Hot take: 6300% FALSE: Canada takes gaslighting to a whole new level

What is Gaslighting?

It’s that workmate who, when called out on their racist behaviour, retorts, “You’re being too sensitive: this has NOTHING to do with race.”

It’s that casual date who shows up half an hour late to dinner then, when you tell them you’re upset about it, says you’re being ‘clingy’. 

Or, it’s that country that stole your land by making treaties with you that they refuse to honour, they sell you on ‘economic reconciliation’ so you can share a pittance of the fortunes they’re minting by violating your homeland.

Wait… one of these is NOT like the others. 

But you get the idea: gaslighting is the dark art of manipulating someone into questioning their own perception of reality. And boy, has the Canadian oil and gas industry ever got it mastered.

From greenwashing dirty LNG as ‘green energy’ to spinning taxpayer bailouts of Big Oil as ‘investment’, fossil fuel lobbyists and government spin doctors have been selling the world the idea that somehow, because of our great democracy and human rights record, what we pull out of the boreal forests of Alberta is not climate killing sludge, but is, in fact “ETHICAL OIL”. 

Ethical Oil. That’s up there with oxymorons like “Fresh Frozen” and “Military Intelligence”. 

Today, we found out the filthy truth that has been hiding in plain sight: Canadian tar sands pollution is up to 6,300% higher than what industry and government have reported. That’s a lie as infuriating as learning your mother put ‘a little bit of pork’ in your vegan girlfriend’s cabbage rolls. 

But seriously: this is gaslighting on a mind-bending scale. 

6,300% is a number that brings home the catastrophic consequences of squeezing out every last drop of petroleum from an Earth whose fragile systems are beginning to collapse. 

And: it amounts to what is shaping up to be the biggest industrial cover up in Canada’s history. 

Writing in the journal Science, scientists have confirmed what Indigenous communities have known — and been calling attention to — for generations. Not only are communities in and around the Alberta tar sands suffering from rare and deadly cancers, their food sources — those same moose and fish they were promised protection for in  Treaties — are so contaminated with arsenic, cadmium and methylmercury, they often reek of burning plastic when they hit the frying pan.  

This week, RAVEN’s Campaigns Director Leslie Anne St. Amour is in  to Alberta visiting with Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Surrounded in all directions by oil and gas wells, the Nation is suing the government because the cumulative impacts of rampant extractivism have made their traditional way of life — guaranteed to them by Treaty — impossible. Their goal? To slow tar sands expansion by forcing regulators to look at the cumulative effects of industry: not one mine, not one pipeline, but all of them, all at once. 

photo by Leslie Anne St. Amour

We know now that the pencil pushers at Enbridge and Chevron are willing and able to fudge the numbers… spectacularly. Indigenous Peoples like Beaver Lake Cree Nation are not going to rely on those same sources to assure them that the water is safe to drink, or moose meat is safe to eat. 

No: just as it’s up to First Nations in Canada to absorb the worst of the pollution caused by reckless industry, it’s ALSO up to them to take to the courts and say, “enough.”

While Canada’s gaslighting isn’t surprising, the extent of it IS revealing. This is the curtain being drawn back to expose the filthy reality of the Alberta tar sands. Not “ethical”. Not “economic reconciliation”. The truth is: at the black heart of the oil fields of Alberta lies flagrant environmental racism at its most cruel and corrupt. 

Bravo, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, for your brave and unwavering Defend the Treaties challenge. Together, we can take down the Goliath that is dirty oil. 

Stay tuned for stories and insights from Beaver Lake Cree over the next week. And if you can, donate to Beaver Lake Cree Nations’ historic Defend the Treaties challenge. 


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