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

Syncrude duck death trial underway

Oilsands giant Syncrude returned to court Monday morning to face charges laid in the deaths of 1,600 ducks in a northern Alberta tailings pond in April 2008.

Dozens of binders full of background material were stacked on tables and cabinets in the St. Albert, Alta., courtroom.

Prosecutors say it could take months to get through the evidence. Two months have been set aside for the trial.

Additional Excerpt:

'Tailings ponds themselves are on trial,' says environmentalist

Speaking outside the courthouse on Monday, Sierra Club Prairie director Lindsay Telfer said the case goes far beyond the ducks and the "tailings ponds themselves are on trial."

"I think that this incident specifically showed the world just how toxic the tailings ponds are," she said.... Read more »

Toxic Tailings on Trial

Crown Prosecution begins to lay out arguments in case against Syncrude Duck Deaths while Defence seeks dismissal of charge

ST. ALBERT--Syncrude Canada is back in court as the trial begins for the death of 1600 migrating birds, caused when they landed in Syncrude’s toxic tailings. Sierra Club Canada, who first laid charges on the matter by way of a Private Prosecution in January 2009, is in court following the opening statements.

Yesterday, the federal prosecutor laid out opening arguments that the tailings ponds themselves are unlawful according to the Migratory Birds Act. “The opening remarks solidified our belief that this case is really about the toxic tailings lakes themselves being on trial,” says Sierra Club Prairie Chapter Director Lindsay Telfer. “Under the Migratory Birds Convention Act the law is clear, the existence of the tailings ponds themselves are unlawful.”... Read more »

Environmental Assessment Lawsuit Moves Ahead

OTTAWA--Ecojustice filed arguments on behalf of Sierra Club Canada today that claim the Canadian government acted unlawfully in gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) through regulations last year.  The Canadian government now has until April 5th to respond.  If the lawsuit is successful thousands of projects that were approved without an assessment could be revisited.

"We are asking the courts to declare the government's actions illegal and to require them to register all projects that have gone ahead," said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. "This government should give Canadians the opportunity to review the environmental impacts of stimulus projects and request that impacts from the projects be addressed to protect the environment."

Feds' stimulus environmental rule changes challenged

An environmental lobby group has formally begun legal action to force the federal government to abide by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in stimulus projects funded by Ottawa.

The case was initially begun last spring in response to the federal government's decision to no longer require environmental assessments for the big stimulus projects announced in last year's budget.

Ecojustice filed suit on Friday before the Federal Court in Ottawa on behalf of the Sierra Club of Canada. If it's successful, thousands of stimulus projects that were approved could be re-examined for their effects on the environment.

Additional Excerpt: ... Read more »

Sierra Club Canada Submits Shell Advertisement Complaint to Press Council

OTTAWA--Sierra Club Canada sent the following letter of complaint to the Ontario Press Council today in regards to the “six-week Canwest special information feature on climate change, in partnership with Shell Canada” which has appeared in Canwest papers over the past four weeks. Sierra Club Canada believes the advertisements are published in type to appear as ordinary news items, thus crossing ethical journalistic and advertorial standards.


Michael Bernard
Director of Media Relations
Sierra Club Canada
(o) 613.241.4611 x230
(c) 613.302.9933
Toll free: 1.888.810.4204


February 17, 2010

2 Carlton Street, Suite 1706,
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1J3

To Whom It May Concern:... 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!