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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

AVATAR SANDS: First Nations Respond to Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has responded to the “Avatarsands” ad in Hollywood’s Variety newspaper, making a number of claims regarding First Nations.

Below are some of the First Nations response to CAPP:

"We used to be able to drink water directly from Beaver Lake and it didn't hurt us. We can no longer do that, and we can no longer make a traditional way of life in our home territory because of the tar sands developments. The oil companies can phrase it any way they like but no one has ever not dug for oil because of us and we don't find the consultation process meaningful."

Ron Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation

 ... Read more »

Oil industry disputes Avatar analogy

Oil producers are giving two thumbs down to an ad in Variety magazine comparing Alberta's oilsands developments to the environmental devastation caused by humans in the blockbuster movie Avatar.

"We invite these activists back to planet Earth to discuss the appropriate balance between environmental protection, economic growth and a safe and reliable supply of energy," Janet Annesley, vice-president of communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a news release.

The full page in the trade publication Variety is signed by 50 non-governmental organizations, environmental groups and some First Nations.

Additonal Excerpt:

"What the Canadian petroleum producers fail to understand is that community members from tar sands-impacted areas desire more than just a job to get by," said Sheila Muxlow, interim director, Sierra Club Prairie.... Read more »


With images of dying, bitumen-soaked ducks back in the public eye, and a new ad comparing the oil sands to sci-fi super villains, Canada's energy industry is fighting the "dirty oil" criticism with its own phrase.

It may not have quite the same zing, but the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) now wants you to think of the oil sands as "responsible oil," in a new attempt at defining the controversial industrial project in more favourable terms.... Read more »

Avatar Sands’ backers see a Canadian plot

t is the year 2154 on planet Pandora, and the Sky people are desecrating the land of the indigenous Navi population as they hunt for a buried mineral called unobtanium.

Rewind 144 years, and this movie plot is precisely the scenario playing out in Canada's tar sands, according to a cohort of environmental groups that ran a full-page advertisement in Variety magazine yesterday.

The ad, which runs under the headline ‘Canada's Avatar Sands,' is an obvious reference to the Oscar-nominated Avatar, an animated film centred on the plight of the Navi people and their quest to save the sacred Hometree.

Indeed, for the more than 50 international groups that backed the advertisement, the film is a science-fiction nod to a very real Canadian plot: The Navi people stand in for the aboriginal communities living near the Athabaska Oil Sands in Alberta, and the Sky people represent the oil companies with mining operations there.... Read more »

Budget Short Changes the Environment

OTTAWA--The federal government continued its attack on environmental protection using the 2010 budget to begin dismantling the Environmental Assessment Agency. Future energy projects will be assessed by the National Energy Board or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; agencies with strong ties to the oil and nuclear industries. Last year’s budget claimed the need for speed and the federal government weakened the Environmental Assessment Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act--this year’s budget finished the job of dismantling our environmental safeguards.

"Environmental protection is not red tape. It is essential in preventing environmental and public health disasters like Walkerton. I would have thought John Baird, Tony Clement, and Jim Flaherty would have learned from the unnecessary deaths in Walkerton," said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada.... Read more »


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