Student Oil Sands Delegation organizers

For Andrew Fehr and the rest of the organizers of the U of A Oil Sands Student Delegation, organizing tours to Fort McMurray isn’t about pushing an agenda or influencing how people think about one of Alberta’s largest and most famous energy resources.

According to Fehr, Matthew Dow, and Leyli Mirmontazeri, three of the organizers on the trip, it’s important to put all the information forward and allow tour delegates to make their own decisions about the oil sands. After their tour, delegates come back to Edmonton and work on various projects to share what they learned with people in the university community.

“We want to expose delegates to all of the stakeholders,” said Dow.

That means meeting with various groups both before and after the mid-October tour. Everyone from Suncor to Green Peace and local Aboriginal groups are invited to speak to delegates in order to achieve a bias balanced approach – that is, exposure to multiple and diverse perspectives.

Commenting on the historical and modern significance of the oil sands in Alberta, Fehr is “really interested in incorporating the student voice into the dialogue. Many of the people in the delegation are going to have to live with the consequences of the oil sands, good or bad,” said Fehr.

Students apply to go on the trip in September, and the final group is determined by organizers before the beginning of October. Fehr said they are looking for a mix of voices on the tour – business students will share bus space with arts, engineering, and science students.

After passing the selection process, all delegates are required to attend one of two training sessions set up by organizers. There they hear from professors at the U of A and other stakeholders in order to prepare them for the whirlwind trip so they can “hit the ground running,” as Fehr puts it.

Delegates are bused up to Fort McMurray on the morning of Oct. 15 and spend the day meeting with various stakeholders, overnighting in town, and returning to Edmonton late in the evening on Oct. 16 after more presentations, panels and tours.

It’s a quick turnaround, but has proven valuable for past delegates. Both Dow and Mirmontazeri were delegates last year, and are helping to organize this year’s trip.

“My work is in oil sands, but I’ve never been up to Fort McMurray, so it was interesting,” said Mirmontazeri.

Students pay $20, with the rest of the costs covered by the U of A Oil Sands Student Delegation through fundraising, donations and granting programs such as the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainability Enhancement Fund. If you want to know more or apply to be a delegate, click here