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Alberta doctor to US Senate: Canada ‘lying’ about Tar Sands health impacts

PostedFebruary 27, 2014 by in International

Dr. John O’Connor (photo:

Read this Feb. 26 story by Mychaylo Prystupa in the Vancouver Observer on Alberta doctor John O’Connor’s warning to US senators that Canada is concealing the health impacts of the Tar Sands.

A northern Alberta doctor warned U.S. Senators on what he says have been the devastating health impacts of the tar sands on families – effects, he says, that have been willfully “ignored” by the Canadian and Alberta governments.

“I appeal to you to keep up the pressure – this is an ongoing tragedy.  A total disgrace,” said Dr. John O’Connor, Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

He sighted statistics for rare cancers – of the bile duct for example – that have shot up 400 times for what is considered normal for a tiny community, such as Fort Chipewyan – which is downstream, to the north of the oil sands.

“These are published, peer-reviewed studies that indicate that the government of Alberta and Canada have been lying, misrepresenting the impact of industry on the environment,” said O’Connor.

The Alberta government has long denied cancer links with the province’s multi-billion-dollar crown energy jewel.  It states on its website that there is “insufficient evidence to link the incidence of cancer in Fort Chipewyan to oil sands operations” and rates of cancer are “within the expected range.”

O’Connor finds that hard to believe.
“All of the scientific studies that have accumulated, it’s almost like they don’t exist,” he said.
A new study for example, shows Leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have spiked in the last 10 years — especially among men who live downwind of pollution plumes from the oil, gas and tar sands facilities east of Edmonton.
The family physician was invited to brief two U.S. Senators who are against the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline – to carry bitumen from Alberta to Texas.

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    P Dean

    Whats really needed is dialogue and action on our broken political system. How is it we as citizens of a “democracy” are so powerless to stop this mad man on his environmental rampage and for citizens to easily influence a course change. Why do we tolerate this deceit and corruption? IMPEACH HARPER!

    Steve Ellis

    I am just sick of all this. I used to be a proud Canadian.

    I see the Alberta mentality all over the place. I live in the beautiful Comox Valley. We are now inundated with the Big Truck guys with BC license plates and Alberta Car sales stickers. There are guys of this ilk that love to go out and blast swallows and breeding Mew gulls with shotguns from the shore of our favorite fishing lakes. There is no hope of convincing people like this that they might be wrong.

    I am just sick of it. It seems a lot of the natives have forgotten their roots and have learned greedy tricks from the white man. I don’t know what can be done.


    People will believe what they want to – what is money in their pockets is sacred. Enough lies told enough times eventually becomes truth to those Tar Pits people and their ilk. As long as they can buy that $100,000 lifted 4×4, that’s all that matters . . .

      tom baker

      So true the big truck rage is backing up the oilsands and killing us ,stop makeing them . But on no we subsidize them instead.?????


    The worst part about it that I witnessed is when I spoke with my family about it, who work at the tar sands. They simply blew off the statistics saying that the native communities affected were actually getting cancer because of alcohol and drug abuse. They couldn’t even fathom that that it could be anything else, and they seemed completely ok with it because they are native communities. As if to say that is normal in native communities and that the natives themselves are the actual reason for this devistation. It broke my heart.

      Deborah A Winkler

      I am sorry, it appears to divide a lot of families and friends, I understand completely how you feel, it is very tragic, I hope soon the truths will come out and the deniers will see the light so changes can be made. I will continue to show my support for first nations and our environment regardless, I think we are destined too. Good luck, sorry for the sad feelings, thanks for sharing.

      scotty on denman

      I’m truly sorry to have to say this but I was suspicious of Stephen Harper’s so-called apology to First Nations for the abuse they suffered in residential schools. I had really hoped it was sincere but I’m reminded of it every time I read stories like this. It’s how I felt when Harper blithely said that his government had already fulfilled its obligation to consult with FNs so it can go ahead and build the pipeline across un-ceded, traditional FN territory in BC. That apology looks even worse than insincere now—it looks calculatingly duplicitous.

      I’ve been told my view that Attawapiskat was an orchestrated smear intended to “tenderize” BC FNs blocking the pipeline is hyperbolic but this elevated cancer story illustrates my point: the government benefits by the character assassination of FNs because it allows ordinary Canadians to prejudice FNs as no-count, allowing them to ignore bona fide scientific findings that, among other things, show negative health effects of FN communities downstream from tar sands development.

      Surely many FN people were hopeful the “apology” was sincere, but this hope could only exist on the condition that the supposed new relationship became manifest in dealing with every issue between the Crown and FNs. FN people aren’t stupid; they have contingencies prepared in the event government goes back on its commitment. And, by ignoring the epidemiological science, the government appears, once again, to have done exactly that.

      I’m not that naive either. I held out hope for the official apology but didn’t hold my breath; the last of that hope ended with Attawapiskat. There have been hundreds of impoverished Reserves employing amateurish book-keeping for a long, long time, right across Canada. What made Attawapiskat a particular target was a) its superlative size, b) the ease with which MSM could fly in and out to report on the bad things (which will always exists in such impoverished communities) but none of the good, and c) Harper’s need to accentuate all the old prejudices against FNs prior to the real fight shaping up with BC FNs over Northern Gateway. We all know how well Harper’s gambit turned out: it inspired the Idle No More movement—or what is likely the preview to what’s gonna come as the real battle in BC begins. Won’t be long now: Harper’s only got a year and a half to get it done (time’s so short he might have to extend his mandate by either cheating electorally or repealing the fixed election date law).

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