National Observer Opinion: Heads should roll over massive Alberta spill by Imperial Oil | Unpublished

Unpublished Opinions

National Observer's picture
Vancouver, British Columbia
About the author

National Observer is a new publication founded by Linda Solomon Wood and an award-winning team of journalists in response to the close relationship between the oil industry and media in Canada, and the urgency of climate change. National Observer focuses on news and in-depth reports on under-covered Canadian stories in the area of climate, energy, and related culture, business and politics. It was launched in May 2015 by Observer Media Group (OMG), which also owns Vancouver Observer.

Seed funding for National Observer came from a Kickstarter campaign, 'Reports from the Energy Battlegrounds' in February 2015. Since its inception in May 2015, National Observer has provided intensive, critical coverage of the oil industry, politics, corporate corruption, and much more.

We also highlight inspired business innovations and lifestyle hacks that build sustainability and resilience and help in the transition away from fossil fuels.

We provide our talented reporters days, weeks, sometimes even months, to do the investigative reporting that is vital to democracy.

For more information please visit our website at:

Like it

National Observer Opinion: Heads should roll over massive Alberta spill by Imperial Oil

March 11, 2023
Chief Allan Adam (left) from the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation chats with Grand Chief Serge Simon from the Mohawks of Kanesatake at a Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Que., on Dec. 8, 2016. Photo by Mike De Souza

Enough. It is time to do what Canada should have done decades ago and come down like a ton of bricks on oilsands companies that pollute our land and water.

Imperial Oil’s latest spill of toxic tailings water at the Kearl mine north of Fort McMurray is an outrageous breach of trust. The company’s failure to inform neighbouring First Nations about the spill speaks volumes about the disregard oilsands companies have shown Indigenous people living downstream. This has all the signs of a coverup, says Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. It’s hard not to think he’s right.

Twice, tailings water polluted with chemicals like naphthenic acids, arsenic and leftover bitumen — which, it goes without saying, should never reach human lips — spilled into the forest and wetland. The polluted mess pooled near the Muskeg and Firebag rivers, which in turn flow into the Athabasca River.

Did the company warn residents of Fort Chipewyan about the spill? No. Imperial has apologized but couldn’t come up with a compelling explanation for why the information was not shared with the people who could stand to be harmed by the chemicals. One could imagine any number of reasons Imperial would be happy to keep that information under the dome.

But harder to explain, and frankly more egregious, is why the Alberta Energy Regulator also failed to sound the alarm. The regulator is a government body that we would hope acts in the public interest. But in Alberta, the energy regulator has always been in thrall to industry.

Read the rest of the article at the National Observer>