April 9, 2010

Peace River Alberta

Two more Alberta First Nations are seeking the assistance of the Supreme Court of Canada in defending their Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the face of mounting oil sands development in Alberta. The Supreme Court of Canada has granted intervenor status to Duncan’s First Nation (DFN) and Horse Lake First Nation (HLFN), in a case that may have major legal implications for the development of oil sands, pipelines, oil sands infrastructure projects and other major projects. 

DFN Chief Don Testawich stated, “Our traditional territory is being overrun and cut to pieces by oil sands, major pipelines, gas fields and major power projects. Companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Trans Canada Pipelines and Bruce Power are proposing massive projects that will fuel unsustainable oil sands growth. Development on this scale will is making our Treaty Rights meaningless and threatens our traditional way of life”.

Chief Testawich added, “The governments of Alberta and Canada sit back and refuse to address our concerns.  We are intervening before the Supreme Court because it is abundantly clear that neither the environment nor First Nations can expect to receive a fair hearing within Alberta, where oil sands revenues are at stake. We need help now and help fast”.

This summer, the Supreme Court will hear conflicting arguments and views of First Nations, governments and industry in the Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. v. the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council case. The case will address the question of whether regulatory boards and tribunals, such as the National Energy Board (NEB) and Alberta’s Energy Conservation and Resources Board  (ECRB), have a duty to decide whether the Crown adequately consulted and accommodated First Nations’ concerns before granting approvals for resource development, including concerns about past infringements of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

The NEB and ERCB regulate, among other things, development of the oil sands, pipeline projects and other energy projects that support oil sands developments. The DFN and HLFN are intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada because of their concerns over the growing number of oil sands developments and major energy projects that will make oil sands expansion realizable. The DFN and HLFN want the Court to direct governments and regulators to fully and effectively address the consultation rights of First Nations in the regulatory processes for the major oil sands and tar sands infrastructure projects being proposed by Royal Dutch Shell, Trans Canada Pipelines, Enbridge, Bruce Nuclear Power and other corporations.

The First Nations have opted to take this matter to the courts because of their mounting frustration over the refusal by the governments and their regulators to act on earlier court decisions that direct governments to deal with their rights.

Chief Rick Horseman of the HLFN added, “To date, it’s been like watching a game of musical chairs where everyone is saying they are  addressing our concerns, rights and interests but no one actually gets down to it and does it. We need a referee in Alberta that will deal with First Nations in a serious and impartial way and blow the whistle when our rights are being trampled”.



Mr. Jay Nelson: Woodward and Company (250) – 383 – 2356 

Ms. Audrey Horseman: Horse Lake First Nation (780)518-5179

Mr. Matthew General: Duncan’s First Nation (780)597-3777

The Oil Sands: An Interconnected and International Project in Scope Impacting the Rights of First Nations

Sheila Muxlow
Interim Director
Sierra Club Prairie
(o) 780.439.1160
(c) 780.660.0312

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.
(Albert Einstein)

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