Alberta to probe aboriginal health near oilsands

The Alberta government has agreed to study the health of aboriginal people and their communities downstream from the province's oilsands developments.

The Alberta government has agreed to study the health of aboriginal people and their communities downstream from the province's oilsands developments.

The province will study the health of communities downstream from Alberta's oilsands plants. (Canadian Press)

"Our Chief and Council, in partnership with leadership from the Fort McKay Metis Community, have expressed for quite some time now that there is a great need to conduct a health assessment study of our community," said Raymond Powder, deputy chief of the Fort McKay First Nation. 

"We need to better understand the state of our people’s health, and how the environment around us is impacting our health, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually."

Concerns were first raised in 2006 about elevated cancer rates in communities near the oilsands mines. A provincial government study released in 2009 confirmed the trend and recommended more analysis into possible causes.

It will be the first time ever the province has studied the health of an entire community.

"This community-driven initiative will help determine the health priorities of Fort McKay residents," said Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

"The collaborative process will result in development of a plan to ensure the right mix of services and programs to improve the overall health of the community."