First Nations chiefs criticize Alberta premier's oilsands tailings spill comments

First Nations leaders say Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is minimizing the effect of two releases of oilsands tailings water near lands they harvest from.

Chief Billy-Joe Tuccaro of the Mikisew Cree First Nation says Smith's statement that none of the tailings from an Imperial Oil mine entered local waterways is, at best, premature.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says the spill is much more than the failure of communications that Smith has suggested.

Adam says Smith is trying to minimize a spill that sent 5.3 million litres of industrial wastewater into the environment, in addition to tailings seepage that has gone on for nine months and still continues.

Earlier this week, Smith blamed Imperial for being slow to release information about the spills from the Kearl mine, saying that resulted in the spread of misinformation.

Tuccaro calls her comments "very concerning," saying Mikisew monitors are now on the site and that trust has been broken between his First Nation, Imperial and the Alberta Energy Regulator.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2023.

The Canadian Press