Keepers Participate in Ottawa Action against the Keystone Pipeline
Dr. Harvey Scott and Janice Pitman
September 27, 2011

Keepers of the Athabasca Chair Roland Woodward of Ft. McMurray First Nation and Co-Chair Julie Burke of the Keepers of the Pembina led protesters over the barricade in a peaceful demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Alberta to Texas, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on September 26, 2011. Julie and Roland were arrested along with more than 100 other protesters in their courageous stand for Our Sacred Water. Roland was easy to spot with his big white hat, eagle feather and cane. All protestors who were arrested were fined, banned from the Parliament grounds for one year, and released. No criminal charges were laid.

The Keepers joined over 400 Canadians from all walks of life in telling Parliament that this and other pipeline expansion must be halted in an effort to bring the devastating ecological and social effects of tarsands development under control. We believe that the tarsands are already seriously damaging the ecosystems and the health and livelihoods of the people of this beautiful Boreal world. New pipelines will only make matters worse. If they are to be profitable, the oil will have to be kept flowing. That will mean more tarsands projects and more cumulative impacts, while our governments have no independent and comprehensive system of monitoring or assessing the damage, let alone preventing or even mitigating it. The pipelines must not go ahead!

The Keepers strongly support a moratorium on new tarsands projects at least until independent scientific research and monitoring is in place and the cumulative effects of the current projects on the environment and human health are understood. This slowdown must apply to both open pit mining and in situ projects, which are thought to create similar disturbances to those caused by 'fracking' of geological formations for coal bed methane and shale gas.

The Keepers of the Athabasca are very troubled by the continuing disregard for Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in tarsands development planning. Also of great concern are the lack of scientific baselines, comprehensive independent monitoring, and research on the cumulative health and ecological effects of the current projects and the rapid expansion that would be required to keep bitumen flowing in the proposed pipelines. The limited research published to date shows measurable amounts of toxic pollutants deposited in the Athabasca River Basin as a result of tarsands operations. Animals and plants traditionally used by long-resident indigenous peoples for their survival and livelihood are showing significant signs of degradation, and studies are underway to determine the effects of tarsands pollutants on fish. Restoration of the impacted ecosystems is in the early, unproven stages.

The federal and provincial governments now acknowledge the lack of credible, independent scientific monitoring of pollutants in the Athabasca River Basin. Although both governments have committed to putting a well-designed and comprehensive monitoring program in place, this has not happened, and no clear timeline has been announced. Major ongoing cutbacks of staff and programmes at Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Alberta Environment suggest that the resources and will to implement the independent monitoring processes may be lacking.

The Keepers of the Athabasca call on all Canadians to join us in our call for a clean, just energy future that respects indigenous rights, the environment, and the health of our communities. To call on the Government of Canada for a moratorium on tarsands projects and pipeline development until such time as the health of the Athabasca River Basin and its residents can be assured. We ask that you further call on our governments to stop providing billions in concessions to the richest oil companies in the world, while slashing funding for the environment and renewable energy development.

The Keepers of the Athabasca are an alliance of First Nations, Métis, residents, and environmental non-governmental organizations from throughout the Athabasca Basin. We are the Athabasca Basin Council of the greater Arctic Basin Keepers of the Water Alliance based in the 2006 DehCho First Nation Declaration that Water is a Sacred Gift of the Creator. Each of us is responsible to be a Keeper of the Water.

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