Yakeleya calls for water summit after news of leaking oil sand waste

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya. (File photo/CKLB).

The Dene national chief is calling for a water summit after learning that toxic oil sands waste in Alberta is leaking near the Athabasca River.

This comes after the Narwhal published an article confirming the oil sands stored in tailings ponds near Alberta’s Athabasca River, are leaking. 

“In 2017, Environmental Defence Canada, the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council and Daniel T’seleie, K’asho Got’ine chief negotiator and a member of the Indigenous Climate Action steering committee, brought forward a complaint alleging the Canadian government was failing to enforce the federal Fisheries Act when it comes to the leaking tailings ponds,” the piece reads.

The report found the leakage dates back to 1973 and Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya adds there is evidence the waste will seep into water flowing into the Northwest Territories.

“That’s been 47 years of leakage…  We really don’t know the effects of it, ” Yakeleya says.

Yakeleya says Dene Nation is calling for a water summit that would gather northern leaders to discuss the subject.  

“Water is life and the polluters need to be held to account and pay for the potential damage,” Yakeleya says. “Above all, we have to protect our people.”

He warned if the situation isn’t addressed, northern communities could find themselves in similar situation to southern Indigenous communities that still lack clean drinking water.

“We see down south where communities are waiting years, if not decades, to have clean drinking water,” he says.

He adds, it is the responsibility of elected officials to recognize northerners are being put at risk. 

“The Dene are calling on the Government of Alberta, government of Canada to stop poisoning us,” he says. 

Going forward Yakeleya says he wants leaders to discuss the Transboundary Water Agreement and ensure there are stricter regulations protecting water slowing into the NWT. 

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He is happy to call the Northwest Territories home and is always listening for stories that matter to the community. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com