News Analysis

UN report calls Alberta oil industry impact on Indigenous community 'disturbing' while ignoring its benefits

The oil industry has helped Indigenous-owned companies secure more than $5 billion worth of contracts from oil sands companies in the Wood Buffalo Region.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC
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The United Nations Human Rights Council called the Alberta "tar sands" mining "disturbing," "alarming," and "troubling" in their latest report, and questioned whether or not the companies were implicated in human rights abuses, according to Blacklock's Reporter.

The report said that the practice was a part of "environmental injustice in Canada," saying that the health risks posed to Indigenous peoples by the oil companies are "another example of concerns. Fort McMurray, Fort MacKay and Fort Chipewyan paint a disturbing picture of health impacts of the oil sands, i.e. tar sands, that were not properly investigated for years despite increasing evidence of health impacts on local communities."

"Fort Chipewyan was repeatedly raised as having alarming health trends," the report continued. "The situation with the oil sands cannot be divorced from the troubling Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, strenuously opposed by many."

One UN officer wrote that Indigenous women have gone missing after experiencing health impacts from the oil sands. "The chilling effects of such actions can be telling of a trend to preserve the status quo," the report reads.

However, according to an August 2011 report by the Albertan government, Albertan oil employed 1,700 Indigenous employees "in permanent oil sand jobs in the Wood Buffalo region" alone.

The oil industry has also aided Indigenous-owned companies in securing more than $5 billion worth of contracts from oil sands companies in the Wood Buffalo Region (Northeastern Alberta.)

The UN report was written by Turkish investigator Baskut Tuncak, who wrote that "Indigenous and racialized communities are more likely to be exposed because they lack enforceable environmental rights and often face societal pressures to accept such industries because of the need for employment, among other realities."

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