Fort Chipewyan First Nations last to hear about Cancer Report: Frustrated Leaders concerned about key findings

March 24, 2014, Edmonton, Alberta – Today, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) learned through media sources that Alberta Health Services (AHS) would hold a press conference to discuss the results of the Cancer Incidences Report that evaluated reported cancer in the community of Fort Chipewyan between 1992-2011. The community was not notified or invited to attend. A copy of the report was sent late Friday but did not reach key leaders until Monday morning.

“This is gross negligence. The leaders of Fort Chipewyan have been requesting a thorough analysis on incidences of cancer in our community for years. Not only was this research and study done without our direct participation we were left in the dark about key findings and the announcement of the release to the public,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

The report concluded that cancer in the community was not higher then expected even though it reported on three cancers of concern: bile duct cancer with 3 cases when there should have been zero; as well as higher then expected levels of cervical cancers and lung cancer.

The ACFN, along with the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Fort Chipewyan Metis Local and the Nunee Health Board had previously cancelled a meeting with AHS in February due to a disagreement about releasing the report prior to the meeting. The community leaders had requested an advance copy of the report in order to more effectively prepare questions for the meeting and this request was not granted.

AHS had since agreed to share their findings with the leaders of Fort Chipewyan and schedule a new meeting date. As of last week a meeting date had not been confirmed and a copy of the report had not been received.

“It’s disappointing to know that our requests to be properly informed are repeatedly denied. This information is about our people, our health and our concerns,” continued Adam.

The ACFN was notified that a third party, now confirmed to be the Liberal Party Health and Aboriginal Relations Critic Dr. David Swann, had requested a copy of the report through Freedom of information and Protection and Privacy. While a report was forwarded to this source, the Fort Chipewyan leaders and health officials were not granted the same clearance.

A copy of the report was sent to the email of member of the Nunee Board and staff member of the ACFN at the end of the day on Friday March 21, 2014. However, she was not in the office and the information was not shared with leadership until late Monday morning. The message from AHS also gave no indication that a press conference and a full release of the report would be made the following Monday.

“A member of the Liberal Party contacted us this morning to inform us they had received a copy of the report and to confirm that we were aware of the findings, to which we were not. Why is it that opposition leaders are more open to sharing information with our Nation then the current Alberta House leaders? Why are we almost always the last to know?”

While the report recognizes that rare forms of bile duct, cervical and lung cancer were a cause for concern it fails to draw a conclusive result as to cause of these cancer. It should also be noted that this is not research but simply standard reporting and is not peer reviewed.

“It will be good to go through the report in greater detail, however, it’s obvious we have some questions around methodology and key findings. Although the report states that cancer is not higher then expected we can’t argue the fact that people are getting sick and people are getting cancers. It’s time for a real study, that is peer reviewed and done in partnership with our communities,” stated Adam.

“Our people are constantly left in the dark about everything from policy, land use applications and research and studies that almost always impact our people. We are leaders, elected and put into power to help our people and communities. If government’s aren’t willing to work with us as elected officials of our communities how can we serve our communities effectively? This is gross negligence and it’s absolutely unacceptable,” stated Adam.

Representatives from the ACFN attended the press conference via conference call and will be working to address concerns and questions directly with AHS and Government of Alberta and Aboriginal Relations directly.

For More Information:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: First Nation concerned Bill C-45 allows Tar Sands industry to destroy vital waterways and treaty rights

First Nation concerned Bill C-45 allows Tar Sands industry to destroy vital waterways and treaty rights

October 18, 2012 – Fort McMurray, AB – Today the conservative government tabled a new version of Bill C-45, a 443-page bill, to implement its federal budget.  The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) was taken aback by the proposed amendments stating they are indicative of the further erosion of Treaty rights in Canada.  ACFN leadership is particularly worried about suggested amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the removal protections of culturally significant and vital river ways from the act.

“This is unacceptable.  They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways without adequate consultation with First Nations and communities that rely on river systems for navigation and cultural practices protected under treaty,” stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people.”

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is gearing up for presenting a question of constitutional law against the application of Shell Oil Canada to expand one of it’s existing project, citing lack of adequate or meaningful consultation and that the application would have adverse impact on their treaty rights.  In particular, the application calls for the mining out of 21 km of the Muskeg river, a river of cultural and traditional significance to both the people and wildlife in the area.  The new legislative changes would remove the protection of the Muskeg river making it much easier for Shell to gain approval.

“I am seriously concerned. We have seen the erosion of our people’s Treaty rights throughout various forms of legislation over the past decade.  The new proposed amendments in Bill C-45 are proof to us that the government hold little stock in our rights and title and are creating more loop holes for industry to continue annihilating our lands,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.  “We hope there will be a public outcry that echoes our sentiment.  After all, we all share the responsibility to protect mother earth.”

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For more information contact:

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-713-1220
Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation files constitutional challenge to Shell Oil Canada’s Tar Sands expansion application

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation files constitutional challenge to Shell Oil Canada’s Tar Sands expansion application

Fort McMurray, AB October 1, 2012 – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation filed a constitutional challenge in the Joint Review process against Shell Oil Canada’s application for the expansion of their Jackpine Mine tar sands project. ACFN’s challenge outlines the government’s failure to uphold Treaty 8, and to force better protection of the resources needed to sustain rights protected under Treaty 8.  A constitutional challenge based on Treaty 8 rights has never been fully argued in front of an Alberta Joint Review panel and the first nation hopes to set new precedents that may mean changes to the regulatory process.

“We have repeatedly tried to engage with both the government and Shell to find better way to address our rights,” stated Chief Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “However, the government has not listened to us or made meaningful attempts to accommodate the ACFN in relation to the impacts of this and other tar sands projects.  They have failed to accurately inform themselves of what our people truly require in order to protect our lands and rights.”

The Jackpine Mine expansion application is scheduled to appear before the Joint Review Panel starting Oct. 29 in Fort McMurray, Alberta. However, the Panel is required to hear constitutional challenges on October 23rd before the full public hearings.  The proposed application would require the disturbance of 12,719 ha of land  and destroy 21 kilometres of the Muskeg River, a culturally significant river.  Greenhouse gas emissions from the Jackpine expansion will total 2.36 Mt CO2e/year, representing an increase of 5.2% in oil sands emissions (based on 2009) or approximately 281,000 cars on the road.

The ACFN is hoping this constitutional challenge will clearly demonstrate the severe adverse impacts on their Treaty 8 rights due to tar sands development in northern Alberta. The ACFN asserts that government action is leading to the removal of ACFN’s ability to meaningfully exercise their Treaty 8 rights within their traditional territory.

“Our community and our leadership at ACFN are taking the steps to slow down development in Northern Alberta in order to ensure our rights and lands are protected now and into the future,” stated Eriel Deranger communications coordinator for the ACFN.  “As Denesuline people, it is our responsibility to protect our lands, our rights and all that mother earth provides for our people. We hope people will support us as we put forward ground breaking challenges in Alberta.”

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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

****IF YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED TODAY IS YOUR LAST DAY TO SUBMIT COMMENTS ON THE JACKPINE MINE EXPANSION VISIT www.stopshellnow.com AND SIGN UP AND SPEAK UP! ******

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: First Nation preparing for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion Environmental Hearings

First Nation preparing for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion Environmental Hearings

August 27, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – For over a year the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) has been preparing for the Joint Review Panel hearings to challenge Shell Oil Canada’s proposed Jackpine Mine expansion and the Pierre River open pit mine tar sands projects.  Last week, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced the first hearing dates for the Jackpine Mine Expansion project starting October 29th in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Chief and Council of the ACFN made clear commitments to protect the treaty rights of their people and the first nation feels the proposed Shell Oil projects are in breach of Treaty 8 rights leading to degradation of critical hunting, trapping, fishing lands and waterways in the region.  Shell and the ACFN have been at odds with each other since last November when the first nation filed suit against the company citing breaches of past agreements and over $1.5 mil in losses for the first nation and impacts on treaty rights.  Now the first nation has full intentions of challenging both applications at the hearings citing massive impacts on treaty rights, land and waterways.

“We are rightfully concerned about how Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion Project will impact and infringe our rights. Our lands and way of life are supposed to be protected by Treaty and Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act,” stated Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.  “It’s clear Shell’s current application does not include enough information for the JRP to appropriately assess potential impacts on our rights and it’s time both government and industry to ensure our rights are protected now and into the future.”

The ACFN assert that participation in the hearing process is critical and is a chance for the people to influence the government and industry to create stronger protections for the land, the environment and the people. We hope the JRP will respect our unique rights and implement our recommendations and not let Shell slide through the approval process without addressing our concerns,” stated ACFN Councillor Anthony Ladouceur. “We will no longer stand on the side lines as Shell permanently destroys our lands, our rivers, our rights and our community.”

The ACFN communications coordinator, Eriel Deranger, stated “We hope more people will support the community by ‘signing up’ as interested parties and voice their support for the first nation and their own concerns surrounding Shell’s applications.”  People can do so by emailing Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca before October 1, 2012. Becoming an interested party allows you to be notified of changes, hearing dates and location and when you can submit your own written/oral statements to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Joint Review Panel.

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For More information contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Chief Allan Adam, 780-713-1220