Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on June 7, 2010

Saturday June 5th is WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY, a time to reflect on the catastrophic damage we are doing to the earth systems that give us life, and a time to start taking action to reverse that damage. 

This year WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY has a special meaning. 


For the past 6 weeks, ever since the April 20th blowout at the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil has been gushing into the Gulf waters at the rate of at least 20,000 barrels per day. This thick oil has devastated the Gulf coastline, fouling marine and wildlife habitats. It has also prompted the shutdown of Louisiana’s vibrant fishing and seafood industries because of oil contamination. The oil may ooze into the Atlantic Ocean, placing eastern US and Canadian coastlines under threat of contamination. 


For Alberta premier Ed Stelmach the Gulf of Mexico disaster is a boon: an opportunity to promote the Alberta tar sands to Washington as a “safer” option. While there is no risk of a rig blowout, there is nothing environmentally safe about tar sands oil extraction–a process which, in and of itself, is a horrendous environmental catastrophe. 


  • The extraction process emits 3-5 times more carbon dioxide than regular oil. The Alberta tar sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.  
  • It takes 3-7 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. That’s between 230-530 million cubic metres a year. By comparison, Toronto, with 2.5 million residents, uses 450 million cubic metres a year. 
  • Enough natural gas is used in the tar sands every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for 24 hours. That’s over 25% of Canadian homes. 
  • The tar sands are carving huge gashes in the world’s largest intact forest, which serves as a vital absorber of carbon dioxide. The tar sands are the source of the 2nd fastest rate of deforestation on the planet, just behind land clearing for pasture land in the Amazon Rain Forest.  
  • The tar sands generate 6,500 barrels of toxic waste every day. This waste is stored in massive unlined tailings ponds that occupy 140 square km of forest along the Athabasca River. These ponds of toxic sludge are so poisonous that birds which accidentally land on them die instantly.


These toxic ponds leak into the Athabasca River at a rate of at least 11 million litres a day. As a result, the river’s levels of toxic chemicals–arsenic, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons–are steadily rising.

Downstream from the ponds, tumours and mutations have been found in fish and game animals. At Fort Chipewyan, a downstream First Nations community, the increase in cancer is 30% higher than in other communities, an increase that coincided with the development of the tar sands.  

In the tar sands region, workers and local residents breathe in pollutant emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and benzene, a leukemia-causing carcinogen. In 2009, tar sands companies breached Alberta’s air pollution targets 1,556 times or more than 4 times every day. 


70% of the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that enter Alberta’s airshed as a result of tar sands production end up in Saskatchewan. Acid rain has an adverse effect on lakes, rivers, forests, soils, buildings, and human health. 


  • Oilsands Quest, a Calgary-based company, already has a lease on 651,565 acres in Saskatchewan.
  • Last month it applied to the Ministry of Environment for permission to start producing 30,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day near La Loche in north western Saskatchewan.
  • The next stage of the process is an application for commercial project approval to the Ministry of Energy and Resources.


  • Let key members of the Saskatchewan government know you don’t want the province to develop this dirty and dangerous form of fuel. Now is the time to get off oil, which has terrible consequences for the environ-ment and for us. We must switch to renewables. Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433 or; Nancy Heppner, Minister of the Environment: 787-0393 or; Bill Boyd, Minister of Energy and Resources: 787-9124 or
  • Attend the Global Town Hall Meeting on Climate Change and the G8/G20: Not Business as Usual sponsored by Kairos, the Council of Canadians, and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. Date: Thursday, June 17, 2010; Time: 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm; Place: Wesley United Church, 3913 Hillsdale Street Speakers: Francois Pihaatae (Pacific Conference of Churches), Fred Sangris (Akaitcho Dene, Yellow-knife), Susana Deranger (local climate justice activist and participant at Cochabamba Peoples’ Summit)
  • Learn more about tar sands by visiting the website of the Pembina Institute:



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