The head of one Canadas biggest energy regulator has apologised for not disclosing an oil leak sooner to First Nations groups and the government.

President and CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Laurie Pushor, fronted a parliamentary committee in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

During the hearing on Monday local time, Mr Pushor answered questions on how his company handled an oil sands tailing pond leak at an Imperial Oil mine that wasn’t disclosed for nine months.

AER was notified about the leak when discolored sludge was seen at the Kearl oil sands mine in may 2022.

However, First Nation’s communities downstream of the mine weren’t informed until February this year.

The CEO told the committee the company failed to meet it’s commitments to local communities.

“It is clear that neither Imperial nor the AER met community expectations to ensure they are fully aware of what is, and what was happening.

And for that I am truly sorry,” he said.

Mr Pushor failed to answer when the Alberta government was told about the leak, saying his answers may intervene with a third-party review launched by the regulator.

Speaking to the same committee last week, First Nations and Métis leaders condemned the negligence and called for the AER to be dismantled.

Dene national chief Gerald Antoine, said First Nation’s voices have been disregarded.

The Assembly of First Nations Northwest Territories regional chief told the committee that Imperial Oil should be held accountable for allowing poisonous water to taint the environment.

“This is a crime and comes under environmental racism,” the leader said.

Mr Antoine also questioned the validity of AER conducting their own investigation of the incident, calling for government intervention.

“Why are these companies allowed to investigate themselves?

That is not acceptable. 

“Our recommendation is to initiate a complete and comprehensive investigation … to determine the full extent and implications of tailings pond spills and leaks,” said.

lands and regulatory director for the Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation Association Carmen Wells, echoed Antoine’s calls for an audit.

The director says First Nation’s groups have feared for decades that a tailings pond would breach and contaminate the watershed.

“This prediction coming true will forever change the trust and confidence on the land and Alberta’s ability to regulate the oilsands,” Wells said.

Image Credit: Eryn Rickard