Yesterday marked the end of the weekend-long Ride to Conquer Cancer sponsored by…Enbridge?
While it is admirable that 5000 cyclists rode 200km and raised funds for cancer research, I wonder why Enbridge themselves have failed to do their part to stop cancer at its source. Enbridge’s attempt to pose as a socially-conscious engineering firm is hiding the fact that it is expanding the reach of tar sands oil, closely linked to causing cancer.
Enbridge has been finessing its plans to construct the Northern Gateway Pipeline, a pipeline originally proposed about 10 years ago and which is being pushed by the Harper agenda. The twin pipelines, which run from Northern Alberta to BC’s coast, will cross through 60 First Nations communities and over 1,000 streams and rivers. This means that in the event of a pipeline failure it is likely that waterways will be contaminated and the health impacts on local people are soon to follow.
Now let’s take Enbridge’s track record. The company has an average 60 leaks and spills per year between 1999-2008 and the Northern Gateway could add about 5 spills per year. With these statistics, it is not a matter of if there is a spill, but when there is a spill and where will it be. No oil or engineering company has ever been able to fully clean up their mess and recover 100% of oil leaked. One teaspoon of benzene, but one of the many contaminants released, can contaminate 260,660 gallons of water. In the event of a leak, carcinogenic toxins are released both into waterways, land, and the air.
In communities living downstream from tar sands projects, rare cancers are unfortunately not so rare. Bile duct cancer typically affects 1 in every 100,000 people. In Fort Chipeweyan, a community with a population of about 1200 people, there were five diagnosed cases in the span of about 5 years. Bile duct cancer is among the many other cancers—colon cancer, leukemia, lymphoma to name a few—and diseases on the rise in Fort Chip, a community which draws its water from the Athabasca watershed. The watershed has been increasingly contaminated by tar sands projects.
Rising cancer rates seen in communities living downstream from the tar sands is bound to be replicated in communities living along Enbridge’s proposed pipeline. The associated health costs of the pipeline is only one of the many reasons that several communities have banded together to reject the proposal.
In a previous post written by Dustin Johnson, a Tsimshian from Prince Rupert and Terrace, BC and currently the Energy Campaigner for Sierra Club Prairie he reports:
On May 11th, 2011, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta, a historic solidarity statement of opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal was signed by leaders of the Blood Tribe, Alexander First Nation, Lubicon Lake Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sai’kuz First Nation, Nadleh Whuten, Takla Lake First Nation and the Nakazdli First Nation.
Along with contributing to the increased risk of cancer, Enbridge’s pipeline is passing through unceded Indigenous land and has not respected Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As Enbridge continues to fund cancer research, it can also do its part by stopping its own activities that contribute to cancer. Enbridge and Enbridge subsidiaries have been expanding their pipeline projects and threat to the health of communities across North America. Merely helping fund cancer research does not absolve Enbridge of its responsibility to respect people living near these pipelines.