Statement by Emilia Belliveau, Energy Transition Program Manager

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – At today’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) hearing, Imperial Oil’s CEO, Brad Corson, refused to accept full responsibility for the tailings leak, underscoring the failure of oil companies to protect communities and the environment from their toxic waste.

While Corson attempts to downplay the tailings leak as a “communications” issue, in reality, this was an environmental disaster and a gross betrayal of the local Indigenous communities’ trust. As the highest-paid oil CEO in Canada, Corson’s apologies ring hollow as he continues to neglect human and environmental health in order to maximize profits. Evidence has shown that tailings ponds release toxic and potentially cancer-causing chemicals into the environment, and nearby communities experience record-high rates of rare cancers. Despite the clear negative health impacts, Corson continues to avoid responsibility for billions of litres of toxic waste stored in tailings ponds that were designed to leak.

The Imperial Oil disaster exemplifies the urgent need for oil companies to clean up the 1.4 trillion litres of toxic waste before further harm comes to Indigenous communities and the environment. It is imperative that oil companies bear responsibility for fixing the enormous problem they have created.

We applaud the members of the ENVI Committee for carefully scrutinizing the data, reviewing evidence that demonstrates the harm and ongoing risk of Imperial’s tailings, and asking critical questions — many of which remain unanswered. We stand in solidarity with the impacted nations in calling on the federal government and the government of Alberta to put a stop to the destruction in the tar sands and hold oil companies accountable for cleaning up their toxic waste.

Background info:

  • Today, Imperial Oil’s CEO Brad Corson was questioned by the Parliamentary Environment Committee for a second time about the tailings pond leak at their Kearl facility that resulted in 5.3 million litres of toxic tailings spilling into the environment.
  • The company failed to inform nearby Indigenous Nations of ongoing tailings leakage for nine months, leaving them unaware of the risks of consuming water and game harvested in the area.
  • During the hearings, Corson was questioned about water contamination, adverse health impacts to the nearby communities, what procedures and protections they had implemented since the spill, the known placement of their tailings ponds in a highly sensitive and permeable wetland area, and the fact that leakage was a feature of these types of tailings ponds.
  • Members of Parliament refuted Mr. Corson’s assertion that waterways were not affected by the spill, referencing reports of water quality monitoring with elevated levels of arsenic, iron, sulphates, and aluminum.
  • Brad Corson, was the highest-paid energy CEO in Canada in 2022 and has spent his entire career extracting and marketing oil and gas, working mostly for Imperial Oil and its parent company ExxonMobil.
  • Since 2009, Imperial Oil has reported 10 significant incidents of spills, leaks, and uncontrolled flaring events of tailings, gas, contaminated wastewater, hydrogen sulphide gas, and other toxic chemicals.
  • The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) was brought before the committee for questioning in November 2023, where they refused to admit any wrongdoing.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Paula Gray, Environmental Defence,