Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Tar Sands

Updates and info on ACFN's case against Shell Oil

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

For Immediate Release: First Nation and Metis groups denied effective access to justice

First Nation and Metis groups denied effective access to justice

November 26, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) received a decision from the Alberta Court of appeal dismissing their application for leave to appeal a decision of the Joint Review Panel to not review the adequacy of Crown consultation before deciding whether to approve Shell’s Jackpine Mine expansion project.  The First Nation is extremely disappointed and is currently reviewing their options to address the lack of adequate consultation with respect to Shell’s tar sands project.

“Our rights are being overlooked and that is a truth that cannot be denied,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.  “If there is a violation of our constitutionally protected treaty rights it should be dealt with before this project is found to be in the public interest.  A project of this magnitude couldn’t possibly be in the public interest if our rights have not been upheld and we have not been adequately consulted.”

During the course of the last month the ACFN have been raising multiple concerns within the Joint Review Panel hearings on Shell’s Jackpine Mine expansion citing poor consultation and direct and adverse effects on the First Nations’ ability to continue its treaty and associated aboriginal rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather.  The decision today stressed that the hearings were a part of the consultation process yet the Alberta government has been absent and even referred to themselves as “strangers” to the process.

“Who has better jurisdiction to deal with our rights and the adequacy of consultation more appropriately then the bodies that grant approval? Our rights are shuffled from agency to agency with no real remedy,” stated Chief Adam.  “There has been a complete devolution of the Crown’s duty to consult pushing consultation into the hands of the proponents and downgrading First Nation rights. Our people are being failed by all levels of government.”

ACFN’s challenge to Shell’s application has come on the heels of a legal suit against the oil giant for failure to meet past agreements to mitigate impacts of their current projects.  Remediation and mitigation are supposed to be dealt with through Impact Benefit Agreements made with the proponents themselves, although such agreement do not have any Crown oversight or involvement.  As Shell has not lived up to past agreements, ACFN was asking the Joint Review Panel to assess Crown consultation before project approval.

The ACFN hopes this ruling will at the very least push the Crown to reassess its role and obligations with respect to the duty to consult, a role they have been absent from, and a role that the Alberta Court of Appeal says the Crown has committed to undertake.

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For More information please contact:
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Chief Allan Adam, ACFN 780-713-1220

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Energy and Resource Conservation Board denies First Nation’s motion for Adjournment of oil sands hearing: First Nation files with Alberta Court of Appeals

Energy and Resource Conservation Board denies First Nation’s motion for Adjournment of oil sands hearing: First Nation files with Alberta Court of Appeals

October 31, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – Yesterday the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s (ACFN) motion to adjourn the public hearing process for Shell Canada’s Jackpine Mine expansion was denied.  The federal-provincial Joint Review Panel ruled that although the First Nation had a serious question to be tried, proceeding with the hearings would not cause irreparable harm and the balance of convenience did not favour an adjournment. The ACFN has been left with no other option but to file legal arguments for the protection of their constitutionally protected rights through the Alberta Court of Appeal .

“We must take our case to the Alberta Court of Appeal,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.  “The impacts this project will have on our lands and rights is not fully understood or adequately addressed by the Crown.  At this point we have exhausted all avenues to have the adequacy of Crown consultation addressed by the Panel and we have been left with no other choice but to take this to the courts.”

The First Nation put forward questions of constitutional law rooted in section 35 and the duty to consult before the Panel on October 1, 2012. On October 26 the Panel ruled that they did not have the jurisdiction to consider ACFN’s constitutional questions and that in any event a determination of Crown consultation would be premature.  Following this decision the First Nation filed a motion to adjourn the hearings, citing irreparable harm if the hearing proceeded, until the Court of Appeal heard and determined the Panel’s jurisdiction to consider ACFN’s constitutional questions.  The motion was denied leaving the First Nation no other option but to file a motion for a stay and a motion for leave to appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The ACFN will present their motions before a judge of the Court of Appeal on Friday November 9th in Edmonton, Alberta at 9:30am.

“The government has made it incredibly difficult for us to access avenues to adequately protect our lands and rights.” remarks Adam. “We are very concerned that Alberta has delegated consultation to the proponent Shell and we want the adequacy of Crown consultation assessed.”

The First Nation asserts that it has become increasingly difficult to pursue better protection of treaty rights and land from the Crown and sometimes ends up negotiating terms with the proponents themselves, without any Crown involvement or oversight.  ACFN filed a claim in September of 2011 against oil giant Shell Oil Canada alleging that Shell has failed to live up to the agreements made between the First Nation and the oil company in 2003 and 2006.  The agreements in question were meant to act as a tool to mitigate the impacts of their current projects.  This case is still in the courts with no date set for hearings.

The First Nation hopes the Alberta Court of Appeal will rule in their favour.  A favourable ruling might be the first step in having the adequacy of ACFN-Crown consultation assessed by an independent body.

The ACFN has received widespread support for its challenge of the Shell expansion. 50,000 people from Canada and the United States sent in comments both to the Shell Joint Review Process and the CEO of Shell Canada voicing their objection to the mine application. More than fifty conservation and justice groups and First Nations across Canada and the United States released a full page ad in the Fort McMurray newspaper thanking the ACFN for the leadership they are showing.

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For More Information:

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-713-1220

Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

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