STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Rally targets oilsands investors

Posted by mhudema on June 18, 2008

Today staff
Tuesday June 17, 2008

“Stop funding our death” was one message sent to investors Monday during a protest at the Oil and Gas Investment Symposium hosted by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary.

“Our community of Fort Chipewyan is in direct threat of being extinct because of the fact that the tarsands are polluting the water,” said Lionel Lepine of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “I want the whole world to know we have a crisis going on in our town.”

The protest was spearheaded by the First Nations communities as well as environmental groups such as Sierra Club Prairie, Greenpeace Canada and ForestEthics.

Challenges for people to drink water from Lake Athabasca were unanswered. Many in the First Nations community say the lake is toxic, contaminated by the oilsands.

Protesters didn’t have an opportunity to interact with investors. They were already inside the Hyatt Calgary which was “pretty secure,” said George Poitras of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. A number of people were watching the rally, some believed to be investors or staff from the various companies attending the symposium.

“I think we raised a lot of awareness,” said Poitras. He said that’s how many investors in Calgary for a couple of days would likely learn of the rally’s message.

“They’d probably hear about it, it’s not the silver bullet the companies might convince them that it is,” said Poitras. “Granted, the Athabasca tarsands might be a solution to much of the energy crisis in Canada and around the world, there are some associated negative impacts including health and environmental concerns.”

Lepine agreed the media would play a major role in raising awareness amongst those cloistered behind the hotel’s walls.
“We won’t know (if we were successful) until we start getting comments back because security was really tight. We had no opportunity to approach them whatsoever,” he added.

Pierre Alvarez, CAPP president said this morning that he was aware of the protests outside the meeting.

“There was nothing that was raised (Monday) that we’re not already aware of and already working on; in fact more than that, already under regulation,” he said. “We’re not trying to hide from any of the issues.”

The investor community wants to know all the numbers, not just the economics.

“They want to know the numbers in terms of environmental performance … safety performance,” said Alvarez. “They are looking at companies that have long-term plans, long-term visions, and sustainability reporting is part of that.”

Protesters carried signs including a picture of a deformed fish caught in Lake Athabasca. Lepine said he believes the fish was caught last year.

“The main message I wanted to get across to the investors is to stop funding our death,” said Lepine. “Behind me, there’s 375 investors sitting down and they’re negotiating how much land they’re going to rip open, how much pollution they’re going to put in the water and into the air.”

Commenting on at week’s apology from the federal government about the residential school abuse, Lepine foresees more apologies but this time for killing off a traditional way of life or a community.

“I don’t want them to come up and say, ‘Oh, sorry guys. We killed off the town of Fort Chipewyan. Oops,’ “ he said.

He noted the younger generation is already afraid of the pollution, including a friend’s eight-year-old son scared to eat the fish or swim in the water.

“He’s one of a few kids … starting to get frightened of what’s going on with the water,” said Lepine.

Fear and anger are the common moods in Fort Chip, said Lepine, when companies arrive in the community to explain yet another environmental mishap.

“The community is outraged. They really let them have it.”

When Suncor was recently in town to explain why it discharged pollutants (raw sewage water) into the water for 11 days, it had a presentation of 28 slides. Company officials only managed to complete a handful before the “frustrated” community took over, said Lepine.

“Tears were flowing. There was so much anger that came out they didn’t have a chance to really try to explain,” said Lepine. He said there is no way to explain such an incident.

A little while later, Syncrude Canada was in Fort Chip explaining why hundreds of ducks died on one of its tailings ponds.
“And again the community was angry,” said Lepine. “The whole community just let them have it.”

Residents are tired of regular corporate explanations, he said.

“We’re getting sick of hearing the same lip service over and over, same song and dance pretty much from every company that comes up to explain — ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re fixing things up, and we’re working on it. Blah, blah, blah. We’ll get back to you on that question. We’ll get back to you on this question.’ Our questions never, ever get answered.”

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