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Alberta Oil Tar Sands - Cowboys and Indians Protest

Updated on December 31, 2023
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty has 30 years of successful training and work experience in research and analysis, STEM education, history, medicine, and psychology.

Some Oil Tar Sands in Fort McMurray in Alberta Province.
Some Oil Tar Sands in Fort McMurray in Alberta Province. | Source

In the photo above, the yellow structures are foundations of pyramids of sulfur, stockpiled because costs to sell it are too steep. In the rear is the discard dump pond, held at bay by the largest dam in the world.

A Question of Alberta Tar Sands

A question was asked by HubPages member dellea: "What is Alberta Secessionism?"

What we find is a large political movement in Canada and a plan for some provinces to move out of the Confederation.

Some Americans do not like the prospect of bringing tar sands from Alberta to the United States with their chemical dangers and some Canadians don't like the diseases caused by their own tar sands.

Fort McMurray, Near Tar Island

Fort McMurray, Alberta CA:
Fort McMurray, AB, Canada

get directions

An Oil Transport Pipeline - easily corroded by oil tar sands.
An Oil Transport Pipeline - easily corroded by oil tar sands. | Source

Americans might be stunned to know the number of Canadian Provinces that have threatened secession from the Confederation.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Calgary in Alberta at night.Calgary by day.
Calgary in Alberta at night.
Calgary in Alberta at night. | Source
Calgary by day.
Calgary by day. | Source

Battle Cry: "Free Alberta, Stop Stolen Revenues"

A portion of Americans might be stunned to know the number of Canadian Provinces that have threatened secession from the Confederation.

In traveling to Canada, I have heard about this situation applying to Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec

We in the US are accustomed to Texans protesting and speaking of their own leaving in the future, but not to Canadians planning such a move.

Canada became a confederation in 1867, with western provinces joining later (Alberta, 1905) and people in the western region of the confederation promoting secession fewer than 100 years later. We remember, though, that the American Civil War occurred in fewer than 100 years after our New Nation began.

Scenes of Alberta Province

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Horse sled at Lake Louise.Hotel in AlbertaThe Badlands.
Horse sled at Lake Louise.
Horse sled at Lake Louise. | Source
Hotel in Alberta
Hotel in Alberta
The Badlands.
The Badlands.

The Free Alberta Movement

A movement known as Free Alberta promotes the idea that the province should stop the Canadian Federal Government from using Alberta coal tar sand revenues to prop up other provinces via redistribution of wealth.

A Free Alberta website maintains that Canada added the province to the confederation in order for the federal government to exploit its resources, found few, but came back later to exploit the massive tar sands deposits that cover one third of Alberta (see map below). Further, the site insists that the people of Alberta were disrespected and the province not given control of its own resources until 1930; however, revenues from tar sands were taken by the feds.

A calculator on the website continually updates the amount that the movement feels that the leadership at the national capital in Ottawa has stolen from Alberta revenues. At my last check, the total was increasing by $1,000 Canadian very second or $60,000 Canadian every minute.

Canadians living in Alberta might be able to tell us if all this is true.

People Against Oil Tar Sands

Alberta Is About 1/3 Oil Sands

Athabasca Oil Sands
Athabasca Oil Sands | Source

Reference Map

Alberta, Canada

get directions

Alberta is far from the national capital in Ontario.

Ottawa: Capital of Canada:
Ottawa, ON, Canada

get directions

Alberta Tar Sands and the USA

Short-lived rumors of Alberta joining the United States as a territory and future 51st State will probably not see these events take place.

A primary obstacle in Alberta joining the USA is economic: the growing protest over importing Alberta tar sands via the unfinished Keystone XL Pipeline leg that would transport the material from Alberta all the way down to Texas refineries and bring back processed oil. The line may not be built. Blockades against construction by South Dakota Native Americans and some Nebraska citizens have obstructed the building plan, as have large numbers of other protestors in America.

Legislative processes to OK the completion of the pipeline bogged down and stopped. The reasons for protest are important. Plenty of evidence shows that tar sands in the Cancer Corridor of Alberta and their refinery processes severely sicken people who live near them. In addition, the SD governor waived the required fees for Canadian trucks to bring in the building materials and transport them across a Native American Indian Reservation, without notice of transport to the tribe.

Another reason for protest is that North Dakota Native Americans own vast oil fields in the Bakken Region, have been federally approved for hundreds of additional oil wells, and have plenty of oil to refine already, without the problems of the health and industrial maintenance that tar sands entering our country cause. Plenty of jobs have been created by the Native American and other oil fields of North Dakota to the extent of a giant boom in economy.

Further, oil and gas in additional huge oil fields are extracted to the west of Bakken in the Williston Region. The question put by some protestors is, "How much oil does Texas really need to refine in order to be economically satisfied?"

Thus, at least three reasons protestors hold against bringing the tar sands into USA are sickness and death, disrespect and possible damage to Native American and other properties, and alleged Texas gluttony.

Suppose that both Alberta and Texas secede from their respective countries --

Alberta might come under US federal control as a territory and Texas might be unable to use the north-south Keystone XL Pipeline, at least without paying hefty fees to the federal government that it just left. As is already being accomplished, additional trucks could transport tar sands and oil in place of a pipeline. However, the trucks might encounter additional blockades and protests.

Cree Nation, Tar Sands, and Broken Treaties

The tar sands of Alberta are deposited on the lands of the Cree Nation, a group of over 200,000 individuals in Canada.

These Alberta Cree people are largely the Plains Cree, with about 20 gasoline stations on Northern Alberta native lands. Would income from this source be interrupted, if Alberta left the Confederation?

I am editing a book about the forced relation of Western Native North Americans who were pushed westward and then northward into Alberta and Saskatchewan by white expansion. The bloodshed was unnecessary and ghastly, while many died of smallpox and other diseases as settlers arrived.

Today, many Cree lands were leased to oil companies without due process and without the Canadian Federal Government contacting the Cree about this. One example is the Beaver Creek Cree, who lost 84% of their land in this manner (see Alberta has 45 other native reservations. On how many others did this happen?

A possibility exists that in much of Alberta, the tar sands actually belong to the First Nations and Alberta as a province has no right to them. If that is reality and the Cree press the matter legally, then the province would have no money after leaving Canada (tar sands being the largest revenue producer) and would have no legal access to the tar sands. Secession might become pointless.


Texas and Alberta Are Similar

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Texas State TartanAlberta Provincial TartanTexas State Stone: Petrified PalmwoodAlberta Provincial Stone: Petrified Wood
Texas State Tartan
Texas State Tartan | Source
Alberta Provincial Tartan
Alberta Provincial Tartan | Source
Texas State Stone: Petrified Palmwood
Texas State Stone: Petrified Palmwood | Source
Alberta Provincial Stone: Petrified Wood
Alberta Provincial Stone: Petrified Wood | Source

Alberta Sounds a Lot Like Texas

Material posted on the Free Alberta website shows grievances that are similar in content to those advocating States Rights in the USA, including Texas. Some of these complaints center in the following topics:

  • Gun Control - Alberta is not in favor of it.
  • Forced Bilingualism - Alberta does not want it, because it is expensive to enforce.
  • Property Rights - Should be respected more for Alberta. However, how about the First Nations there? Their land is not being respected.
  • Natural Resources - Alberta entered the Canadian Confederation in 1905, but received no local control over resources until about 1930. Eastern provinces did not have to wait at all.
  • Free Speech
  • Americanism - The website states that Alberta likes America, but feels it handles the brunt of US negative responses to Canadian bigots, who comprise all the rest of Canada.
  • The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) is severely underfunded at only 12% (per Free Alberta) and retirees will have no benefits from it in the near future.
  • Unfair Taxation - The website maintains that Alberta is not permitted to have enough representatives in the Canadian Senate (a non -elected entity) and that taxes are unfairly higher in Western Canada than in the rest of the nation.
  • Unfair Favor and Free Trade rights are given to Eastern Canadian businesses. For example, Eastern Canadians can sell wheat to "whomever they want", while Albertans are arrested for the same action. Free Alberta feels that it is easier to sell products to foreign nations than to other Canadian Provinces.
  • Oil - The website states that Alberta's oil revenues are taken to pay other provinces "equalizing" payments in a redistribution of wealth plan. Americans owned and developed the majority of the Alberta oil patch, and the Canadian Government never helped. The Foreign Investment Review Agency killed American oil involvement in Canadian oil.

Other Concerns:

  • Greenhouse Gases. Alberta tar sand extraction and processing produce significantly increased greenhouse gases as does other oil extraction/refining. Free Alberta feels that this fact is used as an excuse to take Alberta's oil revenues.

Legitimate Concerns to Address

The Province of Alberta and its people, through the Free Alberta website, point out some legitimate complaints concerning unfair taxation and business obstructions. Many of the complaints seem unable to be remedied through government/legal channels.

A big problem seems to be the confiscation of Cree lands without legal due process for Big Oil leases. The province may feel that it will secede and take over the tar sands itself without due process. Free Alberta dies not address this. The Cree need to be paid via a legal agreement or left alone.

If America prohibits the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, then Alberta tar sands will not be traveling to Texas by pipeline, anyway. Truck shipments might be obstructed.

Alberta and Texas have some similarities, yet I think neither will secede from their countries, although some Native North Americans in the USA already have done so (see Lakota Nation).


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Patty Inglish MS


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