FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - A woman who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban landmines is leading a delegation of women on a trip from the oilsands in northern Alberta to the coast of B.C. to get a female perspective on energy and pipeline development.
Jody Williams, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, will begin a week-long series of meetings along the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline route on Tuesday in Fort McMurray.
The trip is being organized by the group, Nobel Women's Initiative, an Ottawa-based organization of women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize and advocate women's rights.
Williams could be stepping into a metaphorical minefield on her first day. Tuesday's itinerary includes a tour of Suncor's oilsands operations near Fort McMurray, and one of the group's early meetings is with Melissa Blake, who's the mayor of the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which encompasses the booming oilsands city.
Liz Bernstein, the executive director of Nobel Women's Initiative, says the group fully expects to hear views in support of development, as well as those that oppose it.
"It's an important source of livelihood for a lot of people here. And I'm sure we'll hear all kinds of perspectives. And so we'll be listening to all of them before forming any of our recommendation at the end of our visit," said Bernstein, who arrived in Fort McMurray on Sunday.
The delegation also includes Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, Kenyan environmentalist Ikal Angelei, corporate executive Chris Page and climate scientist Marianne Douglas from the University of Alberta.
Enbridge Inc.'s proposed pipeline would ship bitumen from Alberta's oilsands across B.C. to tankers heading to Asian markets.
Williams, who was scheduled to arrive in Fort McMurray late Monday and was unavailable to comment, said in a video on the Nobel Women's Initiative website that she hoped that the construction of the pipeline isn't a certainty.
"Unfortunately, like in too many situations of crisis around the world, the women and their children are the ones who suffer the most when their environment is destroyed. So our delegation is going to go and look at what is happening in the possible expansion of the tarsands to their communities and the women's perspective on why they don't want to see that happen," Williams says in the video.
"That's our contribution that's a little bit different than from other people who are working together to stop the tarsands and to stop the destruction of our planet."
Bernstein says that her group was invited by a number of community organizations along the route who she says felt the concerns of women weren't being discussed during the debate on whether or not to approve the pipeline.
She says she's not sure, yet, what the specific concerns of women will be. But she says her group has found from it's experiences in other countries that women are often affected differently than men by issues such as climate change.
"Women are the majority of the world's small-scale farmers who do produce most of the world's food. So for example, crop failures mean harder work for them and their families may have less to eat," Bernstein explains.
She also says women tend to die in higher numbers than men in natural disasters, which she says are on the rise. And in conflicts, which often arise when water becomes scarce, she says women are frequently the victims of violence.
The next stage of hearings on the pipeline plan also begin Tuesday in Prince George, B.C. Those hearings, and others set for Prince Rupert, B.C. will focus on environmental protection and emergency preparedness.
Enbridge vice-president Janet Holder said last week the company is poised to show British Columbians the Northern Gateway pipeline can bring prosperity to the province while still protecting the environment.
Holder said protecting people and the environment is the company's top priority, which is why it's brought in improvements to make what she calls an already safe project even safer.
The Nobel Women's Initiative says it will present recommendations from its trip at a news conference in Vancouver on Oct. 16.
Earlier on HuffPost:
10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP
The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>
9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980
Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed
Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.
Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves
Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>
5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.
One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry
Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands
Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat
Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?
The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.