Government looks at oilsands water release into Athabasca River

In Canada where ecocide becomes routine…

The Syncrude oilsands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray on June 1, 2014. JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The provincial and federal governments have partnered with oil giant Syncrude to assess whether treated wastewater from Alberta’s oilsands could be released into the lower Athabasca River.

The pilot project is looking at just how toxic water is after it has been treated following use in the oilsands.

It’s also examining better monitoring of the lower Athabasca, and modelling to predict potential environmental and health effects if treated water is released into the river.

John Muir, communications director with Alberta Environment and Parks, said the department’s chief scientist Fred Wrona created a team of experts to “provide credible scientific information and advice” over the two-year pilot.

Those experts come from academia, industry, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the federal Environment and Climate Change Canada office, and Indigenous communities.

“We’ll examine the science when developing regulations for releasing treated water from oilsands processes,” Muir wrote in an email.

‘Toxic tailings … need to be cleaned up’

Alberta’s regulatory system allows for the release of treated industrial and municipal effluents, but Muir said they would need to be adapted if treated oilsands water is to be released. MORE

UN expert: Canada’s toxic waste policy shows disdain for Indigenous rights

The  Canadian genocide continues.

The Suncor tar sands processing plant near the Athabasca River near Fort McMurray. Tuncak spent two weeks touring areas of concern across the country. Photograph: Todd Korol/Reuters

Canada’s handling of toxic chemicals and industrial waste shows a “blatant disregard for Indigenous rights”, a UN human rights expert has said following an extensive fact-finding mission in the country.

Baskut Tuncak, the special rapporteur on toxic chemicals, called on Canada to improve its monitoring of hazardous materials in the country – and to better engage with the Indigenous people who live near harmful pollution.

Tuncak spent two weeks touring areas of concern across the country, including the county’s infamous tar sands and the Indigenous community of Grassy Narrows, which has fought for more than five decades to have toxic mercury removed from its waters. He released his preliminary findings on Thursday in Ottawa.

Despite the vast geographic scope of his mission, a common element in many of the most troubling areas of contamination was their proximity to Indigenous communities. Numerous communities were unable access to clean drinking water, while others had elevated levels of toxins in the water and soil.

At the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Ontario, Tuncak found the community surrounded by chemical facilities.

He told the Guardian: “I was struck by the incredible proximity of the affected First Nation to dozens of intense chemical production and processing facilities, which resulted in incredible releases of pollution and waste affecting the [residents’] health.” MORE

Indigenous health care needs won’t be served by Ford government’s plan

In its efforts to “modernize” Ontario’s health care system, the Ford government might have met its match in Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Tanya Talaga writes.

After 150 years of colonialism — of Indian residential schools, of the Indian Act and the presence of Indian hospitals where First Nations and Métis people received second-class health care — the power of health-care decision making should not be left in patriarchal hands so clearly linked to the past.

Yet in Ontario, the Ford government is turning back the clock as it proceeds with the formation of the new super health care agency, Ontario Health. The new agency’s creation means blowing apart much of the current health-care delivery system — Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and Local Health Integration Networks and others — and centralizing decision-making power to save money.

Or, as Health Minister Christine Elliott calls it, “modernizing” the system.

But by centralizing health care decisions, the Ontario government is doing exactly the opposite, returning to a top-down approach where health-care needs are decided by the few for the many.

The new agency threatens to derail nearly three years of negotiations between Ontario, the federal government and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) concerning turning over decision-making power about health care to 49 northern nations so they can bring health-care services closer to home. MORE

Environmental racism needs to end

Image: Becker1999/Flickr

Many activists argue that “environmental racism” — a concept dervied from the fact that Indigenous peoples, First Nations, and marginalized or poor communities of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic environmental practices — is a new and pernicious face of colonialism and historic discrimination in Canada.

Today, we’re amplifying some effective campaigns developed by Canadian activists organizing to address environmental racism. With Canada Day behind us, these campaigns seek to figh the legacy of colonialism and racism which continues to impact communities. MORE

Green Party support grows as alarms sound on climate crisis

Elizabeth May at podium in 2015. Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr
Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr

What do Ireland, the British Parliament, and Ottawa and Vancouver city councils have in common? All voted in 2019 to declare a climate emergency.

Following the Green Party win in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, both the NDP and the Liberals proposed climate-change emergency resolutions for debate in the House of Commons.

On May 16, the day the motions were being debated, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May presented “Mission Possible,” a 20-point green action plan.

The first point calls climate the greatest security threat the world has ever seen.

For the Greens, climate is no longer just an environmental issue — it requires putting Canada on a war-like footing, directed by a multi-party inner cabinet, on the model Winston Churchill employed during the Second World War to combat fascism.

The Green Party 20-point plan calls for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to the climate emergency

Since its inception in 1983 the Green Party of Canada has not attracted enough voter support to be seen as a big threat by other political parties. But recently announced voting intentions for the Greens at 12 per cent now have other parties paying attention.

The Green Party has been gaining political representation: in P.E.I., where it now forms the Official Opposition, and in New Brunswick, where it has party status. Green Party leaders have won seats in Ottawa and in four provinces, and hold the balance of power in B.C.

With 17 elected Green Party members at the provincial and federal levels, the Greens look to be competitive in a number of federal ridings across Canada in the October 21 election.

The first-past-the-post electoral systems used in Canada have worked against the Green Party. A vote for a small party is often considered a wasted vote because it means not defeating a troublesome government or boosting a more likely winner.

When feelings run strong against a ruling party, supporting a fourth party amounts to being complicit with those wielding power.

However, a vote for a third or fourth party is also an opportunity to send a message to parliamentarians and the public.

In a minority government situation, with a multi-party parliament, a small party can be the linchpin in a coalition or influence the legislative and spending agenda, and can even determine which party forms government.  MORE

PEC’s Expensive art installment, formerly known as the White Pines Wind Project.

Expensive art installment, formerly known as the White Pines Wind Project. Photo by  Rob Garden

The IPCC has declared a climate crisis requiring immediate action. It is urgent that we replace expensive fossil fuel energy with renewables.

The County has declared a climate emergency. So what should the County proceed to address our climate emergency ?

Here are some suggestions:
    1. Because we are facing an emergency situation we must keep all renewable energy options open. Therefore, Council should inform the provincial government we are no longer an “unwilling host”.
    2. Because the White Pines Energy Project if allowed to proceed could supply  over half the residents of the County with low cost, renewable energy, the provincial government should place a hold on the dismantelling of this project.
    3. Because circumstances have dramatically changed, the Council should inform residents of climate science requirements to keep emissions below 1.5 degrees C and as a result, determine if residents’ attitude towards this project have changed.
    4. Council should appoint a Sustainability Planner/Project Coordinator and replicate the award-winning project to reduce energy poverty developed by Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
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