Apr 052010

It is wrong to look at George Poitras’ update by itself.  It belongs in the context of

  • the Aamjiwnaang First Nation experience beside the petro-chemical corporations in Sarnia
  • the experience of the Ogoni in the Niger Delta

The common ground:

  • the petro-chemical corporations and
  • their dupes and stooges and collaborators and traitors in Government
  • in the face of the annihilation of people


Fort Chip = the petro-chemicals bring death by cancers and disease

Ammjiwnaang  =  the petro-chemicals bring death by population sterility

Ogoni = the silencing (in this case murder) of the leaders who try to stop the madness

Here’s the joke on us white people:  ha! ha! ha!   you have only to go to a community associated with chemical manufacture or agricultural chemical applications for example, to see exactly the same outcomes (disease, cancers, developmental problems, infertility, death of the land and its beings.  How long since I have brightened to the song of the meadow lark?).  If you think they (the Corporatocracy) treat the Indians differently than the whites, you’d be quite naïve.

Can you find words that express the magnitude of our  . . . what?  Is it our utter failure?  Our corruptness?  Is it ignorance on the part of those who are supposed to regulate in the public interest?  Is it all because of a SYSTEM?  You could say it all comes down to greed.  But surely there are enough of us with common sense and willfulness to bring about change, to move us onto a path of survival.   God knows, people have been working for decades on this issue.  It is obviously time to use a different set of strategies.

I am reminded of an abusive relationship.  The abusers have gotten to the point where they no longer even pretend to have any respect for the life of the other.

It is so easy in today’s world to see that “no one is an island . . . each man’s grief is my own”.   Husha, husha  we all go down together.

Below I included 3 excerpts from emails sent in 2006 and 2007.  The Canadian Corporatocracy (Health Canada in this case) shows no sign of betraying its corporate interests.

Let us all stand in solidarity with the people of Fort Chipewyan.  Hold Health Canada to account. Or blow them up –they serve no useful purpose.  If I may say what I actually think.  I must say that the First Nations people behave with incredible restraint.




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Below you will find a blog written on May 03rd, 2010 by Dr. Gina Solomon, Senior Scientist of the Public Health Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council of Washington, DC; Dr. Solomon was an invited guest to the Fort Chipewyan Community Health Meeting on May 03rd, 2010 along with Dr. David Schindler, Dr. John O’Connor, Dr. Kevin Timoney, Elder Francois Paulette of Smith’s Landing First Nation and myself. Dr. Gina Solomon’s full memo to the community of Fort Chipewyan is at NRDC Fort Chipewyan 4 9 10 (2) .

The meeting was attended by approximately 200 community residents including leadership from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Metis Local Association and the Nunee Health Board Society.

Elder Pat Marcel of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation introduced a Motion that called upon the local leadership to act immediately on the critical concerns raised by those present at the meeting especially related to cancers; the Motion included detailed immediate actions including a) demanding of the Government of Alberta to detract their recently made public statements that “there are no concerns with cancers in the community of Fort Chipewyan,” b) that Health Canada be requested to attend to the community of Fort Chipewyan to explain their actions and reasons for lodging complaints and charges against Dr. John O’Connor, c) that Health Canada make a public apology to Dr. John O’Connor and the residents of the community of Fort Chipewyan, and d) that this motion is “not-negotiable” by the local leadership as they engage these critical discussions with both levels of governments and/or tarsands oil companies. The Motion was supported by William “Beanie” Tuccaro who has lived with cancer, and unanimously adopted by the entire community meeting participants by a show of everyone standing up in support.

Elder Francois Paulette of Smith’s Landing First Nation expressed serious concern with the reports he heard today from Dr. Gina Solomon and Dr. David Schindler and expressed unequivocal support for the community of Fort Chipewyan through solidarity.

Contact: Steve Courtoreille, Chairperson, Nunee Health Board Society   cell: 780.838.0917
Contact: George Poitras, Former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation   cell: 780.264.1269

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Gina Solomon

Senior Scientist, San Francisco

Blog | About

Posted May 3, 2010 in Environmental Justice , Health and the Environment , Moving Beyond Oil

Today I was privileged to be an invited guest of the community of Fort Chipewyan, Canada. I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of “Ft. Chip” – after all, there are only 1000 residents, and it’s only accessible by plane or boat. But you should hear about it, because what happens there will affect all of us.

The town has been suffering for more than ten years from surprisingly high rates of cancer. A local doctor sounded the alarm, and eventually the government did an investigation. The government’s press release at the time the cancer study was released made it sound like there was no problem: “A study of the cancer incidence in Fort Chipewyan finds levels of the rare cancer cholangiocarcinoma are not higher than expected.”

The results of the cancer study were never presented to the community, and the government claimed there was no problem. That’s where I came in. One of my colleagues asked me to peer review the Alberta Health Services cancer investigation. To my surprise, the actual report did not align with the headlines:

  • Overall,  the report found a 30% increase in cancers in Ft. Chip compared with  expected over the last 12 years;  Leukemias and lymphomas were increased by 3-fold;
  • Bile duct cancers were increased by 7-fold; Other  cancers, such as soft tissue sarcomas, and lung cancers in women, were also elevated.

I’m not sure who wrote the press release for the government, but it sure weren’t the scientists who actually did the investigation.

It wasn’t just the elevated cancer rates that got my attention, however. It was also the types of cancers seen. Leukemias and lymphomas have been linked in the scientific literature to petroleum products, including VOCs (volatile components of petroleum), dioxin-like chemicals, and other hydrocarbons. Biliary cancers have been linked to petroleum and to PAHs (chemicals in tar and soot). Soft tissue sarcomas are very rare and lethal cancers that have also been linked to dioxin-like chemicals and hydrocarbons. It’s an interesting pattern — almost all of the cancer types that were elevated have been linked scientifically to chemicals in oil or tar.

It’s especially interesting because little Ft. Chip is located downstream from the largest tar sands mining and oil production operation in the world. Other scientists who also presented their findings to the community today revealed significant increases in toxic metals, PAHs, and related chemicals in the water and sediments of the river downstream from the tar sands.

About 200 community members filled the hall where the scientists and physicians presented their findings. Then the community members spoke. Elders from the Mikisew Cree Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation decried the lack of action by the government and industry.  Other community members talked about their own cancer diagnoses, or about the problems they were seeing in the fish, ducks, and wildlife they hunt for food. One man brought a deformed fish to the researchers, asking that it be tested for contaminants. The meeting was long, intense, and important. These people are concerned about their livelihood, and their lives. They are also concerned about the state of their rivers, the lake, and the wildlife.

Afterward, as I flew back to Edmonton on the tiny plane, I looked down on miles of pristine boreal forest dotted with lakes and entwined by rivers. Then the tar sands operations came into view – vast scars on the land, massive sulfur piles, smokestacks creating huge plumes into the sky,  and enormous tailings ponds next to the river glimmering with an oily sheen; tailings ponds that are almost certainly leaching contaminants into the Athabasca River, which carries them down toward Ft. Chip.

As I prepare to head down to the Gulf Coast, I wonder what will happen here in Canada. Will the newfound distaste for offshore oil drilling be a boon to the tar sands, thereby worsening the ecological and health situation up here? Or will the public realize that petroleum comes with a price that is too high to pay, and move toward a safer energy future?

“It would be easier just to fold our hands and not make this fight…, to say, I, one man, can do nothing.  I grow afraid only when I see people
thinking and acting like this.  We all know the story about the man who sat beside the trail too long, and then it grew over and he could never find
his way again.  We can never forget what has happened, but we cannot go back, nor can we just sit beside the trail.”

– Poundmaker, Cree Chief

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The experiences (videos) of the two communities should be run side-by-side.  (We circulated the info on Aamjiwnaang in July.)   These are not the only two places where this is happening.

Remind me:  when the majority of communities in Canada have done what these people are doing – taking matters into their own hands because Health Canada isn’t doing its job  – – there are branches of Health Canada that should be shut down.  They have become an obstacle, as we also found out in the battle to get chemicals properly regulated.   /Sandra


Below is a link of a documentary that was aired on this past Sunday’s CBC News Sunday. I think its an excellent documentary for a number of reasons. The Fort Chipewyan residents including former Chief Archie Waquan, Donna Cyprien (Director of Nunee Health Authority), Georg Macdonald (Head of Nursing Station), Julie Mercredi (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Member) and Pat Marcel (Elder, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) did an awesome job of portraying the reality of our current situation.   Thanks also to Dr. John O’Connor and Dr. David Schindler who also give some very credible context and perspective that is difficult to refute.

I’ve often said that in my short life, in comparison to many Elders who are also observing this horrible chapter in our history, that I never would have fathomed that I would be watching my beautiful, remote & isolated community on the national news or internationally like we are today.
We were a remote & isolated community, God’s country, I often described as “our best kept secret” which is now the subject of international attention. It is unfortunate.   (Out-of-date links removed)  . . . and for your information watch Darrow MacIntyre’s feature documentary . . .

George Poitras, B.Admin.

Consultation Coordinator   Mikisew Cree – Industry Relations

However, Walt Patterson, associate fellow at think-tank Chatham House, said: “Extracting oil from tar scares the pants off me. The whole idea is fundamentally perverse in the context of our present environmental situation. To then power it with
nuclear, it seems to be the worst of all worlds.”

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(4)       SEPT 2007:  THE OFFICIALS ARE SATISFIED    7/9/2007

The officials are satisfied.  They say there are tight regulations, with independent third party corroboration of the integrity of the monitoring equipment.  So everything is alright.  BUT the lakes and rivers in the north are dying under the current regulations. Poisoned water, land and air mean that people, mostly First Nations, are dying from disease.   And in the case of Aamjiwnaang (Sarnia Ontario) where the effects on fertility are known, it seems to me it is also a form of genocide.

This isn’t seen as a cause for immediate action by the Government to change the regulatory system? ..  We need immediate changes in order to halt what isn’t right or smart. Instead we get denial and reassurances.

It seems to me a no-brainer.  Effective regulations mean that what was healthy in 1980 (as were the lakes in northern Saskatchewan) would still be healthy today.  If not, the Government simply hasn’t done and continues to refuse to do its job.

It is essential that we know the information in the new documentary from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Aamjiwnaang sits adjacent to the Suncor refinery (petro-chemical industry) in Sarnia on the St Clair River.  We can use the documentary to inform ourselves here in the West.  There are a number of other “same story”‘s about the industrial poisoning of rivers and lakes.

Ideally, we would make a collection of these stories.  Does our situation here, today, lead to a different outcome for our river and our health?  And if not, why don’t we draw the line now?  Stop the destruction now.

In case the Aamjiwnaang story is not enough, or in case it’s “there” in Ontario and not “here” in the West, in case we can’t see our own belly button, a reminder of the story of Dr. John O’Connor with the high cancer rates in a community on Lake Athabasca in Alberta.

Refer to email TARSANDS: Backlash against a whistle-blower Globe & Mail, by Andrew Nikiforuk Sent May 22, 2007.  (FIND & POST, SAndra)

Email #3 is an effort to get the people behind the High Gate dam proposal to transfer their energies from the dam, to securing a long-term supply of water that gives them health.  If indeed there are deformed fish in the River, they should know and be taking corrective action now.  There are reasons for escalating rates of some cancers.  We have to go outside our communities to  work aggressively and hard with other communities.

We are working on the tar sands/nuclear issue.  These emails are about a River.  It’s about mobilizing people to protect their water source, hopefully BEFORE it’s too late.  The unregulated expansion of the tar sands and nuclear agenda in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan is a threat to the River.

The evidence is clear from the Aamjiwnaang that Suncor and the other corporations will not be regulated such that the rivers and lakes continue to give us health.  In addition to the water issue, we know that the tar sands development means Canada is contributing an unconscionable amount to green house gas production.  We must add more people and organizations to our networks.  Those who depend on the River for their water, and understand the threat, are likely allies for the tar sands/nuclear issue.

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It’s not that aquatic creatures can’t survive in a “dead” river because the water has chemicals in it. They can’t survive because they ACCUMULATE the toxins. And then the toxin load is magnified as they eat other contaminated organisms. Their bodies are more toxic than the water in which they live.

Many become sterile, unable to reproduce. They die out – the river becomes classified as “dead”. (17 rivers in P.E.I. are dead. (source: W5 documentary a few years ago – the PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Health Canada) isn’t getting its regulatory job done)) A major contributor to the deaths of the rivers and thereby other life forms is agricultural pesticide run-off. (Note: WHY isn’t the PMRA getting the job done is addressed in one of the next emails.)

Do we think that the cells and processes in our bodies act differently from the cells in other creatures?

Talking about “allowable limits” doesn’t take into account what happens when you add allowable limit of chemical A to A.L. of chemical B to A.L. of chemical C …   Take a cluster of cells that are in the early stages of development. They are multiplying at a rapid rate and then cellular “differentiation” takes place to make different organs, etc.  A miniscule amount of a hormone disruptor or a teratogen, for example, can have a LARGE impact on a small cluster of cells. We know that chemicals are taken in through the skin and the air we breathe. What is the “allowable
limit” when you are dealing with a developing foetus?

Duff Stewart, the alderman behind Leo Pare’s newspaper article, said that his friend fishes in the North Saskatchewan River. But won’t eat the fish he catches. He throws them back to the River.  Because they have the accumulated pesticides/toxins in their bodies. Leo mentioned the deformities. Which we know about but conveniently forget …

The Canadian Dept of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) knows about the “feminization” of fish ownstream from water treatment plants from research published in January 2003. (Europeans have known about this for a long, long time – Canada finally started working on it.)  We know about the 40 or 50% decrease in sperm count in males in industrialized countries.  Cripes!  WHEN do we know enough to take effective action?  We continue to put MORE chemicals into the environment.

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