Firebombing mystifies former oil sands executive
The Globe and Mail
January 13, 2009
EDMONTON [Alberta] — A former top oil executive and his wife are searching for answers after the firebombing of their Edmonton home on the weekend left them homeless.
“My wife and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our home and our personal possessions,” Jim Carter, a former Syncrude Canada Ltd. president and chief operating officer, said in a statement yesterday.
“At the moment, we have very little information about what may have transpired or why,” Mr. Carter said.
Patrycia Thenu, an Edmonton police spokeswoman, said investigators are still hunting for a motive in the arson case, including possible connections to eco-terrorism. “Nothing has been ruled out,” she said.
Edmonton police revealed yesterday that several Molotov cocktails were recovered inside the charred remains of the Carters’ luxury home in a southwest Edmonton neighbourhood.
A witness reported seeing four youths running from the area at the time the fire began on Saturday around 8 p.m., according to police.
Nobody was in the two-storey home at the time of the blaze, and damage is estimated at $850,000.
Ms. Thenu said investigators have also not found any evidence linking this case to deliberate fire-bombings in another Edmonton neighbourhood last year.
Mr. Carter and his wife, Lorraine Bray, a psychologist, are well known in Edmonton and have six grown children.
Mr. Carter worked for Syncrude, one of Alberta’s largest oil sands companies, for 27 years before retiring in 2007. The mining industry veteran is credited with helping to build Alberta’s oil sands industry.
Last year, the provincial government asked him to chair a council studying how carbon capture and storage technology can be better used in Alberta.
The province is under intense pressure from environmental groups to solve the problem of its so-called dirty oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Paul Joosse, a University of Alberta researcher and eco-terrorism expert, said because of Mr. Carter’s deep connections to the oil industry, it’s wise for the police to not rule out environmental extremism.
However, he said it’s still too early in the investigation to jump to conclusions, and that eco-terrorism attacks of this nature against oil executives in Canada are unheard of.
Mr. Joosse noted that one U.S. environmental group uses arson in its attacks.
However, he added that it, along with other environmental groups, routinely claim responsibility for their actions.
“That hasn’t happened here,” he said.
Edmonton-based Greenpeace Canada activist Mike Hudema agrees that there are no tell-tale signs yet that Mr. Carter and his wife were targeted because of his links to the oil industry.