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July 14, 2010

Tiny Tribe Takes Stand Against Toxic Sands

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The Beaver Lake Cree, a First Nations tribe of 900 living in the forests of northern Alberta, stand at the front lines of the next environmental catastrophe. Their lands are hedged in by the massive Alberta tar sands mines- vast open pits of black sand and toxic tailings ponds- that are supplying the US with 1.9 million barrels of oil a day, with plans in the works to triple production by 2025.

But the Beaver Lake Cree are taking a stand, and their tiny tribe may be the best defense against the environmental onslaught from the behemoth tar sands project.

Backed by aboriginal law expert Jack Woodward of Woodward & Co., the tribe is suing the government of Alberta and Canada for violation of an 1870 treaty the Crown made with Beaver Lake Cree ancestors, which guaranteed their right to continue to live off their land just as they always had.

The Cree’s ability to hunt and fish their native lands is considered a constitutional right, and the widespread destruction of habitat and toxic polluting runoff from tar sands mining is so widespread, the Boreal ecosystem the Cree have relied on for centuries is falling apart.

Groundwater contaminated by toxic runoff from the mines is no longer safe to drink. Fish are caught with strange deformities, and elk and deer are getting too thin to eat. The forest is checkered with wires and pipes that ferry bitumen and gas, fragmenting critical habitat and driving out game. Communities living close to the mines have seen dramatic increases in a rare form of bile duct cancer- there have been four fatal cases in the past five years in a community of nearly 1000, when this disease typically affects only one in 100,000.

If the landmark lawsuit succeeds, it will render 17,000 development leases issued by the Alberta government to mining companies null and void, putting the ballooning expansion of the tar sands on ice.

This legal case may be the best shot at checking the rampant development of the tar sands project, and deserves all the attention and support you can provide. Tell a friend, and visit to make a contribution to this tiny band of eco-warriors today!


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