Environmental activists, indigenous groups and hundreds of other concerned citizens are heading to the "heart of destruction" in Northern Alberta Friday to conduct a healing ceremony for the land and the people suffering from the toxic and globally devastating expansion of tar sands mining.
Led by First Nations leaders and the Keepers of the Athabasca, the fourth annual "Tar Sands Healing Walk"—taking place July 5 and 6—will lead participants past the toxic lakes of tailings wastewater and massive mining scars along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta as an opportunity to witness first-hand the rampant destruction taking place.
Following a series of workshops scheduled for Friday, over 500 participants from Canada and the US, including notable environmentalists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, will take part in the march, walking 8 miles along what is now called "the sacrifice zone."
The idea is not to “have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry," said Clayton Thomas-Muller, one of the workshop presenters and a coordinator with the Idle No More movement.
"This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy." -Naomi Klein
And as the organizers wrote on the event website:
This is a different kind of event. Everyone is asked to participate but please leave your protest signs and organizational banners at home. Come and see the impacts of the tar sands and be a part of the healing. First Nations leaders will conduct a traditional healing ceremony on the walk but everyone is encouraged to bring their own spirituality, their own customs, and their own beliefs.
"This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy," author and activist Naomi Klein told the Guardian ahead of the walk.
The organizers hope the event will draw much-needed attention to both the ecological and community destruction which has occured as a result of, what activist Sarah Harmer refers to as, the "largest unsustainable development project on the planet."
"The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food," says Jesse Cardinal, co-organizer from the Keepers of the Athabasca.
The Keepers have also sent invitations, signed by over 7,000 people, calling on Canadian Minister for Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Premiere of Alberta Allison Redford to participate in the ceremony though no response has been given.