                                                Katie Beaton,
Everyone’s Downstream
Tar Sands Realities and Resistance
    Conference: Nov 24-25, 2007
   University of Alberta, Edmonton
       w w w. o i l s a n d s t r u t h . o r g / co n f

   A conference designed to explore the links between oppression and self-
   determination on many levels: indigenous land rights, gender, ecological rights,
   workers democracy, anti-racism and anti-border perspectives as they relate directly
   to the tar sands of Northern Alberta. Speakers from a multitude of indigenous
   nations, social justice groups, and environmental organizations will discuss the
   social impacts of the tar sands on workers, women, indigenous nations, ecology,
   migrant populations, homelessness, and the anti-war movement.

                                                                                photo by Dru Oja Jay

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