Residents of one Canadian town are engaged in a David and Goliath-style battle over the dirtiest oil project ever known.
The small town of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta is facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the Tar Sands project, which may be the tipping point for oil development in Canada.
The local community has experienced a spike in cancer cases and dire studies have revealed the true consequences of "dirty oil".
Gripped in a Faustian pact with the American energy consumer, the Canadian government is doing everything it can to protect the dirtiest oil project ever known. In the following account, filmmaker Tom Radford describes witnessing a David and Goliath struggle.
I shot my first film, Death of a Delta, in Fort Chipewyan in 1972. I shot it with a hand crank Bolex camera with a maximum 26-second wind. I had to make sure people knew what they were talking about. There was no time for red herrings. In our new film, To the Last Drop, the latest in digital HD and Cineflex cameras capture the landscape of northern Alberta as never before.
But while technology can go through multiple revolutions in 49 years, the issue that drives both our films remains the same: the rights of downstream communities, and the need to recognise those rights, no matter how powerful their upstream neighbours.
Death of a Delta documented the fight of Fort Chipewyan to have a voice in the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Peace River, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. At stake was not only the survival of the oldest community in Alberta, but the protection of a World Heritage site, the Peace Athabasca Delta, a convergence of migratory flyways and the greatest concentration of waterfowl on the continent.
In the David and Goliath struggle that ensued, David won. Water was released from the dam and water levels in the Delta returned to normal. The unique ecology of the region was saved. The town survived.
Today, that same David, the collective will of the thousand residents of Fort Chipewyan, is fighting an even more imposing Goliath. The Alberta oil sands is arguably now the world's largest construction project. Its expansion will have an estimated $1.7 trillion impact on the Canadian economy over the coming decades. An area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be affected by industrial activity.MORE