Mike De Souza
Canwest News Service
Friday, February 15, 2008
OTTAWA – Federal and provincial health officials in Alberta are trying to cover up “the most destructive project on Earth,” aboriginal leaders said Friday during the release of a report on the oilsands sector.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation accused the federal and provincial health departments of harassing a local physician who has sounded alarm bells about rare cancers striking the community downriver of the oilsands. The departments have both filed complaints in an attempt to get Dr. John O’Connor’s licence revoked, but the locals believe the physician was doing his job.
“I think it seems like one organization drops the issue and another one picks it up to carry on to take his practice away from him,” Adam told a news conference earlier today. “If that’s the case of how they do their business, in that sense, we feel that there is a coverup on health issues, and on environmental impacts in our region.”
The report, called Canada’s Toxic Tarsands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth and released by the Environmental Defence organization, accused the federal government of being “missing in action” by failing to enforce federal laws to clean up oil extraction from tarsands in Alberta.
It predicts that Environment Minister John Baird’s new proposal to regulate pollution from industrial facilities would allow greenhouse gas emissions to double to about 80 million tonnes per year by 2020 because of soft targets that only require industry to reduce emissions per unit of production instead of hard caps.
Matt Price, program manager with Environmental Defence, said that, as a result, growing emissions from the oilsands sector would wipe out gains from industries in other provinces such as B.C. or Ontario.
“Politically speaking, the reason we have weak federal standards on climate change is to let the tarsands grow,” said Price. “There’s a tailor-made loophole for the tarsands. Otherwise we would have hard caps on industry all across Canada. So this is why the impacts of the tarsands extend well beyond the borders of Alberta.”
Baird has pledged to reduce Canada’s annual emissions by 150 million tonnes by 2020.