The Documentary


The Canol Trail travels the most remote section of the historic and long abandoned Canadian Oil Pipeline, built during the Second World War to transport oil drilled near Norman Wells south to Whitehorse. Despite significant investments of both machinery and labor, the pipeline was abandoned just 15 months after its completion.

As Canada continues to pursue economic growth via continued resource extraction, an increasing number of new pipeline proposals are under review. Amidst these, we feel there are important and contemporarily relevant lessons to be learned from the Canol about the challenges encountered, and what the environmental and human costs of such projects are. In turn, the Canol Doc Project will capture the positive potential that lies within repurposed, post-industrial landscapes.

Our expedition, film documentary and post-trip outreach initiatives will generate much-needed awareness of regional landscapes and geographical vulnerabilities, particularly within contexts of global change (climatic and social). Using footage compiled during our trip, historic archives in Norman Wells and Ross River, and interviews with various pipeline stakeholders, our project will draw on varied themes including:

  • Labor and migration during the construction of the pipeline
  • Political and environmental history of the Sahtu region and pipeline
  • Economic, climatic, and social cost of the pipeline
  • First Nations’ sentiment about the pipeline, historic and contemporary
  • Current regional development plans for natural resource extraction

The Canadian North provides vast and crucial environmental services yet few will have the privilege of visiting. Not unlike many other landscapes of vast ecosystem wealth, the Mackenzie Mountains is also a region where economic activity has been characterized by natural resource extraction. This has, at times, required complex negotiations between the many regional stakeholders. Creating a film will help us to bring the story of the Canol to individuals who will likely never have the opportunity to visit, yet who are intimately dependent on the survival of this unique region.

As an example of safe, well-planned, rigorous, outdoor athleticism, our documentary will bring animated and inspirational stories to a wide audience of environmental enthusiasts –  conveying human engagements with precious environments that promote respect and sustainability. In contrast to ‘remote’ analyses of social and ecological change in the Canadian north, the ground-truthing and hands-on knowledge gathered during the expedition will allow for an intimate and informed assessment of the impacts of resource use and economic development on the peoples and environments of the Yukon and NWT.