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Canadian native Indian Chief comes to Manchester to thank Co-op Staff

By Natasha Carter

The Co-operative is helping Canada’s native Indians in the fight to protect their homelands from the destructive oil extraction of the tar sands.

Chief Al Lameman and members of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation travelled 4,000 miles to Manchester to thank the Co-operative staff at an honorary screening of the BBC documentary about tar sands event last week.

As part of its Toxic Fuels Campaign to stop tar sands expansion, The Co-operative is working with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation whose traditional territories cover 30 per cent of all existing tar sands operations.

Chief Lameman said: “It is difficult for me to express the anger I feel at the loss of this noble animal in our territory. Our traditional land is dwindling.”

The oil fields are deposits of bitumen – a sticky, tar-like substance mixed with sand and clay.

It is much thicker than conventional oil and requires huge amounts of energy to turn it into petrol, producing huge quantities of toxic waste and polluting the air and water.

The oil isn’t drilled for – it’s either scooped off the land or superheated by steam and pumped to the surface, extracting the low quality oil is an incredibly dirty and destructive process and threatens the existence of the wildlife.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a small indigenous community of around 700 people in the boreal forest of north east Alberta, are fighting a lengthy court case to stop the multibillion pound expansion of the tar sands by challenging the Canadian government over their failure to protect the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou, a close relative of the reindeer.

Chief Lameman said: “We need habitat for our animals like the caribou to ensure there is a healthy surplus.

“These animals sustain us and, as they die, our future becomes uncertain. We must act now to take care of Mother Earth.”

Stopping the tar sands would have major consequences for oil industry plans for tar sands, potentially halting almost 50 per cent of all new developments, including BP’s recently announced Kirby project and Exxon’s new Kearl project.

These two projects alone plan to produce 415,000 barrels of oil per day.

Paul Monaghan, head of social goals and sustainability at The Co-operative, said: “This is a real David versus Goliath fight with the Beaver Lake Cree and other First Nations in one corner and the Canadian Government and virtually every major oil company in the world in the other. But if Canadian law is worth its salt, it’s one that David must win.”

A street gallery of photographs named Tarnished Earth tells the story of the tar sands disasters. Currently at London’s Southbank, the tour will be visiting Manchester later this year.

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