Campaign Page

The Dirty Truth about Canada’s Tar Sands Industry

Canada’s Tar Sands are located in the Northern half of the province of Alberta along with some deposits in neighbouring Saskatchewan. Covering a landmass of 140,200 km2, or 54,132 square miles, the deposits span a region the size of the State of New York or 2.5 times the size of Nova Scotia. The tar sands are located in the heart of Canada’s Boreal Forest, a nearly continuous belt of coniferous trees that extends across the country. Home to a diversity of plant and animal species the region is commonly referred to as “the lungs of the planet,” as it is one of the largest carbon storehouse in the world, second only to the Amazon rainforest. The region contains extensive wetlands, including bogs, peatlands and fens. The tar sands region of the boreal forest is the traditional territory of the Dene, Cree and Métis Indigenous people. At an estimated 170 billion barrels, Canada’s tar sands have put the country on the global oil map, making Canada 2nd only to Saudi Arabia for proven crude oil reserves. Since commencement of oil sands extraction, nearly 40 years ago, extraction of the resource has climbed steadily to the 1.31 million barrels per day in 2008. This figure is expected to nearly triple by 2018. Tar Sands oil is destined for the U.S. In 2008, Alberta exported 1.51 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude oil to the U.S., supplying 15% of U.S. crude oil imports, or 8% of U.S. oil demand. As of June 2009, there were approximately 5,012 oil sands (mineral rights) agreements with the Province totaling approximately 82,542 km2 (31,870 square miles). This equates to an area that is nearly the size of the state of South Carolina. Close to 41% of possible tar sands areas are still available for leasing.

Our Demands:

It is no exaggeration to call the tar sands one of the most destructive industrial projects in the world. People, animals and the land are dying as we extract the dirty tar sands oil to feed our North American appetite for oil. WE NEED YOUR HELP! CANADIANS MUST NOW, MORE THAN EVER, UNITE TOGETHER AND DEMAND AN END TO TAR SANDS INJUSTICES TODAY! • The Tar Sands must be included in a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions. • The Tar Sands must be subjected to precautionary water quality standards aimed to stop and eliminate elevating levels of Mercury, Arsenic, PAHs and other carcinogenic toxins. • Treaty Rights must be honoured and upheld. First Nations and Métis Communities must be meaningfully consulted and accommodated before any further development decisions are approved. • We are calling for the Canadian and Albertan governments to take the first step and cease new oil sands approvals and lease sales. The time is now to stop the uncontrolled oil sands development and deal with the environmental and social concerns that it has created. • We furthermore urge our Governments to develop an energy policy, which encourages conservation and promotes the use of safe, clean, and renewable energy sources. Together, we can move our Canada beyond the current dirty oil image. It’s time.

Latest Posts

In Depth: Syncrude ducks death trial

On a quiet March morning in St. Albert, Alta., dozens of binders were stacked on tables and cabinets in a small provincial courtroom.

Reporters squeezed into the public gallery for the start of a trial, which was expected to give the practices of the Alberta oilsands industry their closest scrutiny in years.

Oilsands giant Syncrude faced federal and provincial charges for the deaths of 1,606 ducks, which perished after landing on the toxic tailings lake at the company's Aurora mine, about 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, on April 28, 2008.

The incident made headlines around the world. Now, nearly two years' later, a trial is underway to determine if Syncrude was culpable in failing to prevent the birds' deaths.... Read more »

European Union fuel guidelines may give OK to oilsands crude: documents

Environmental groups are concerned that lobbying by the Canadian government may have persuaded the European Union to backtrack on a proposed fuel policy that would have targeted Alberta's oilsands.

"Canada seems to have been lobbying hard and they may have succeeded," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council in Washington, D.C.

She was referring to talks that are taking place among the 27-nation EU trading bloc with respect to fuel standards. The EU is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the use of low-carbon fuels.

Last fall, the EU released draft guidelines that distinguished between the carbon footprint of fuels derived from the oilsands and those that come from conventional crude. That distinction would have allowed regulators to penalize users of oilsands-derived fuel or reward those who didn't.... Read more »

EU oilsands penalties dropped: activists

The European Union appears to have backtracked on a proposed policy that would have discriminated against oil produced from Alberta's oilsands.

Last fall, the EU released draft guidelines that distinguished between fuel derived from the oilsands and from conventional sources as part of efforts to fight climate change.

That distinction would have allowed regulators in the 27 EU member countries to penalize users of oilsands-derived fuel or reward non-users.

Environmentalists who have seen the most recent draft of the guidelines say that distinction is now gone.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press suggest the change came as a result of heavy lobbying by the federal government.

Additional Excerpt:
... Read more »

Canada Uses Trade Threats to Stop Environmental Regulations in Europe

OTTAWA—Sierra Club Canada supports the efforts of the European Union to regulate the importation of dirty oil from anywhere in the world and condemns the use of threats  by the Government of Canada to interfere with the creation of good environmental regulations.

According to leaked documents, the Government of Canada is using trade threats to halt fuel standard regulations from affecting Canada’s tar sands industry.

“The powerful oil lobby has the Canadian Government doing its dirty work again,” said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. “Canada should be developing a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work with the European Union to create a binding international agreement, not threatening trade sanctions to protect the interests of multinational oil companies.”

Budget fails to protect environment, groups say

Environmentalists say Thursday's federal budget missed an opportunity to create green jobs and took a step backward in protecting the environment.

The budget included a section entitled "Green Jobs and Growth," which included $100 million over the next four years for clean energy technologies and production in the forestry sector.

It also included $80 million in additional incentives for homeowners to make their home more energy-efficient.

Environmental groups say Canada lags behind other countries in these green energy initiatives.

Additional Excerpt:

The budget included some new money for environmental protection, including $8 million for protecting the Great Lakes and $36 million to fight the spread of invasive species in Canada.... Read more »


 Support Sierra Club Canada Foundation
and Receive a Charitable Tax Receipt! 

SCC Foundation - Donate Today

Sign-up and get involved...

Receive important news and action alerts!