Common Sense Canadian

Harper govt tries to block NAFTA from investigating leaking tailing ponds

PostedJanuary 13, 2015 by in International
Harper govt tries to block NAFTA from investigating leaking tailing ponds

Syncrude tailings pond (David Dodge, Pembina Institute)

Read this Jan. 12 story from on the Harper government’s efforts to block an investigation by NAFTA’s environmental watchdog of oil sands tailing ponds leaking into the Athabasca River.

Canada is trying to stop NAFTA’s environmental watchdog from taking a closer look at the environmental effects of the huge tailings ponds produced by Alberta’s oilsands, and it appears Mexico and the U.S. will go along with efforts to stop a formal investigation.

If that happens, it would be the third time in a year Canada has stopped North American Free Trade Agreement scrutiny of its environmental record.

The tailings ponds are a touchy political issue for both the Alberta and Canadian governments. They’ve become a symbol of the environmental footprint of oilsands production. The ponds cover more than 176 square kilometres and contain a toxic mixture of water, clay and chemicals, what’s left over when the oil is removed.

Evidence suggest the ponds are seeping into the nearby ground and water.

Two environmental groups and three private citizens from Alberta, Saskatchewan and the N.W.T. want the Commission on Environmental Co-operation to find out whether Canada is breaking its own Federal Fisheries Act by failing to prevent tailings from leaking into the Athabasca River and nearby creeks in northern Alberta.

“It was important for us know whether this was happening and whether environmental laws were being broken and whether the government is upholding those laws or ignoring them,” said Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence, one of the groups that launched the complaint in 2010.



About the Author

Common Sense Canadian



    these tailings ponds can be cleaned and the chemicals found in them neutralised, quite easily…

    but it cuts profits


      Educated eh?…Really?…

      Please elaborate on the clean up methods…

      PS…I don’t believe you are educated and your statement is bullshit…

    scotty on denman

    Neo-rightists keep us hopping a if we’re playing a frantic game of whack-a-mole. Where environmental concerns arise, citizens demand their governments act, and a chain-reaction develops: when governments are beholden to relevant vested interests, which they are if they’ve accepted political contribution from those interests, the first and most obvious question that needs to be answered—whether there’s environmental contamination or not—begins to wend its way through stages of procrastination with which we’re all too familiar. Eventually, however, industry’s old standby, quantification of enviro-damage by way of its affect on human health, wears and tatters as every criterion is reluctantly met, and different approaches accumulate to build an irrefutable conclusion that, yes, the original concerns are and always have been warranted, except this time the years of procrastination bought become too dear for politicians to bear, and the whole tab becomes due—with interest: it’s worse than it would have been if action hadn’t been postponed.

    There’s no legal political excuse when the public outrage ensues, no buck-passing to industry, which is too ghastly—and incriminating—to dare reveal as its ghoulish revellers sing their spirit song, “Enjoy yourself,/ It’s later than you think!”. Environmental regulations are only then enacted, and the concern then becomes whether these laws are being enforced or not. But the Devil offers all sorts of derivative instruments to extend (and conceal) indebtedness if politicians find themselves in too deep and can’t stomach the due date.

    This is the phase we’re in now. Unfortunately, when the Hydra guarding industry’s profitable enviro-perfidy gets its head chopped off, the Devils’s refinancing fix coursing through its veins sprouts two heads to replace it, one to guard the lack of compliance with hard-won enviro-protection laws, another to snap and snarl at challengers to dubious—and probably perfidious—economic excuses; chop those off and four more sprout out in their stead, perhaps to ward off exposure of legal or Constitutional contamination, and so on as the poison seeps into every remoteness of society, in every town, every home, every mind and soul.

    Now that perfidy is regularly defended with smirking absurdities like Mount Polley and LNG here in BC, the cauliflowering Hydra heads have become acutely dangerous, wolfing down scientists, clawing vital organs from the Constitution, and breathing fire up the gowns of judges and juries. The concern now becomes whether we wake up in time to send the irredeemable to Hell before we all join them in their inevitable and unavoidable doom.

    The Harper government’s muzzling of scientists, and now it’s aversion to NAFTA scrutiny means they have something to hide and, despite the snarling and snapping, trying to rig the next election means the Conservatives are afraid of us. Now is not the time to find out if procrastination is bad for our long-term collective health.

    Hereward Pooley

    Harper and his cronies should be forced to live downstream of the tailing ponds and drink the river’s water for a year, let alone the rest of their lives.

      Gord in Fort Smith

      I agree… whole heartedly.

      Until then… it is people like me who must drink the water downstream from these filthy tarsands.

    Pam Bevan

    The Harper government is a bunch of lying, deceptive, criminals. Of course Harper is blocking NAFTA. How good would it sit with Canadians knowing that all 3 levels of governments has been poisoning them for decades and did so in the name of GREED!! People are now dying of very rare cancers in the communities around tar sands. I am sure the governments have been lining not only the mining and oil and gas companies pockets but their own as well.

    Shelley Falk-Ouellette

    This is completely unacceptable. If the tailing pond isn’t leaking, what do they have to lose by and inspection? Obviously there IS a leak and it’s going into one of the most vital waterways in western Canada. The damage will be felt all the way to the McKenzie Delta. Just like the Mt. Polley spill, it’s the utter lack of care for our environment and the government de-regulating our laws. Mt. Polley was a completely preventable industrial disaster. Had regulations and inspections been carried out with due diligence, Mt. Polley would never have happened. How much longer are Canadians and the citizens of BC going to put up with this blatant disregard for our laws? Why is this government not being held accountable for the damage they have caused to our environment?

      Don F.

      Be patient Shelley, this is January, by March Albertans will be trading in the Ford F150 for a rusted toyota like I drive, they will be selling their million dollar home for two hundred thousand. The military will be shooting people at random on the streets with our new anti terrorists laws and by April he will face the Mike Duffy trial and so it will unfold for our dear Mr. Harper. And he doesn’t even do pushups or paddle a canoe like Pierre Trudeau.
      Time is his worst enemy this time around..

Leave a Response