Under what is known as Northern Alberta lies the tar sands which are a mixture of several elements including heavy crude oil. This area is approximately the size of Florida. The extraction of the oil included in the sands will strip the entire area of trees and other plants. The process also uses large amounts of water. The ensuing routing of the oil to the United States will also require smokestacks and the dumping of toxic waste into bodies of water for storage.
Unusually high rates of cancer have also been reported in the areas around the pre-expansion tar sands. Because of the wildlife destruction the sands bring, the caribou populations surrounding them have seen a decline. For many indigenous nations, the caribou are core to their existence and way of life. Today only 175-275 caribou remain in the area known as Bear Lake Cree First Nation. The population of caribou may be locally extinct by 2040. Part of the struggles Native people face worldwide is the destruction of their ancestral food sources which are also a large part of their lives outside of just food. In addition, tar sands released 37.2 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions amounting to a 121% increase between the years 1990 and 2008.
The many indigenous communities affected by the tar sands include the” Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay Cree Nation, Beaver Lake Cree First Nation Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, and the Metis” according to the Indigenous Environmental Network. The Union of Concerned Scientists also states, “ On a lifetime basis, a gallon of gasoline made from tar sands produces about 15% more carbon dioxide emissions than one made from conventional oil. It can be concluded that tar sands pose an immediate threat to the wellbeing and human rights of many indigenous nations across Canada and the United States.