Local physician reaffirms need for oil sands health study in Fort Chipewyan

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Local physician reaffirms need for oil sands health study in Fort Chipewyan

The provincial and federal governments are willfully neglecting the potential health impacts of the oil sands, according to Fort McMurray's Dr. John O'Connor.

O'Connor is, once again calling for an evaluation of elevated cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan after the recent collapse of a study slated for the hamlet.

"It's amazing, given the publicity and the impact that it's having on the credibility of Alberta and Canada when they say they're doing what they're doing what they're doing, and they're clearly not, there's independent monitoring supposed to be going on, there's nothing, there's no panel, there's been lot's of talk, they've spent so some much time and energy on spin, publicity and image, that they've actually done nothing at the grassroots level."

O'Connor says the provincial and federal governments are to blame for continued delays in medical analysis in communities downstream of the oil sands and the Mikisew Cree First Nation were right to walk away from a government-funded community study.

"We've got cancers, we've got a number of independent scientific studies that have been done that have indicated clearly that there is an environmental impact, which flies in the face of the blatant lies that government and industry have supported over the years, saying that there is no impact, well there is an impact and you just haven't looked or you've deliberately averted your gaze."

Although the Mikisew Cree cancelled their participation in the research, Athabasca Chipewyan and the Fort McKay Metis remain committed to the study.

O'Connor says that research, led by University of Calgary sociology professor Cora Voyageur will only focus on the cultural impacts of industry, and not include any medical data.

O'Connor is hopeful that with further negotiation between the bands, Fort Chipewyan can be included in a separate medical analysis set to get underway in Fort McKay this Spring.

A government-funded study, tabled in 2009 confirmed that Fort Chipewyan is experiencing elevated cancer rates, but fell short of identifying a concise link between the disease and industry pollution.
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