Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Air- and water-monitoring program "promised" for Fort Chipewyan

Air- and water-monitoring program promised for Fort Chipewyan
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | CBC

Alberta's environment minister said Monday he will support the creation of a program to help people in the northern part of the province check if their food, air or water is contaminated.

Rob Renner made the promise after meeting with representatives of First Nations in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.

"The one area I think that we can move forward on is to develop a community-based monitoring system with respect to monitoring the air and water and so that they have a higher degree of confidence in some of the statistical information that is being provided from various sources," he said.

But George Poitras, who speaks for the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said these kind of commitments have been made before, and he'll only believe Renner once he provides money and resources to back up his promise.

"They have come here and admitted that they haven't done anything as a result of us first raising those issues in the previous meetings, and so … it's just another public relations stunt for the Alberta government," he said.

A community of about 1,200 people located 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan is downstream from many oilsands projects, and residents believe something in the environment is causing cancer.

Renner's visit came on the same day community leaders rejected the findings of a comprehensive study into local cancer rates before they were released because of concerns over the study's methodology and lack of consultation with local people.

Local doctors and people in Fort Chipewyan believe the region has a per-capita rate of cancer that is higher than average, and they have been asking for a in-depth study for years.

Lisa King, who speaks for Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said cancer cases in the community have many people in Fort Chipewyan questioning the safety of their local food supplies.

"What's in the tissue? What's in the liver? What's in the kidneys of those animals that we consume? Why should we not continue consuming our traditional plants?" she asked. "But shouldn't we have a sense of comfort that those foods we're eating will not hurt us?"

Renner acknowledges the government has moved more slowly than he had hoped in addressing the community's complaints, but he promised that will now change.


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