First Nations fill EU in on oilsands
A group of European Union politicians investigating the Alberta oilsands got an earful Friday from First Nations leaders concerned about the environmental and health impacts of the operations.
The leaders wanted to ensure that the visiting delegates returned with a more complete picture of oilsands development than what they received from government and industry, said Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. "We wanted them to realize the true impacts, not just on the environment but on people, especially indigenous people," she said of the meeting in Ottawa. "The delegation didn't have a lot of opportunities to hear the opposition on their (oilsands) tour."
The politicians' visit is considered important because the European Parliament is currently weighing proposals for a new Fuel Quality Directive designed to encourage greener energy. Some officials are pushing to have oilsands fuels penalized in the new policy by having them ranked as a high-carbon product.
The Alberta government has been trying to fight such a move and appeared to have swayed at least some of the delegates when they visited the province earlier in the week. Two members of the delegation, including chairman Philip Bradbourn of the United Kingdom, told reporters Wednesday they were pleasantly surprised by an oilsands tour.
But questions were raised about whether the group received a skewed view of the issues.
Amid meetings with industry and government leaders, the Europeans spent only 35 minutes with an environmental group, the Pembina Institute. Bradbourn said government tour guides never discussed a David Schindler report that found the oilsands are exacerbating the level of toxins in the Athabasca watershed used by aboriginal communities. Delegates were instead told there is a debate among scientists but that government experts believe the pollutants are naturally occurring. Bradbourn, a member of the U.K. Conservative party, was not at the meeting with First Nations leaders and his absence was not explained, Deranger said.
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