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


How the Federal Parties Rate on Climate

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | October 7, 2015

Short Version: What You Need to Know  Conservatives:  The Conservatives are at least clear: they don’t even pretend to care about climate change or that they will really do anything about it. Liberal:  The Liberal platform is...

Who uses renewable energy in Ontario? One day...all of us!

Blog entry by Mary Ambrose | September 29, 2015

Watching the federal election campaign unfold it’s clear that we must remind candidates that without a safe and healthy environment for generations to come, nothing else really matters. To do that, we have to reduce (not increase!)...

Building a Solar Dream in a Tar Sands Nightmare

Blog entry by Melina Laboucan-Massimo | September 23, 2015

After dealing with three decades of intensive oil, gas, logging, fracking and tar sands exploitation in our homeland, my community of Little Buffalo decided to forge a new future and become powered by the sun.   First Nation...

Why was environment a key issue in first federal election debate?

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | August 7, 2015

The first debate in Canada’s federal election campaign was fun to watch. Moderator Paul Wells asked good, tough questions and the candidates had time to respond to each other. What really set this debate apart, however, was how the...

BREAKING: Greenpeace US activists stop Shell vessel as it attempts to leave port for...

Blog entry by Ryan Schleeter | July 29, 2015

The next big step in the fight to save the Arctic is happening right now. Greenpeace US activists have suspended themselves from St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon to block a Shell Oil vessel from leaving port for Alaskan waters.

1 - 5 of 239 results.