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 calls for full investigation after releasing FOI documents on bird deaths...

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | May 1, 2015 1 comment

Greenpeace released internal document and evidence gathered by Alberta Energy Regulator (AER)  investigators today as part of an effort to get the AER to re-open its investigation into a November 2014 incident when at least 94 birds...

Harper’s deafening Earth Day Climate Silence

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 23, 2015 1 comment

“This is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore.” ~Barack Obama Yesterday talking about the urgent need to act on a growing climate crisis President Barack Obama said the statement above in his Earth Day speech . ...

A Historic Day in Quebec City to Act On Climate

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 12, 2015

Yesterday I marched in the streets of Quebec City with 25,000 other people demanding that Canada act on climate . The march was the largest environmental march in Quebec City’s history and was one of the largest climate...

The next step is Quebec City, April 11th. I hope to see you there.

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | April 6, 2015

On April 11 th I will be in the streets of Quebec City . I will be there with thousands of others, from different walks of life, that have come from coast to coast to coast to demand action on climate change . The warning...

ONE PIPELINE DOWN, MORE TO GO: April 11th, Quebec City Act on Climate!

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | February 25, 2015

Yesterday Barack Obama  vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill . He didn’t do it because he’s always wanted to be a leader in the fight to stop climate change. He did it because of the power of people. He did it because of people like...

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