Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Duck Deaths Confirm First Nations' Fears

Duck Deaths Confirm First Nations' Fears

Fort Chipewyan, May 2, 2008 -- Only one day after the 500 ducks were found dead in the tailings pond at Syncrude Canada in the Alberta tar sands, a local Mikisew Cree hunter killed a duck that was totally covered in oil. Community leaders have no doubt that the duck was a victim of the toxic tailings ponds near Fort McMurray, 300 kilometres south of Fort Chipewyan. The oil-drenched duck will be released to the Canadian Wildlife Service for further investigation.

The Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, say the deaths of up to 500 ducks in toxic tailings ponds at Syncrude Canada once again confirm growing concerns of tar sands development upstream from their community. The community has escalated its efforts to determine the true state of its highly toxic waters, sediment and wildlife, including waterfowl, which the community knows have unusually high levels of arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

"It angers and saddens me because our ancestors have been able to survive in this region for thousands of years. We should have the same opportunity to live traditionally, but developers have taken that from us," says Lisa King, Environmental Specialist for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Industry Relations Corporation.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says, "Our fears have been confirmed by the recent incident with Syncrude Canada. We have always known that our traditional ways are at risk. Today our fears are reality. As Chief of the ACFN, I expect a clean up that focuses on affected wildlife in the Peace-Athabasca Delta as well as the region including Wood Buffalo National Park, where birds are known to nest each year. We are a downstream community of concerned members and we need peace of mind that our traditional ways can continue. We need answers from Canadian, provincial and industry representatives."

The First Nations fear more birds that are still contaminated with oil have flown further north in the Peace-Athabasca Delta and elsewhere in the Mackenzie basin watershed.

Chief Roxanne Marcel of the Mikisew Cree First Nation says, "The community of Fort Chipewyan has informed government time and again that their management of the tar sands needs to be vigilant. Time and again, if it were not for the Mikisew Cree's efforts, the standards would be the lowest in the world at this, the world's largest industrial development project. The local finding of the oil-drenched duck and the other 500 ducks that perished is only the latest catastrophe in the tar sands development. This region is being exploited at an unprecedented pace and all in the name of economics." Chief Marcel believes that this latest catastrophe is a sign of worse catastrophes to come, with the continuous approvals of multi-billion dollar projects by the Alberta government.

Tony Boschmann, Environment Director for the Athabasca Tribal Council, adds, "This unfortunate incident is a poignant reminder of the environmental impacts that can occur in this region. It further emphasizes the beneficial role that First Nations can provide in co-stewarding the environment."


For more information contact:

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Lisa King, Environmental Specialist, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation IRC
Telephone: 780-742-3475

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Telephone: 780-697-3730

Mikisew Cree First Nation
George Poitras, Mikisew Cree First Nation
Telephone: 780-972-0017

Background -- Syncrude approval clause:

"The Waterfowl Protection Plan referred to in 6.1.76 shall include:

(a) techniques and procedures for a comprehensive bird deterrent program for all
tailings, composite tailings and waste ponds which minimizes avian mortality
from the ponds;

(b) a comprehensive program for monitoring and documenting avian mortality,
timing of incidents, and bird species affected; and

(c) any other information as required in writing by the Director.

6.1.78 The approval holder shall implement the Waterfowl Protection Plan referred to in subsection 6.1.76 as authorized in writing by the Director."

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