Nobel laureates say oilsands bad for women, children

(QMI Agency files)

(QMI Agency files)

Vincent McDermott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:15 AM ET

FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA. - Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams and a delegation of women activists are calling on the federal government to end Canada’s reliance on crude oil, arguing that the oilsands not only harm the environment, but undermine the needs of women and children.

Williams, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines, spent eight days touring the route of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, starting her journey in Fort McMurray last Tuesday.

“We must increase investment in renewable energy and increasing efficiency. The expansion of the oilsands is taking us in the opposite direction,” said Williams.

“That’s what we heard from women all along the route. They want a sustainable economy,” she said. “Not the destruction of their rivers, forests and coasts for short-term expansion of the oilsands.”

Last week, Williams told QMI Agency women’s voices are usually overlooked during important events. The purpose of the tour was to listen to women who lived in areas that will be affected by the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The tour was organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, an Ottawa-based women’s rights advocacy group. Its members are all women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Members of the tour include Sarah Harmer, a Canadian singer-songwriter; Ikal Angelei, a Kenyan environmentalist; Marianne Douglas, a climate scientist; and Chris Page, a board member for the Center for Environmental Health in San Francisco.

During the visit to Fort McMurray, delegates visited Suncor Energy’s oilsands facility, met with Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake and visited the aboriginal community of Fort McKay.

The group also visited several other communities in British Columbia, including Burns Lake, Prince George, Smithers, Terrace and Kitimat.

They also met with aboriginal community leaders in Fort McKay, as well as the Nadleh Whut'en and Saik’uz First Nations.

The delegates tried to organize meetings with B.C. Premier Christie Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, but scheduling conflicts prevented any meeting.

“One woman who has lived in Fort McKay all her life told us she has lost seven members of her family to cancer and has been diagnosed twice herself,” said Page.

“Surely, the experiences of these women, and the further potential health impacts, must be taken into account by policymakers not only in Canada, but also by the countries buying the oil?”

However, Canada’s energy industry argues that all Canadians reap the benefits of the oilsands, regardless of their gender or race. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil and gas industry is the largest employer of aboriginals in the country.

In 2008, Suncor Energy spent $220 million with a number of aboriginal businesses that provide fuel distribution, maintenance, reclamation, heavy equipment operation, tire shredding and manufacturing.

Members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative are expected to participate in a series of protests against the Northern Gateway pipeline on Oct. 22 in Victoria.

vincent.mcdermott@sunmedia.ca

 


Videos

Photos