Posted 27 April 2011, by Mike de Souza, Decision Canada, blog.decisioncanada.ca
OTTAWA-The federal government views potential health impacts of oilsands development on Aboriginal communities as an obstacle to promoting the industry’s image and its growth in the United States, says a newly-released document from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
In a presentation, given to its diplomats last fall and obtained by Postmedia News, the government highlighted the “perceived social impacts” as a threat to the oilpatch and included the federal Health and Indian Affairs Departments among the “key players” of a “U.S. Oilsands Outreach” strategy.
“As global demand increases, oilsands production is projected to double in ten years,” said the Nov, 10, 2010 presentation to Canadian heads of missions in the U.S. “But there is growing opposition in U.S. to oilsands development.”
The presentation noted that anti-oilsands campaigns were “gaining ground,” while progress on protecting the environment was “seen as lagging” and perceived social impacts, “e.g. Aboriginal health,” was “gaining profile.”
The document, obtained by Climate Action Network Canada through an Access to Information request by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, provides more details about the government’s international lobbying efforts, first reported by Postmedia News last fall, to fight foreign legislation and regulations that aim to protect the environment and reduce pollution.
The strategy involved partnerships across multiple federal departments as well as with the Alberta government, industry representatives and stakeholders, which included Bruce Carson, a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now embroiled in an ethics controversy.
Clayton Thomas-Müller, a campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the documents also reveal that the government is failing to live up to its responsibilities to protect the health and human rights of aboriginal communities, including their right to clean air, water and soil.
“The government is absolving itself from its fiduciary obligations,” said Thomas Muller, whose network represents environmental advocates from about 250 aboriginal communities in North America. “It’s violating the human rights of First Nations, it’s doing it intentionally all in the interests of expanding what is essentially the dirtiest energy product into the U.S. energy market.”
The federal government has recently acknowledged that it needs to dramatically improve its monitoring system of water and air pollution from the industry that could be linked to human health problems such as cancer in nearby communities. The industry is also considered to be the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, but faces no federal restrictions that would force it to reduce its environmental footprint.
The government said it censored parts of the document that were considered to involve national security, secret advice and personal information. Those included a list of “key players” in its strategy involving federal departments such has Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
But one of the key players, a “DFAIT U.S. outreach participation” group, appeared to be visible in the document, despite an attempt by the government to black it out, before releasing it.
According to Article 41 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, visiting diplomats in a receiving state “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”
The oil and gas industry is now promoting a new $7-billion project, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, that would link the oilsands with the U.S. marketplace and is now under environmental review by U.S. regulators.
But President Barack Obama raised doubts, earlier this month, about whether it would be approved, questioning the “destructive” impacts of the industry which he referred to as “tarsands” – considered to be a derogatory term by the industry.
The Conservative party has been unable to provide a response to Obama’s comments, referring questions from Postmedia News to the Canadian government, which has also failed to respond.