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Indians: Oil sands development 'genocide'

EDMONTON, Alberta, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A Canadian Indian rights advocate claims oil sands development in Alberta is akin to genocide from water contamination on reservation lands.

Speaking at a conference in Edmonton Sunday, Mike Mercredi, 33, said death rates at the Fort Chipewyan reservation's 1,200 people 400 miles northeast of Edmonton were on the rise, the Edmonton Sun reported.

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He said the community used to go for long periods between funerals, but they were almost a monthly occurrence now, with 108 deaths on record since 1990. He criticized government reports that ruled out water contamination, as he said the people who got sick were never interviewed.

Referring to the oil sands development upstream from the reservation on the Athabasca River, Mercredi said it was akin to the decimating smallpox epidemics when Europeans first arrived in the Prairies.

"We're facing another form of biological warfare and it's killing us off," he told the conference. "It's genocide. They know it's there but they're denying it."

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