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Avatar director to see Canada's 'black eye'

EDMONTON - James Cameron is coming to see Alberta's oilsands for himself.

EDMONTON - James Cameron is coming to see Alberta's oilsands for himself.

In a letter to Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, the Hollywood director says he has scheduled a three-day trip starting Sept. 27.

"My goal for this visit is to learn as much as possible from industry executives, government officials and impacted communities in order to form my own independent conclusion about these operations," Cameron writes.

"As a native-born Canadian, I'm concerned about the criticism levelled at Alberta's oilsands operations and eager to learn whether they are true or not, and if true, how they are being addressed by industry and government."

Cameron, who directed such movie hits as "Avatar," "Aliens,'' "Titanic'' and "The Terminator,'' says he wants to meet with oilsands company executives and if possible, tour one of the operations, on Sept. 28 in Fort McMurray.

Later that day, Cameron says he plans to fly north to Fort Chipewyan to meet with community leaders. On Sept. 29, he says he'd like to meet with Stelmach and Energy Minister Ron Liepert.

"I appreciate your willingness to help me learn more about these operations and to accommodate my schedule," Cameron writes to Stelmach.

At a UN forum in New York City earlier this year, Cameron called the oilsands a "black eye" on Canada's image as an environmental leader.

His remarks prompted Stelmach to extend an invitation to the director.

Stelmach's spokesman, Jerry Bellikka, said the letter was received Thursday.

As for meeting Cameron, "the premier has a number of meetings and a trip to Ottawa in the same time frame but if it's possible, the premier would intend to sit down with Mr. Cameron for a while," Bellikka said.

George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation near Fort Chipewyan, is a long-time opponent of the oilsands.

He has said he had a personal meeting with Cameron in the director's hotel room in New York City in April, when both men attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The forum featured a special screening of "Avatar," Cameron's environmental-themed blockbuster, and the Ontario-born Cameron also took part in a panel discussion on indigenous issues.

Poitras said he invited Cameron to visit Alberta to see what he calls the environmental "devastation'' of the oilsands industry.

He said he identified with the indigenous people depicted in "Avatar" who are trying to stop the exploitation of the lush planet Pandora by invaders who want to mine its resources.

Many in Poitras' home community of about 1,200 north of Edmonton would like to tell Cameron about their concerns, including possible health effects of the industry, decimation of the boreal forest, and the lack of consultation by energy companies with aboriginal communities.

 
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