Oil sands greatly undermining the basic needs of local women and children says Nobel‐led delegation
Oil sands impacts to air, water and land experienced daily
(Vancouver, BC )–A Nobel Laureate‐led delegation today wrapped up an eight‐day mission to hear firsthand the growing concerns of women living in communities impacted by oil sands development and along the proposed Gateway pipeline route. The delegation found the women they visited are experiencing a myriad of problems because of oil sands developments, and are deeply troubled by the massive expansion—from 1.4 billion barrels per day to 5 billion by 2035—as well as the pipelines needed to support it, and the resulting increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
“We must increase investment in renewable energy and increasing efficiency. The expansion of the oil sands is taking us in the opposite direction,” said Jody Williams, the leader of the delegation, and the Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1997 for her work to ban landmines around the globe. “And that’s what we heard from women all along the route. They want a sustainable economy – not the destruction of their rivers, forests, and coasts for short term expansion of the oil sands.”
The delegation heard testimony that women, children and communities directly affected by the oil sands development are already dealing with a range of economic, health and social impacts—from homelessness, spiraling inflation, child breathing problems, undrinkable water and increased domestic violence to dramatic jumps in cancer cases and unequal access to jobs.
“We heard in Fort McKay, Alberta, that the community had to live for five months on bottled water because they couldn’t drink the water out of the taps,” said Kandi Mossett, a climate change activist and Native leader who lives in North Dakota. “Children in that community are also experiencing breathing problems because of the pollution coming out of the stacks. What compounds this reality is that the harsh impacts—including contaminated water and air—will only become worse and spread as the oil sands development worsens climate change.”
Women living near the pipeline route in British Columbia told the delegation about illness and disease caused by contamination from other projects such as aluminum smelters and pulp mills, and their fear that seepage of the toxic bitumen proposed to be pumped through their region from Alberta would lead to more health and environmental problems.“One woman who has lived in Fort McKay all her life told us she has lost seven members of her family to cancer and has been diagnosed twice herself,” said Chris Page, a board member for the Center for Environmental Health in San Francisco. “Surely the experiences of these women, and the further potential health impacts, must be taken into account by policymakers not only in Canada—but also by the countries buying the oil?”
The delegation met with over 200 women from 13 communities, including Fort McMurray, Burns Lake Fort McKay, Prince George, Smithers, Terrace and Kitimat. They also met with aboriginal community leaders from the Nadleh Wu’ten and the Saik’uz Nations, and government and oil industry representatives. The delegates had requested a meeting with BC Premier, Christie Clark, but she declined the request.
The delegation, which also included climate scientist Marianne Douglas and Canadian singer Sarah Harmer, will be producing a report with all the findings from their trip, and also a list of recommendations aimed at policymakers in Canada and the international community.
Right now, the delegation is calling for a full public inquiry into the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of oil sands development on communities in Alberta and British Columbia, most particularly First Nations communities.
About the Nobel Women’s Initiative
The Nobel Women’s Initiative is a collaboration of women Nobel Peace Laureates. It uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and courageous women Peace Laureates to increase the power and visibility of women’s groups working globally for peace, justice and equality. The Nobel Women’s Initiative undertakes delegations to learn about the unique circumstances of women community leaders and rights activists and the strategies they are using to address violence in their communities.
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