Downstream, Fort Chipewyan Documentary Film

Contributed to The Edmonton Journal
Greg Stringham
Vice President of Oil Sands
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
March 06, 2009

Canada's oil and gas industry recognizes that more work needs to be done to understand the health questions raised by residents of Fort Chipewyan. We acknowledge and respect their concerns and support the continued work of health leaders in determining the causes.

The recently released Alberta Health Services study made three key points:

  • The incidence of rare cancers in Fort Chipewyan is within the expected range;
  • The cancer rate overall is higher than expected;
  • The findings are based on a small number of cases and could be due to chance, increased detection, or increased risk in the community.

Most importantly, the study pointed to the need for a detailed, long-term analysis to understand the reasons for the higher rates.

The industry takes the issue of health questions downstream of oil sands development seriously and will continue to support the government in its efforts to identify, understand, mitigate and eliminate any negative impacts related to oil sands development.

The industry respects the unique challenges faced by aboriginal peoples. As the largest private sector employer of aboriginal people in Canada we strive to play a positive role in aboriginal communities. Over time, we would like Ft. Chipewyan to see increasing benefits from oil sands development as other First Nations in the region have already benefited.

As an industry whose employees and partners are also members of communities that also depend on a healthy environment, we share the need to continue looking for answers. And the fact that the community is concerned means that we must be concerned.

The industry's ongoing commitment to the health and safety of both our neighbours in Fort Chipewyan and other communities, and our employees and our oil sands development partners, is a commitment to respond appropriately to any issues that are identified by the responsible health authorities.

The most critical focus for industry now is to continue to engage with the community, work to address their concerns, as well as encourage further scientific study and a fact-based, balanced discussion.
With respect to next steps, the industry will work with health officials, the provincial government, our member organizations, and the community.