Friday, September 17, 2010

Ethical oil

What, a right-wing lawyer from Calgary shilling for the oil sands? Say it isn't so! But since Ezra Levant has introduced the notion of ethics into the discussion, let's take a closer look. Is it ethical to cause massive, life-threatening pollution? You decide.

How do you like your fish, Ezra? If I were you, I'd eat well upstream of oil sands development in the Athabasca River area. Unfortunately, however, the locals around
Fort Chipewyan don't have that luxury.

I wrote about Fort Chipewyan almost three years ago. The topic then was not fish, but people--dying of rare cancers in unusual numbers. The local physician who blew the whistle on this was subsequently threatened
with having his medical licence revoked by the Alberta government's Health and Wellness department and Health Canada.

The government persecution of Dr. John O'Connor went on for years, but he was ultimately exonerated of such foolish charges as "causing a mistrust of government" (where would that leave Levant?) and then exonerated again when a final bogus charge of causing "undue alarm" was dropped late last year. O'Connor was in fact vindicated in his original findings by an Alberta Cancer Board study in 2009 that confirmed higher-than-average incidences of cancer in the area.

The mutant fish seem to be a bigger issue in the media than are the people of Fort Chipewyan, who are mostly First Nations. But if that's what it takes to get a federal review of Alberta's flawed pollution monitoring system, then so be it.

"Ethical oil?" An oxymoron. And I'll take a pass on the fish, thanks.

UPDATE: Here's Ezra in meltdown mode on the oil sands issue, swearing and namecalling and generally carrying on like a lout. But on another subject, he's become uncharacteristically tongue-tied.

ADDENDUM: (September 21) Here is the 2009 investigative report
on Dr. John O'Connor by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. An Alberta government official suggested to me in an email that it is different in content from the account of it to which I linked.

Indeed, the report does fall somewhat short of an "exoneration," as widely reported. In addition, Alberta Health and Wellness was never a complainant. Finally, all four charges against him were actually dealt with in 2009, in this report. Two were dismissed; two were upheld, but the College made it clear that it did not believe that any penalty should be imposed.

I find that the issues of email communication and Dr. O'Connor's alleged blocking of access to patient files, as referenced in the report, appear murkier than the College seems willing to admit.
But Rashomon rides again. Read the report and judge for yourselves.

The main issue, in any case, should not be lost. Dr. O'Connor has received fair and due credit for raising the alarm. An Alberta Cancer Board study in 2009, as noted above, revealed abnormally high rates of cancer in Fort Chip. And another study, looking at the pollution of the area more generally, has concluded that oil sands development is flooding the Athabaska River and its tributaries with carcinogens. Whatever Dr. O'Connor's errors along the way, he has been vindicated: and "ethical oil" remains an oxymoron.


crusher said...

Should read: It seems that a university education in today's world is not what it used to be. My bad. More and better editing, less daydreaming. My apologies and have a nice day.

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