Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 22, 2009
Canada needs sustainable energy policy – delegation
Church leaders raise raft of questions about tar sands
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - A delegation of Canadian Church leaders plans to push for a sustainable energy policy for the country this fall in meetings with federal government officials.
"We question the pace of tar sands development and the sustainability of the tar sands industry and the communities on which it has an impact," the delegation, which toured northern Alberta, said in a June 11 report.
"There is need for more regulation by the Alberta and Canadian governments to protect the common good."
The delegation of 10 leaders from Canadian churches and Church organizations travelled through northern Alberta May 21 to 27 to learn more about the tar sands and its impact on people and the earth.
They also agreed with other groups that have called for independent studies on the cumulative effects of tar sands development, especially concerning water and ecosystems.
Canadians need to reduce consumption "and help generate solutions," the leaders said.
They also want the rights of indigenous groups respected and protected in tar sands development.
The Church leaders were accompanied on their travels by an aboriginal chief from B.C., partners from Ecuador and Nigeria, and representatives of Kairos, the Canadian ecumenical justice coalition that sponsored the tour.
Among the Church leaders on the trip were Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ursuline Sister Anne Lewans, vice-president of the Canadian Religious Conference, and the Rev. Bruce Adema, president of the Canadian Council of Churches.
The group met with indigenous people, oil company representatives, Church people, environmental groups and others during their week-long visit.
The report paid particular concern to the concerns of native people in Fort McMurray, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan.
Some native people spoke of the economic benefits of tar sands development and of the compensation bands have received for the use of their traditional lands.
WAY OF LIFE
Other aboriginal people spoke of how their way of life as fishers, hunters and trappers is being negatively affected by tar sands development. They expressed concern about damage to the water and the land and say their concerns have largely been ignored.
"In Fort Chipewyan, people told us of rare illnesses, the growing number of deaths from cancer and frightening changes to local ecology," the report said.
"We saw how rapidly the graveyard is filling up. People in Fort Chipewyan need answers about why this is happening and how it can be prevented."
In their discussions with people in the "tar sands industry," the delegation found a group concerned about the various ecological effects of tar sands extraction.
Industry officials believe they are taking steps that will significantly reduce water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. They maintain that there is no proof that the health concerns of aboriginal people are related to tar sands development.
"We are concerned about the industry's response to the serious questions that have been raised, its determination to keep up the pace of development, and its confidence in what has been done to mitigate damage to people and ecosystems," said the report.
"Alberta government representatives emphasized the economic importance of the tar sands and gave no indication they would strengthen government's role in regulating industry to protect the common good."
(The full report is available at www.kairoscanada.org.)