Healing Walk Past Toxic Tailings Ponds

"This is not a protest, but a way to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on."

Fort McMurray – First Nations, Metis elders, community members and other supporters will take part in a 13-kilometre 'healing walk' tomorrow that will pass by the vast tar sands operations of Syncrude and Suncor - once prime First Nation berry picking and hunting ground - to bring attention to the devastation of land andwater and to show the real suffering that comes with tar sands development.

The walk,organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and settler communities along the Athabasca River, included people whose lives have been adversely impacted by Tar Sands operations and expansion. Cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan are already 30% higher compared with expected over the last 12 years; leukemia and lymphoma increased by 3-fold; and bile duct cancers increased by 7-fold.[1]

"Mother earth needs our help to protect and heal the land and water that is being decimated by tar sands development. We're walking to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on," said Cleo Reece, co-organizer of the walk and member of Keepers of the Athabasca."As Indigenous people we are caretakers of the earth and we need to work together to ensure the health and safety for next generation. We walk to give strength and prayer to the earth that has been ravaged by the tar sands industry."

Recent data released from the Environment Canada found the volume of lead and arsenic produced and eventually deposited in tailing ponds made by four companies jumped by 26 percent in the past four years, while the volume of other substances grew at an even faster pace.[2] An analysis of industry reports conducted by Environmental Defence showed that every day over 11 millions litres of toxic sludge from the tailing lakes leach into northern riversystems.[3] Independent scientists also show that fish contain alarming levels of mercury and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Communities are witnessing more members die, and are noticing alarming changes in the fish and animals in the region.

"We are witnessing the cultural genocide of our people. The places where we traditionally picked berries or gathered medicines are being destroyed. The fish and animals that are our traditional diet are being poisoned and members of our community are dying. Something needs to be done," said Celine Harpe ofFort McKay First Nation. "Today we walk to offer our prayers to mother earth who has held us for all this time. We hope to help her stay strong and resist this tar sands industry."

"The grassroots Wet'suwet'en people of Northern British Columbia are facing off with government and many facets of industry. The proposed Enbridge Gateway Oil Pipeline, that is planned to traverse our sacred lands and waters, will be stopped by any means necessary. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who strive to protect our sacred places which have a direct effect on our health" said hereditary chief Toghestiy of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, "We will join our Athabascan family in their prayers for healing our beautiful mother earth. Nurturing concrete alliances with all people affected will cease the onslaught of greedy and destructive forces."

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Pictures will be available for download following the walk at http://www.flickr.com/photos/itstimetoriseup/

For more information please contact:

  • GeorgePoitras - 780 264 1269
  • Cleo Reece- 780 381 8799
  • CelinaHarpe - 780-828-4153

[1] http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/files/rls-2009-02-06-fort-chipewyan-study.pdf


[3] Price, Matt. 11 MillionLitres a Day: The Tar Sands' Leaking Legacy. Environmnetal Defence, December, 2008. Available at http://www.environmentaldefence.ca/reports/tarsands_dec_2008.html