Women in the world - Melina Laboucan-Massimo

Women in the world - Sharing the stories of inspiring woman around the world taking action on climate change.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a long-time Indigenous and environmental activist. Since 2009, Melina has been working as a tar sands campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

Melina is a Lubicon Cree from Northern Alberta who knows the reality of the tar sands too well.

For three decades major oil and gas developments have been taking place on Lubicon Cree territory, an area of approximately 10,000 square kilometres of low-lying trees, rivers plains and wetlands in Northern Alberta, Canada. There has been no consent from the Lubicon people for these developments, and no recognition of their Aboriginal land rights.

So far, 2600 oil and gas wells have been licensed for operation. According to Amnesty International this means more than five wells for every Lubicon person, all so the world's biggest oil companies can gain access to the tar sands. Oil sand projects are amongst the most pollution intensive on earth, requiring mammoth machines that carve into the earth to excavate it, and afterwards extensive processing and refining to make the thick bitumen into oil thin enough to flow through pipes.

All this comes at a heavy environmental price, in terms of climate change, and especially on the territories of the Lubicon Cree.

Melina, having grown up in the tar sands region, has witnessed first-hand the impacts of oil sands development on her Nation’s people, culture, and land. She has made it her mission to spread awareness about the reality of the tar sands, and share her families story with the world.

Before these industrial developments began, the Lubicon Cree survived by hunting, fishing, and trapping throughout the region. People lived off the land, which is now crisscrossed by more than 2400 km of oil and gas pipelines. In 2011, one of these pipelines broke near the Lubicon community of Littler Buffalo, spilling an estimated 28,000 barrels of crude oil into the surrounding wetlands. It was one of the largest oil spills in Alberta history.

"Our way of life is being replaced by industrial landscapes...and it’s very much a crisis situation," said Melina in a 2012 article .

Major increases in health problems of the Lubicon people are also linked to the tar-sands developments she says, “What we’re seeing happening to the communities around these projects are elevated rates of cancers, as well as elevated rates of respiratory illnesses like emphysema and asthma because there’s air quality issues, there’s contamination to the water, destruction and complete fragmentation of the Boreal forest.”

Today, more than 70% percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for future resource development, including oil sands extraction.

That's why Melina Laboucan-Massimo works tirelessly to get the word out about the devastation happening in the Lubicon communities.

-See this video address from Melina for more information about the detrimental effects of the Alberta tar sands on her community.

*Header photo credit  to Jiri Rezac

  • A bit more: Melina Laboucan-Massimo has been working as an advocate for Indigenous rights for the past 10 years. She has written articles and produced a short documentary for Redwire Media Society covering topics ranging from the tar sands to inherent treaty rights and cultural appropriation. She has studied and worked in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada, with a focus on Indigenous rights and culture, resource extraction and international diplomacy. Before joining Greenpeace as a tar sands campaigner in Alberta in April 2009, she was pursuing her Masters in Environmental Studies at York University. Melina has campaigned to raise awareness about the recent oil spill in the Peace River watershed in Alberta.
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