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


Greenpeace demands action on abuse of activists in Calgary Remand Centre

Feature story | August 5, 2011 at 15:41

Calgary — Greenpeace today called for investigations into the abuse of Greenpeace activists last summer by Correctional Peace Officers in the Calgary Remand Centre.

Ontario’s Stop the Tar Sands Tour

Blog entry by Natalie Caine | August 4, 2011 5 comments

Greenpeace volunteers have been making noise across Southern Ontario about Canada’s biggest scandal - the Alberta Tar Sands.   Equipped with Greenpeace’s newest publication, GP IN TOUCH magazine, we distributed the spoof tabloid to...

Canada's new politics: clean vs dirty energy

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | July 22, 2011 2 comments

The ghost of Bruce Carson , the scandal-plagued former member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle and subsequently political quarterback for the oil industry’s push for a national energy strategy dominated by the tar sands, was...

Do Energy Ministers (except Ontario) really think 6 degrees of global warming is a...

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | July 20, 2011

Alberta pulled a fast one on the other energy ministers at yesterday’s ( oil-industry sponsored ) Energy Ministers’ meeting in Kananaskis. They managed to get most of the other provinces to endorse a strategy that calls for more tar...

Big Oil paid $180,000 for the Energy Ministers meeting on the tarsands and all...

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | July 14, 2011

When Canada’s federal and provincial energy ministers sit down on Monday to talk about a national energy strategy, a big chunk of the tab will be picked up by Canada’s biggest oil companies .  Since we can’t match Exxon or...

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