Please stand up for Canada

Dear editor,
What is Stephen Harper afraid of? Rivers that turn black and run into the sea?

Dear editor,What is Stephen Harper afraid of?Rivers that turn black and run into the sea? Birds falling from a heavy sky? People fleeing a toxic land?Or maybe Harper is most afraid of — tar sands oil being labelled dirty.I am writing because I am afraid of the Harper government’s plans to build the Northern Gateway pipeline straight through the Rocky Mountains. And the Great Bear Rainforest — all to facilitate the expansion and export of tar sands oil, which Environment Canada identifies as our “fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.”With all the changes that Harper is making…• Gutting the fisheries act;• Trashing the environmental assessment act;• Overruling the National Energy Board;• Barring environmental groups from hearings;• Barring Canadian citizens from hearings (unless they live or work in the area);• Speeding up environmental reviews;• Slashing Environment Canada’s budget;• Silencing scientists (and anyone who disagrees with the Harper government);• Lifting the 40-year ban on tankers on B.C.’s coast….we could be hit with some major environmental catastrophes.The Harper government claims they are doing “responsible resource development.” But a “secret” Environment Canada report, released under access to information laws, shows that to be false.(See May 2011 report states that contamination of the Athabasca River is a “high profile concern.” It cited recent studies which suggest that “elevated levels of pollutants near mining sites including hydrocarbons and heavy metals raises questions about possible effects on health of wildlife and downstream communities.” The government report also said that current data cannot generate a “big picture” view of impacts on the ecosystem. And that “oil sands development will continue to put pressure on vulnerable species.”Surprisingly, Minister Joe Oliver — the man who has travelled across Canada pitching the need to speed up environmental reviews — said he’d never seen the secret government report and didn’t know whether the fish from the Athabasca River were safe to eat. (When pressed, he admitted that he had heard about deformed and contaminated fish in the news.)Why is the government looking the other way? Is this ‘environmental racism’ as the First Nations contend?Does this mean that poisoning downstream communities and wildlife, is just the “cost of doing business” in Canada?The government and the oil industry need to be held accountable for the pollution from oil sands mining. Canadian taxpayers and oil sands investors are at risk of class-action lawsuits if we look the other way.In less than two weeks, Bill-C38 could be passed. If it passes, it would undo decades of environmental law and give the oil industry free rein to build pipelines and expand the oil sands, largely without input or double-checks from environmental scientists, environmental advocates or public participation — from people like you and me. Bill C-38 is a dangerous bill that will change the face of Canada.Canada’s environmental international standing will be dragged further through the proverbial mud as the federal government invites the oil industry to treat the natural environment in a manner similar to standards applied in developing nations to foster economic growth.Tell the oil industry and the Harper government that doing business in Canada must include protecting our air, land, water, wildlife and people from oil pollution.Please stand up for Canada.Sharon Daly,Comox

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