I am still on vacation with my family, with only intermittent access to my email and the internet while I am away. This media release from the Assembly of First Nations, the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada, was in my inbox this evening, and I felt it was important to share it in a timely way. On April 29, 2011, a leak was discovered in the Rainbow pipeline in northern Alberta. Since then, it appears the provincial and federal governments have been slow to respond to this environmental and public health crisis.
Here is the statement from the AFN:
Little Buffalo First Nation in northern Alberta is in the midst of an ecological disaster and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today stated that the federal government, the Alberta provincial government, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and Plains Midstream Canada must take responsibility and immediate action to support the residents of the First Nation. There are reports of more than 28,000 barrels of oil spilled at a site 30 kilometers from the Lubicon Cree community.
“We have been monitoring this situation closely for the last seven days and I am seriously concerned by the lack of response for the people of Little Buffalo First Nation,” National Chief Atleo stated. “It is totally inappropriate and, in fact, dangerous if officials at the ERCB are refusing to deal with the fact that people in Little Buffalo are becoming sick from the effects of this disaster. The local school has already been closed. All parties need to work with the leadership and citizens of the community to take action now.”
On April 29, 2011, it was estimated that 28,000 barrels of oil was spilled near Little Buffalo First Nation, located in the Peace River Region of Alberta. Many residents, including children, are experiencing symptoms of nausea, disorientation, headaches, burning eyes and stomach pains. Neither the pipeline owner – Plains Midstream Canada – or the provincial government has met with the people of Little Buffalo First Nation.
The National Chief said: “We need immediate action and we are also calling for an independent investigation into this incident, with the goal of establishing urgent measures and regulation of oil spill incidents. We have a responsibility to protect Mother Earth and the traditional hunting and trapping territories of First Nations. We have made safer and healthier communities one of our priorities for the new federal government. This is a clear demonstration as to why we need plans in place to deal with future disasters.”
AFN Alberta Regional Chief George Stanley and an independent environment officer were in Little Buffalo First Nation yesterday for a fly-over of the area.