Northern Alberta band sues over oilsands dev’t
Posted by mhudema on June 14, 2008
EDMONTON – A small First Nations band in northern Alberta has launched legal action against the Alberta government over continuing oilsands development in the region.
In a statement of claim filed today, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation alleges that it was not properly consulted when oilsands leases were acquired in its territory, which infringes on its constitutional rights.
“Nobody respects who we are,” Chief Vern Janvier said with tears in his eyes at a press conference. “There’s no consideration for us and there never has been.”
MEG Energy Corp. has several planned projects in the area. The band alleges in its claim that the company’s projects are located in the “bread basket” of tradition lands that have supplied fish, game and other resources for generations of native groups.
The band is part of Treaty 8, signed by the Crown and First Nations groups in northern Alberta. Both groups, the claim alleges, “understood that the Crown could not authorize such uses of the land that would effectively deprive the First Nation of the meaningful opportunity to continue to exercise their hunting, trapping and fishing rights on traditional lands.”
While the legal action is limited to hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, it also implies environmental protection of habitat in the oilsands region, said the band’s lawyer, Robert Freedman.
The lawsuit could set a precedent on the way oilsands leases and land development are approved in the future, he said.
The band is looking for “meaningful consultation” before projects are approved, but they are not seeking an injunction to stop oilsands activity in the region at this time, he said.
The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is located near Chard, about 70 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, an area rich in oilsands deposits.