The biggest known oil reserve in the world. A tiny community of aboriginal Canadians. And a Limerick GP.

"Undue Alarm" is the story of how Dr. John O’Connor became a tireless campaigner on behalf of the First Nations communities – and found himself at the centre of a nationwide controversy in Canada.

When Limerick man Dr. John O’Connor went to Canada to practice medicine, he had little idea how his life would unfold.

The Alberta Oil Sands is the biggest industrial project on the planet. The area currently being mined for oil is the size of Ireland. Downstream from this on the shores of Lake Athabasca lies the tiny native community of Fort Chipewyan.

A breathtakingly beautiful place, ‘Fort Chip’ is on the far northeastern tip of the province of Alberta. In winter it is accessible by the ‘ice road’ – a road that is constructed from the harsh northern climate. In summer access is by way of a small plane.

Most of the people that live here are either Méti or First Nation - that is, native Canadians who have lived on the land through traditional methods of trapping, hunting, fishing and gathering berries for generations.

In 2000 Dr. O’Connor – or Dr. O as locals call him - became family physician to the tiny community of 1,200 people. When he started hearing concerns among the community about elevated rates of cancer in the community he did something that no outsider had done before: he listened to them. Then he spoke out about it. And what happened next is not what he expected.

A raft of professional complaints were made against him by the Canadian health authorities. And he would live with one of these – ‘causing undue alarm' among the community – for five years.

Dr. O’Connor went from being a simple GP to a tireless campaigner and activist on behalf of native communities in Canada.

"Undue Alarm" was made with the assistance of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision Fund

Narrated and produced by Nicoline Greer.

Sound Supervision by Mark Mc Grath.

First Broadcast August 31st 2013

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