Syncrude is aware of an increase in odours in the local region during the last week. We take odour concerns seriously and all reports are investigated.

Currently, work is progressing to address identified sources of odours that may be associated with sour water tank repairs at our Mildred Lake site and air quality is being monitored continuously. We expect maintenance activities to continue during the month of October and all appropriate actions will be taken to identify and minimize any potential further odours throughout this period.

Syncrude is committed to being a responsible neighbour and we appreciate your patience. If you have a concern or would like to report an odour, please reach out through the Alberta Energy and Environmental Response Hotline at 1-800-222-6514. In addition, the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) operates one of the most extensive air monitoring networks in North America and up-to-date air quality information is available on their website at

Thank you,
Syncrude Community Relations

Connections either big or small, direct or indirect, matter. For one Fort McMurray Catholic Schools student, a connection Syncrude made means his future is looking up and bright.

Robbie Buffalo, a Grade 11 student at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, says he’s looking forward to going to university to pursue his dream.

“This is like a dream come true,” says Robbie, who’s been offered a scholarship at the University of Alberta (U of A) playing football with the Golden Bears in 2022. The football team’s coaches have also set him up with a mentor. “Most of my family members haven’t even graduated high school. To be chosen, and to be selected to go on a scholarship for my academic skills is really great.”

Kevin Garbuio, a vocational education teacher at Father Mercredi High School, was instrumental in making the connection between the University and Robbie. Between 2015 and 2018 he brought students to the USchool program at the university. USchool aims to introduce and connect students in Grades 4 through 9 from socially vulnerable Indigenous and rural communities to the U of A. Students attend the program for a week on campus. While it’s offered at no cost to participating schools, they are responsible for their own transportation. That’s where Syncrude stepped in to provide transportation for the groups of students attending the program in Edmonton.

A group of students from the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools attend USchool at the University of Alberta (Photo supplied)

We established a relationship with the U of A through the USchool program. We then started reaching out to their athletics department and we were able to send seven to eight kids a year to their camps.

– Kevin Garbuio

That was the connection that Robbie needed to get the scholarship that will set him on a bright future.

Monica Mankowski, Deputy Superintendent at the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools District, says the whole district is proud of what Robbie has accomplished so far. But she also wants to acknowledge Syncrude for its support over the years.

We recognize that in Fort McMurray one of the barriers is the distance to a university.

– Monica Mankowski

“Syncrude supported the idea of how do we actually create a better bridge to post-secondary programs when our students have to go so far away to universities; away from family, away from a support system, and being totally independent. It can be quite a significant barrier for some student and we wanted to plant seeds to future options for students in our community.”

Kara Flynn, Syncrude’s Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, says she’s delighted to hear about Robbie’s story.

“Helping students get ahead by being a part of their education, training and advancement plays into the strength of Syncrude as a company. We believe in assisting our community to make it stronger and robust,” says Kara.

Seeing a student like Robbie on his path to success is gratifying and fulfilling.

– Kara Flynn

Over three years about 80 Fort McMurray Catholic School students have participated in the USchool program and about 30 per cent of them are planning to attend university when they finish high school.

To learn more about USchool click here.

Syncrude and USchool program

Syncrude has supported USchool through the U of A Chancellor’s Cup Golf Tournament. Over the years the company has invested close to $440,000 in the tournament. The funds raised through the tournament are used to support the USchool Program. When the Chancellor’s Cup was cancelled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, Syncrude made a direct donation.

There are many pathways to success.

It can come from reconnecting ourselves with traditions through song and dance, from building outreach programs that connect students with communities, or from reflecting on the legacy of our parents and celebrating their impact on an entire community.

Inspiring stories like these can be found in Syncrude’s Pathways 2021 magazine. It captures the journeys, achievements, connections, contributions and efforts of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples — and brings light to Indigenous culture, history and traditions.

Take, for example, Mitch Mercredi. Growing up in Fort Chipewyan, traditions like the powwow were not part of his life. As a teenager, Mitch attended a cultural rediscovery event that sparked his imagination and inspired him to learn more about his people’s traditional ways of life. As a young adult, Mitch’s fascination led him to join his first drum group. From there, he explored further aspects of his culture and soon found his calling in powwow.

Mitch is a father now and shares his traditions and way of life with his three children. All three dance in the powwow and he and his wife, Crystal, are raising their next generation to be proud and embrace the traditions and values of their culture.

“Providing a platform to share Indigenous perspectives and lived experiences is a vital part of Syncrude’s commitment to our Indigenous communities,” says Kara Flynn, VP, Government and Public Affairs

Indigenous people contribute in a major way to our company’s success. The relationships we have built have created more resilience in our business, in our region’s communities, and in our ongoing reclamation efforts.

– Kara flynn

Syncrude operates on the traditional lands of five First Nations and six Metis Locals, and it’s important to provide our neighbours with opportunities to take part in all aspects of the operation. Our connections with Indigenous communities have been fostered since Syncrude’s beginnings over 50 years ago. Being one of the nation’s largest employers of Indigenous people is an outcome of those relationships and is something Syncrude is proud to accomplish.
“One of the ways we continue this effort is to provide a platform to help tell their stories and experiences,” says Kara.

You can read Pathways magazine here.

Growing up in Fort McMurray, Rochelle Young never celebrated her Indigenous roots, largely because her family didn’t talk about their heritage.

“I always knew I was Indigenous but there was no cultural practices in our home when I was growing up,” she says. “We just didn’t really talk about it very much.”

Rochelle’s role at Syncrude working with First Nations and Métis communities as an environment advisor triggered a curiosity to learn more about her roots. And that search caused her to learn some of her qualities were shared by her forefathers.

“When I started working at Syncrude, it was my role at work that caused me to learn about my history. I was working as an environmental advisor and talking with community members in Fort McKay about their odour concerns.” says Rochelle.

She began tracing her family history and learned about her great-great-great grandfather, an Iroquois man from Quebec named Louis Kwarkwante and how he arrived in Alberta.

“He ended up travelling across the west as a voyageur, helping fur traders get to Alberta,” Rochelle says. “He ended up marrying a Cree woman. The interesting thing is the Iroquois were known for their skill in agriculture according to the reports of the Indian agents I’ve read. Farming was natural for him.”

Syncrude proved to be a similarly good fit for Rochelle, who grew up in Fort McMurray with both of her parents working for the oil sands developer.

“My father Ron MacDonald worked as a process operator in Extraction. And most people will remember my mom Carol MacDonald as the office manager at Club 63 North, the social club for employees. So I am a ‘Syncrude kid’ from both parents,” she says. “I always had an interest in the environment from an early age. My dad and I would always be outside looking to catch bugs.”

After graduating from Father Mercredi High School, Rochelle attended Lakeland College, where she received a diploma in conservation and reclamation studies and later earned an applied degree in environmental management.

“I worked as a summer student at Syncrude while going to school and loved it. My final year of school was an eight-month practicum in Environmental Services, where I worked on everything from wildlife management to waste management to water management. I was hired as a full-time employee from there.”

At the start of her career, Rochelle’s main focus was reporting on air quality concerns as Syncrude brought units built during the UE-1 expansion. “It was a challenging job as we were experiencing some problems and my job was having to explain why things went wrong,” she says. “I realized I wanted to make things better, not just report what was wrong.”

That epiphany led her to move to land reclamation, working on regulatory plans.

I want to feel like I’m making a difference. That’s core to who I am as a person. That’s why Choose to Challenge – this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – really speaks to me and my values.

– Rochelle Young

Rochelle has discovered she came by that attitude honestly. Her great-great-grandfather Michel Callihoo was the first Chief of the Michel First Nation, a band northwest of Edmonton which signed Treaty 6 in 1878. Its 100-square-kilometre reserve was located on some of the richest agricultural land in the province and members came under heavy pressure to surrender it by the government. The band was “enfranchised” in 1958, which stripped members of their Indian status in exchange to vote in Canadian elections. It was only First Nation to be enfranchised under the Indian Act.

“A lot of members fought in the Second World War, wanted the same rights and privileges as their counterparts whom they fought beside so they gave up their Treaty rights in order to have the same rights,” Rochelle says.

My great-grand-uncle Felix Callihoo was one founders of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

– Rochelle Young

“Another one of my great-grand-uncles, John Callihoo, founded the Indian Association of Alberta. Many of my ancestors fought for change and equal rights for Indigenous people. It’s a piece of my history where I feel a close connection.”

And now she is sharing that link with her three sons.

Syncrude’s Rochelle Young has made it a point to share stories about her Indigenous roots and celebrate the culture with her sons Jesse (left), Dylan (centre) and Cameron (right)

“It’s very important to me that they understand the history and culture as Indigenous people,” she says. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had some free time and attended a course put on by the University of Alberta about Indigenous history in Canada. I want to have those conversations with my children that I didn’t have with my parents while I was growing up. But it’s also important to note that today, the schools have events such as Orange Shirt Day to discuss the legacy of residential schools, which are great. And for my sons, it’s important for them to know because their grandmother and great-grandmother went to residential schools.”

For Rochelle, history is not just something to be remembered.

“I know a lot more about myself because of what I’ve learned in studying my family’s history,” she says.

She also brings that view to her current role at Syncrude as Regulatory Affairs Advisor working on several tailings projects, including Base Mine Lake, a former mine pit and tailings pond being reclaimed as a pit lake that sequesters tailings underneath the water layer.

“My new role has allowed me to reconnect with the First Nations and Métis communities in the region, which is something I really appreciate. It’s vital we engage with local communities on reclamation and land closure because there is a shared vision to have the land reclaimed in the best possible way,” she says. “When the land is returned, the communities can resume traditional uses. That’s something I understand and that’s a challenge I embrace.”

It all started for Syncrude employee Jessica Leska as a way to keep fit during the winter months in Fort McMurray.

Now, her passion for running will attempt to gain attention to the beauty of the area.

Jessica, who works as a Controls Coordinator with Regional and Corporate Logistics, is heading toward Stony Mountain Wildland Provincial Park, running through 200 kilometres of frozen boreal forest. Her adventure will showcase the beauty of the Wood Buffalo region.

“I hope my four-day run will encourage others to explore more of our community. This adventure is important for me because I want people to see what Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo has to offer in terms of outdoor adventure. Not just locals, but anybody who may say ‘I don’t want to work in Fort McMurray because it’s isolated and there’s nothing to do.’

I want to be able to show what people can experience and what kinds of adventures await just outside their door!

– Jessica Leska

She originally planned to run to Fort Chipewyan, but due to some logistical reasons, she’s executing her Plan B.

She has to self-support the run. This means she has to run with a sled carrying her gear including change of clothes, camping equipment, food, among others, attached behind her. She has to camp and sleep outdoors during her night stops. She has to melt snow for water. To ensure she’s prepared for the adventure, Jessica has been training by pulling a tire behind her and camping during winter.

The Fort McMurray resident got into running in the winter of 2015. She did her first five-kilometre run on New Year’s Eve that year and her first 10-kilometre run the following spring.

“It escalated very quickly,” she muses.

In 2016, she got into trail running and that same year she did her first half-marathon in Edmonton and an ultra-marathon in Kimberley, B.C. She was originally planning to run to Fort Smith but due to COVID-19, the Northwest Territories asked Parks Canada not to build the winter access road. But Jessica plans to do the full run next year when restrictions have been lifted and access restored.

It’s about the challenge and the adventure. But if you can promote your local community to a wider audience that’s a bonus.

– Jessica Leska

As a Syncrude employee safety is always top of the mind as she goes about her daily life. Running in the wilderness during winter requires extra attention to detailed safety plans. As that’s what exactly Jessica has been busy perfecting aside from practicing to run.

Those who want to cheer her on and follow her adventure can do so by visiting her Facebook page or Instagram account She Runs North.

Syncrude is sending extra help through the Good Neighbours Program to community-based not-for-profit, youth or sports-oriented organizations in the Wood Buffalo region.

The move was prompted by the challenges presented by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has hampered Syncrude employees’ ability to volunteer in the community.

Pre-COVID, an estimated 270 Syncrude employees and retirees volunteer with their favourite organizations. Syncrude supports their efforts through the Good Neighbours employee volunteer grant program. Unfortunately, some Syncrude employees who would normally volunteer for their favourite group have found themselves unable to do so, given the pandemic and the restrictions it is placing on people and certain activities.

“One of the hallmarks of our region is how people come together to help others overcome adversity,” writes Kara Flynn, Vice-President, Government and Public Affairs, in a letter sent to 16 organizations that will be receiving or have received one-time gifts through the program.

Indeed, many Syncrude employees take great pride in volunteering to build a better community, and we are pleased to support their efforts through our Good Neighbours employee volunteer grant program.


Groups that serve the youth and provide other community supports in Wood Buffalo are the organizations most affected by the pandemic. Syncrude regards the work of these organizations as vital to the region’s overall well-being and the company wants to help so these groups can weather the challenges they are currently facing. The funds donated were meant to be a bit of extra help as various organizations navigate through these uncertain times.

Julianna Yee, a Production Analyst Specialist with Syncrude, volunteers for the McMurray Junior Badminton Club, one of the organizations that will receive a share in the one-time gift program.

“McMurray Junior Badminton Club is very grateful for the Good Neighbours Programs all these years.  Thank you to the special Syncrude Good Neighbours Program one-time gift this year.


“It means a lot to our junior badminton club players. The additional funding will allow us better prepare the young athletes for future competitions and Wood Buffalo 2022 Arctic Winter Games.”

Kara says she hopes the Syncrude’s gift will allow the programming of various not-for-profits youth and sports organizations to continue even under altered conditions.

Amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic, Syncrude’s United Way campaign aimed for a seven-figure goal and exceeded it.

Contributions will continue until Dec. 15, but the goal of $2.02 million has now been reached and exceeded with current contributions totaling $2.125 million.

The raised amount will help the most vulnerable people in Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary. Funds raised include the Syncrude corporate gift, employee-led workplace activities as well as individual pledges.

Syncrude’s United Way committee celebrated the close of the 2020 campaign ‘Local Love, Now more than ever’ on Monday via a virtual event on Zoom.

Campaign chairs Greg Ross and Jonah Donald tuned in from the Fire Hall while co-chair Nicole Rymes acted as the emcee of the event.

Steve Yatauro, Senior Vice President Production delivered opening remarks on behalf of the Executive Leadership Team. Craig Picton, the United Way 2020 Campaign Chair for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo shared a message from the United Way and Bill Chase, Executive Sponsor of the campaign delivered the closing remarks.

We knew going into the campaign that it was going to be a challenging fundraising year.


“But there was no doubt in my mind that in difficult economic times like these, the Syncrude family would persevere and come together to support each other and the community.”

Bill credits the campaign’s success to the Syncrude family’s giving spirit and the hard work of campaign leadership, committee, and volunteers.

Despite challenges caused by the current pandemic, I am very proud of the energy, creativity, and commitment everyone has poured into this year’s campaign. Thank you all for participating and giving your best, and congratulations for raising $2.125 million!

– bill chase

The United Way continues to recruit volunteers and raise funds for its community projects and partner agencies year round. Visit your local United Way website to learn more about how you can participate.

The alexander family has more than a lifetime worth of years-of-service at syncrude, and that’s a family legacy they are proud to share.

Allison Alexander is a Heavy Equipment Operator for Tailing and Lease Development projects team, and he’s not shy about sharing that his immediate family has about 136 years of service with Syncrude, and even more with extended family members.

“Ever since my dad took a job offer from Syncrude long ago, our family has greatly benefited and my siblings and I have been able to create great lives for ourselves,” says Allison, a 34-year employee. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our parents deciding to move to Fort McMurray.”

Many family members contributed to the grand number of service years but it all started with Allison’s father, Bill Alexander, who worked at Syncrude for 12 years until his career was cut short by a battle with cancer.

Bill was a miner in northern Quebec before he was hired by Syncrude as a bucketwheel supervisor after company recruiters visited eastern Canada in the late 1970s. He and wife Madonna, along with their six kids, moved from Schefferville, Quebec, to Fort McMurray, Alberta in 1979.

Allison’s brothers Andrew (Andy) worked at Syncrude for 35 years, brother Calvin had more than 15 years of service, and their brother-in-law Robert Begin had more than 30 years when he retired. Along with Allison, his sister Shelley Hobbs continues to work at Syncrude today and is close to her 40-year milestone.

“We came from a small isolated community, so Fort McMurray felt very big at the time of the move. The possibilities were exciting for our family,” says Shelley, Warehousing Operations Area Leader, who eventually raised a family of her own in Fort McMurray.

According to Shelley, Syncrude was a big help for her family’s adjustment period in the Northern Alberta.

Through my dad working at Syncrude, it didn’t take very long for us to meet a lot of families that came from different places having a similar situation as us. We bonded quickly and made life-long friends.


Many individuals and families that moved to Fort McMurray were able to build new relationships through Syncrude activities such as team sport leagues.

“I can remember having a lot of fun with colleagues outside of work. We had bowling leagues for Syncrude employees, we had softball teams, and my brothers played on the Syncrude hockey team,” says Shelley. “It seemed like you were somehow always involved either directly or as a spectator which gave the company and community a close-knit feel.”

“First my own children, and now my grandchildren, attend the Syncrude family fun events and Christmas parties, and many other community programs and facilities that our company supports,” she adds, referencing events prior to COVID restrictions.

Throughout her time with the company, Shelley found more than just a rewarding career. Her husband Calvin Hobbs worked at Syncrude for 33 years with the draglines and bucketwheels and as a panel operator in the north mine, before retiring in 2013. The two met during Shelley’s first Christmas in Fort McMurray in 1979. Bill invited Calvin, along with other people he worked with, who didn’t have family to be with during the holidays in Fort McMurray. This action would say a lot about Bill and the spirit of Syncrude at the time.

“Many people were here by themselves without any family. We were quite lucky in that aspect,” adds Shelley. Her and Calvin eventually married and went on to have two children, both of whom later became summer students at Syncrude.

Fort McMurray as a city was growing simultaneously as Syncrude continued to expand as a company, and the Alexander family witnessed this first hand.

Looking back, Shelley is amazed at how quickly 39 years have passed. “Earlier in my life, I was focused on being a teacher but I really enjoyed a summer working for Syncrude. I saw the opportunities and never left,” says Shelley, who went on to get her parts ticket and held various leadership roles. “My career has been more than I ever could have imagined. I am grateful for every bit of it. My dad was so proud to work for Syncrude – he called it the opportunity of a lifetime. He would beam with pride to see all of us continue this legacy.”

Although both Shelley and Allison are nearing the ends of their careers, a new generation of family members continues to keep the Syncrude tradition alive. Andrew’s son Damien Alexander is a trainer at Aurora; Allison’s son Kaylen Alexander is millwright in the RAP program, and his son-in-law Michael Falcones is a heavy equipment operator at Mildred Lake. Shelley’s son-in-law Matthew Leblanc is a team leader in upgrading and her niece Tanya Begin is a heavy equipment operator at Aurora.

Like the Alexander family, many other families at Syncrude can relate to the pride of being part of their own legacy within the organization, whether as an individual contributor or as part of multi-generational stretches.

Allison smiles as he reminisces on his memories here. “I have done a lot of fulfilling work in my time here,” says Allison.

When I see family that still works here, I just can’t help but imagine how proud my father would have been.

– Allison

Neighbours helping each other are great neighbours indeed. 

And that’s how the relationship between Syncrude and Goodfish Lake can be summed up as they both faced the challenges of a global pandemic.

It all started as a measure to protect employees, Elders and members of the Goodfish Lake community and morphed into a business opportunity to supply materials needed to strengthen workplace pandemic protocols.

Tom Jackson, CEO of Goodfish Lake Business Corporation, says back in spring when the restrictions began, the company decided to take a proactive step. The company made masks for its employees to protect each other from the spread of COVID-19.

We were looking at all our protocols around the pandemic. We decided, just to get ahead of the curve a bit, that we would make masks for our employees. At the same time, we thought, we should give them to the elders here in the community. We wound up giving some to the community as well.

– Tom jackson

From making them for in-house and community use, Goodfish Lake staff got ample practice and training on making masks that when Syncrude came calling, the company was able to quickly send samples which led to an order of nearly 50,000 masks.

In late April, Syncrude transitioned to mandatory mask use and personal barrier use following a directive issued by the Alberta Health Services that wearing a non-medical mask may help prevent the spread of the virus.

However, wearing one does not relieve workers of the responsibility to stay at home if they are ill nor from practicing the required physical distancing of six-feet from each other.

It simply serves as an additional measure to help protect from direct person-to-person transmission and from possible work-surface contamination.

As more employees are returning to work, the company’s mask protocol has evolved: When you’re moving, you’re masked. That’s the rule of thumb all workers at Syncrude sites follow.

The blue masks in use at Syncrude are made of Ultrasoft – Hazard Risk Category 2 which is a fire-retardant (FR) material that’s suitable for all areas requiring FR materials.  In other areas of Syncrude, workers can choose to use these or any other personal barrier that covers their nose and mouth.

Syncrude Safety Codes Officer Ross Green is part of the RMWB Rapid Response Team and was quick to jump in when he got the call to help during the Fort McMurray flooding.

“I was asked to assess the flooded properties to see which buildings were safe to turn the power on right away and which buildings needed repair before they could have power turned on. I was in the role of an electrical safety codes officer,” he says.

Syncrude is a Mutual Aid partner, which is an alliance between Syncrude, Suncor, CNRL and the RMWB, providing emergency aid to each other as good neighbours.

Ross was loaned to the city to help with the natural disaster.

Ross helped inspect nearly 50 commercial buildings downtown and in Taiganova: “The ones that were not damaged wanted their power back on as soon as possible so that they could start cleaning up, or even those that had minor damage, if they could get an electrician in there and fix it right away. We would look at it and let them know if they were safe or not to power up,” he adds.

Nearly 13,000 people were forced from their homes after the flooding and an estimated 1,200 structures were damaged in Fort McMurray’s downtown core, but according to Ross, the people he was in contact with were in high spirits.

It was quite eye-opening. It’s sad to see the devastation and how much work they have to recover, but it is also kind of heartwarming too because you can really see the Fort McMurray spirit coming through these people

– Ross green

“Quite honestly, I was amazed with their attitude. I didn’t run into anyone that was feeling sorry for themselves, even though they are entitled to. I am sure they have moments when they are feeling overwhelmed, but you sure don’t get that sense from them.”

Ross experienced different ends of the spectrum while assessing the damage and giving either the green or red light to the business owners. From areas protected from sandbags placed by volunteers, to buildings with three to four feet of water and extensive damage, and everything in between.

He was also able to reference his Syncrude safety principles when working on these buildings: “It was a great to have all that Syncrude knowledge and wisdom to bring with me to this because it really was helpful. Sometimes your spidey senses go off and you feel something just isn’t right,” he explains. “The RMWB Safety Codes Officers and I changed some approaches based on our discussions. That is the strength of collaboration.”