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As Long as the Sun Shines

This story is about how the world’s largest and most destructive industrial project is impacting Indigenous communities. But it is also about so much more than that. The oil sands are just one example of how centuries of Canadian settler colonialism is now manifesting itself. Today the poison is fed with sugar. Under the banners of ‘economic growth’ and ‘progress’ Indigenous territory all over Canada is leased, occupied and destroyed by various resource-based industries.

The United Nations recently concluded that Indigenous communities in Canada are disproportionately exposed to toxic substances through industrial developments across the country. 

In Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, locals describe this process as a ‘slow-motion cultural genocide’. As Long as the Sun Shines zooms in on the daily, intimate destruction which takes place in the shadow of an industry that is large enough to be seen from space. Intense forest fires, driven by climate change, bring challenges never before seen. Rare cancers, birth defects, lupus and other ailments occur in Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay at alarmingly high rates.

After decades of advocacy, the communities have yet to receive a comprehensive, public health study that is free of industry influence. Meanwhile, people are dying - slowly, quietly, behind closed doors. Families are being irreparably wounded while the industry lobbyists continue to say ‘prove it’. 

The thesis of this work is that the burden of proof should not fall upon the shoulders of people who are affected by toxic industries. It should be the polluters who have to prove that their developments are not causing harm. Another crucial component is to defuse the victim stereotype which is often painted onto Indigenous Peoples.

Through First Nations leadership and grassroots organising, these communities are giving everything to fight back against an industrial onslaught from all sides. Indigenous Peoples know that their land is intrinsically linked to their identity, spirituality and survival. They are also seeing that their communities are slowly being forced into an impossible compromise; one where they must work for the very industries which are destroying the lands which have sustained their ancestors for thousands of years.
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