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The crude reality of debt
Jun 8, 2023
Season 8

The crude reality of debt

Kate Beaton was determined to work her way out of debt. But nothing could have prepared her for the experience of working in the Canadian oil sands.

There wasn’t a ton of career choices waiting for Kate Beaton when she returned from college to the Canadian coastal village where she grew up. And none of the jobs available in the economically depressed locale could satisfy her desire to become an artist.  

But before she could pursue her dream, Beaton had to address one major obstacle: $40,000 of student loan debt. The overwhelming feeling that debt created was still fresh in Beaton’s mind when we spoke with her. “To me, that was an astronomical sum. I could not imagine paying that much off,” she said.

So Beaton turned to the desperate get-rich-quick plan that people from her town had followed for years: venturing west to Alberta province in search of work in the oil sands. Her whole life, she’d seen friends, family and neighbors do the same, “like a conveyor belt of bodies going to the oil sands to work,” as she described it to our host, Reema Khrais. Now Beaton was ready to join them. She had no idea what that would entail, but she knew the money was out there. 

Beaton wasn’t prepared for the harsh conditions and the harsher realities of life in the oil camps. In this week’s episode, she discusses the experiences that led to her memoir and graphic novel, “Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands.” 

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The team

Zoë Saunders Senior Producer
Marque Greene Producer
Alice Wilder Producer
Hannah Harris Green Producer
Yvonne Marquez Intern
Jasmine Romero Editor

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