Over 500 activists from around the world joined First Nations and Metis elders in Fort McMurray, Canada for the fourth annual Healing Walk this past July 5. The walk has been organized to witness to the impact of the tar sands development on the local communities. Participants also called on the Canadian government to develop a plan to address the harmful expansion of the tar sands.
Healing Walk participants completed a 14 kilometer walk through the tar sands on Friday and a visit to the Syncrude oil facility on Saturday to bear witness to the environmental destruction of the once coveted Boreal forest. Indigenous elders conducted prayers aimed at healing the land along the way.
Alice Rigney is a First Nations woman that was born on the shores of Lake Athabasca and raised in a local Dene indigenous community. She notes the negative impact of industrial development on the land and wildlife in her community, “We get the sick fish, we get the oil spills, we get less water for us. We’ve had ducks we’ve opened up that have just been full of worms.” To her, events such as the Healing Walk are an important aspect of preserving her community’s culture. She notes, “Now I’m becoming an elder, and I have to pass on what I know. That’s not mine to keep. It’s mine to share with everyone.”
This year’s event featured democracy and environmental activists from across the world, including Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. The event was trending nationally on Twitter and was featured in international newspapers like the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. The Nobel Women’s Initiative visited the Fort McMurray during last October’s delegation to meet with women from communities that were being impacted by the tar sands development, and are in solidarity with the community’s efforts to stop environmental destruction.
The Healing Walk organizers invited the federal Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, and Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, to attend the event. This call was supported by an online petition that generated over 11 000 signatures. While neither politician took part, organizers are continuing to call for the government to meet with the communities that are directly affected by the tar sands.
Watch the following video to find out more about the walk:
(credit: Zack Embree and HealingWalk.org)
Hundreds walk to heal the people, land, and water in Fort McMurray, Market Wire, July 6, 2013
First Nations Leader Calls on Politicians to Experience Tar Sands Firsthand at 2013 Healing Walk, Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2013.
Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein to join Canada’s tar sands healing walk, The Guardian, July 1, 2013.
Highlighting human and environmental cost of Canada’s energy policy with Healing Walk through oil sands, The Vancouver Observer, July 6, 2013.
Indigenous Groups Lead “Tar Sands Healing Walk” in Alberta, Democracy Now, July 8, 2013.