Deformed fish and brown chemical foam on the banks of the Athabasca River are repercussions of oilsands development, according to First Nations community members who say the federal government can no longer ignore such matters.
The Commons Environment Committee spent yesterday in Edmonton listening to scientists, experts and Aboriginal leaders, who spoke on the effects of oilsands development on the major water source.
“I’ve watched the whole degradation of my family’s traditional territory as well as their livelihood completely disappear,” said Eriel Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation representative. “Our trap lines have been completely eroded, and we can’t eat the fish or hunt the wildlife, because everyone’s afraid.”
The committee has been researching oilsands effects since March, and visited Alberta for the first time this week. Community members most affected, Deranger said, were not consulted at the grassroots level.
Residents are pushing for federal testing on fish, and integrated and involved consultation on infrastructure projects built on traditional territories in treaty areas.
“The impacts of the tar sands are far-reaching — to water, humans and animals. We need to start looking at it through a microscope and how we can regulate it better,” she said.
Hearings continue today with industry officials in Calgary.