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Largest Environmental Groups in North America Declare Support for First Nations Tar Sands Healing Walk

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Jun 20, 2013) - Environmental groups from across North America are standing in solidarity with First Nations and Metis communities impacted by tar sands development as they prepare for the 4th annual Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, AB on July 6. Organized by the Keepers of the Athabasca and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the event is expected to draw hundreds of people from across Canada and the US.

In a statement released today, Greenpeace, Environmental Defence, Forest Ethics, Sierra Club, Equiterre and the Council of Canadians from Canada and Natural Resources Defence Council, Sierra Club US, and 350.org from the United States announced their support for the First Nations and Metis's tireless work to protect culture, environment and climate from the reckless expansion of the tar sands.

"This is more than an environmental issue, this is a human rights issue," said Tzeporah Berman, a leading environmentalist and author. "No one should have to live in a place where company profits are considered more important than the health of local communities. It is not okay that 300 million liters of toxic sludge a day is being spewed into unlined pits that government reports show are leaking."

"Along with representatives from other environmental groups, I am travelling to Fort McMurray to walk with the First Nations along the 14 kilometer road through the tar sands," said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. "It is important for us to be part of an event that is not a protest, but an opportunity to think about healing the land and the people it supports and I feel honoured to take part."

"It's empowering to know that so many people are coming and supporting us," said Jesse Cardinal of the Keepers of the Athabasca. "Sometime it feels like no one is paying attention to what is happening here but this year I think the country will be watching the Healing Walk more closely and will begin to understand what it is like to live with toxic contamination every day."

Five hundred people are expected for event this year, making it the biggest Healing Walk to date. It is also a public event, open to people from all walks of life. Participants will gather on July 5 to meet and learn about the tar sands expansion and how it has affected First Nations. On July 6, people will gather on the Syncrude Road north of Fort McMurray to walk 14 kilometres along the highway, past some of the oldest and largest tar sands mines.

"Many people in the region feel that tar sands expansion is spiraling out of control," said Melina Laboucan - Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation and a Greenpeace tar sands campaigner. "The issue is particularly complex for First Nations communities that face high unemployment and few viable alternatives for economic development. Many communities are seeking ways to become more self-sufficient while balancing cultural preservation. There is one thing that we can all agree on when it comes to the devastation we are now seeing in the area-he time has come to begin the healing of the people and the land."

To read more about the Healing Walk and to sign a petition urging Minister Oliver and Premier Redford to attend this year's walk, visit www.healingwalk.org.

To view the statement supported by the environmental groups visit