Group protests oilsands, MacKenzie projects in Canada's Far North

WASHINGTON (CP) _ The Arctic Indigenous Alliance says the environment of Canada’s Far North and the rights of the people living there are endangered by development of Alberta’s oilsands and the Mackenzie natural gas deposits.

"The link between oil and gas development, climate change and human rights violations cannot be ignored,” Erin Freeland said in a statement by the group.

Representatives of the non-profit organization said that an oilsands exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., doesn’t address the environmental and human impact of the booming energy developments.

“The further developments of the fossil fuel industry will not stop climate change, but continue to threaten our ways of life,” Elaine Alexie, a founding member of the organization, said in a statement.

“For the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, our livelihood, our food source, our health, our spirituality, our very means of existence is embedded within our environments, which we call home,” Alexie said.

“Beneath everything else, it is a human rights issue, for it means the life and survival of our culture.”

The booming development of the Alberta oilsands, as well as the Canada’s conventional oil and natural gas resources, has generated tens of thousands of jobs, huge corporate profits and enormous tax revenues for governments.

However, the rapid development has also strained the infrastructure of oilsands communities such as Fort McMurray, Alta., caused house prices to soar throughout the province and transformed the landscape as the energy wealth is extracted.

In addition, it takes much more energy to extract crude oil from the oilsands than from conventional sources of petroleum and, as a result, contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases that are widely believed to be responsible for global warming.

On the other hand, major energy companies have been working on new extraction and processing technologies that they say will reduce the energy demands and environmental impact of the projects.

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