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Hundreds of people from every corner of society filled Parliament Hill on a warm morning this week to tell the Stephen Harper government that the tar sands development in Alberta is wrong. Representatives from Labour and Aboriginal organizations, from social justice, faith, and environmental groups; members of youth and senior’s organizations, along with average citizens, passers-by and even curious tourists assembled for the largest demonstration yet in Ottawa opposing Harper’s energy and environmental policies.

Protestors voiced concern for the devastating impact the tar sands have on Aboriginal lands, destroying traditional hunting grounds, contaminating the water and contributing to serious health problems, such as elevated rates of cancer in downstream Aboriginal communities.

Environmentally, the tar sands have contaminated ground water, destroyed boreal forests all while spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helping to keep Canada and other nations reliant on non-renewable sources of energy.  It is estimated that 6 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from the oil extraction in the tar sands alone.  Add to this that tar sands oil is incredibly energy intensive to refine and many people from all sectors of society are calling for an end to this form of reckless development.

The proposed XL pipeline from Alberta to the United States – which the Harper government has approved but the Obama government is still considering – is also highly contentious due to environmental risks and the false notion that tar sands oil is “ethical”.

Dozens of people were arrested at the protest, including Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians and David Coles, National President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.