Tar sands

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal Forest north of Fort McMurray. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

Greenpeace is calling on oil companies and the Canadian government to stop the tar sands and end the industrialization of a vast area of Indigenous territories, forests and wetlands in northern Alberta.

The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage. These processes pollute the Athabasca River, lace the air with toxins and convert farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal forest are clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs of the tar sands. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life is threatened. Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face a housing crisis in northern Alberta.

Enbridge Inc.'s tar sands tanker pipeline proposal threatens to allow a 30 per cent expansion in tar sands development. Enbridge's tar sands pipeline would span 1,170 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta to Kitimat, in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. Over the past decade, Enbridge's own pipelines spilled an average of more than once a week. The pipeline would cross over 1,000 rivers and streams and the Rocky Mountains on the way to B.C.'s pristine coastline. The pipeline would bring more than 200 crude oil tankers through some of the world's most treacherous waters each year.

How Greenpeace works to stop the tar sands

  • Pressuring governments: The governments of Alberta and Canada actively promote tar sands development and ignore international commitments Canada has made to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Through direct action, we draw international attention to government climate crimes in the tar sands and demand change.
  • Educating shareholders: We meet with Canadian and international shareholders in oil companies and discuss the investment risks associated with the tar sands.
  • Working with impacted communities: We reach out to landowners and First Nations affected by the tar sands and stand in solidarity with them.

The latest updates


Musqueam First Nation, 26 days and counting

Blog entry by Stephanie Goodwin | May 28, 2012 1 comment

The Musqueam First Nation have maintained a 24-hour watch over the Marpole Midden village site for the past 26 days to stop further excavation and removal of ancestral remains.  Greenpeace has been down to the Vancouver condo...

New York City imports tar sands resistance

Blog entry by Stephanie Goodwin | May 13, 2012 1 comment

On May 8, a book published along Enbridge's proposed tar sands pipeline route launched in New York City. The Enpipe Line: 70,000+ kilometres of poetry written in resistance to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal , was...

Premier Redford: Belief in climate change requires action on climate change

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 25, 2012

Well, the dust has settled and the Progressive Conservative party has won another majority government. Only this time, for the first time in my life, it was surprising. No one at the Greenpeace office will be cheering the...

BREAKING: Lake of Fire discovered!!!

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 17, 2012 1 comment

Following a rigorous, non-scientific research effort, Greenpeace Canada believes that it has discovered the " Lake of Fire " that is currently a very hot topic in the Alberta election.  The Lake of Fire appears to be a large...

Wildrose in Denial

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 16, 2012

A day after journalists started noticing the leading parties aren’t talking about tar sands or the environment in the Alberta election, and two days after a Wildrose candidate wrote about how gays and lesbians will ‘suffer the rest...

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