OTTAWA—Impacted First Nations community representatives along with environmental and social justice groups are in Ottawa today to host meetings with MPs, hold a public forum and a press conference to draw attention to the House of Commons Environment Committee study of the impact of the tar sands on water resources.  
Since March 2009 the Environment Committee has been discussing water and the tar sands, but has not yet heard from impacted communities or environmental and social justice groups.  During meetings and events today, a delegation of First Nations and environmental representatives are calling on the Federal Government to take action on the tar sands to protect Canada’s water resources and respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.  
“Ottawa needs to hear these aboriginal voices from impacted communities,” said Stephen Hazell of Sierra Club Canada.  “The tar sands issue is not unique to Alberta; it is a national issue. Ontario drivers are burning tar sands oil in their cars. Tar sands oil is being brought to refineries in Ontario, which will affect our water quality. We’re all responsible for the impacts.”
“People eating the fish, hunting the moose, the ducks and geese, they are the most disproportionately affected compared to the rest of the Albertan public due to the bioaccumulation of toxins that occurs in wildlife,” explained George Poitras, Member and Former Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
“Tar sands companies are dumping 11 million litres of toxic pollution into local groundwater every day,” said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director for Environmental Defence.  “It is the communities living downstream that are most affected by this toxic legacy.”
“Tar Sands operators actually have licenses from the government of Alberta to discharge effluents like oil, grease, and untreated sewage into the Athabasca River,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, of Indigenous Environmental Network.  “The dangerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction of tar sands are contaminating water systems stretching all the way to the Arctic Basin, creating a national sacrifice zone affecting dozens of First Nations and Métis communities.”
“Over the last 30 years, the Fort Chipewyan First Nation has seen a steady increase in cancers and auto-immune diseases, which are attributed to the many toxic chemicals allowed to be dumped in Athabasca River,” explained Mike Mercredi of the Athabascan Dene, who is a community member of Fort Chipewyan.  
Today’s events have been organized by:  Polaris Institute, Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network, Sierra Club Canada, Rainforest Action Network, Environmental Defence.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Environmental Network, 218-760-6632, ienoil@igc.org
Stephen Hazell, Sierra Club Canada, 613-241-4611 x.238 (o), 613-724-1908 (cell), shazell@sierraclub.ca,
George Poitras, Member and Former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation, 780 972 0017
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 (o), 647-280-9521 (cell)