Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation pulls out of Grand Rapids Hearings: Citing Prejudiced Process that favors Industry

July 15, 2014 Edmonton, Alberta – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) announced they will no longer participate in the TransCanada Grand Rapids Pipeline hearing citing impossible timelines and prejudice within the process. The First Nation is referring to the project as the “Mother of All Pipelines” feeding projects like the Energy East Pipeline and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline projects.

“The AER put us in an impossible position. I am dumbfounded by this process,” stated Adam before he continued to speak about the obstacles the ACFN has faced in trying to get action from both government and industry to adequately address their concerns.

Adam spoke about how TransCanada consistently showed little regard to actually addressing the concerns raised by the ACFN and were more concerned with how much it would cost to “buy us off.”

Adam added, “this new [Alberta Energy Regulator] regulatory process is fundamentally flawed. It is supposed to be the test of the new regulatory regime for oil and gas and pipelines in Alberta. Yet, it has seriously undermined our efforts to address any concerns about First Nations impacts.”

Adam was referring to the lack of assessment or studies done on the impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, impacts to hunting, fishing and trapping and the incomplete Caribou Protection plan in relation to the project brought up earlier in the day by their legal counsel.

“The Grand Rapids hearings demonstrated how the Alberta government is willing to put the cart before the horse. TransCanada’s application included incomplete studies and reports and yet the AER still granted a fast tracked hearing where TransCanada continued to submit last minute evidence. ACFN was raising concerns that should concern all Albertans – how can you ensure safety and protect the environment if you haven’t even completed the necessary studies,” stated Lorraine Land, ACFN legal Counsel of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP.

The ACFN will be exploring other avenues to challenge the proposed pipeline project and Chief Adam closed his remarks with “It is our law that we need to protect the land and the water so that our people will be here for another 9000 years. We must do this as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows. Today, we respect Dene law and for that reason we can no longer continue in this process.”

For More information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598

 

Little Known “Feeder” Pipeline – Vital To Tar Sands Expansion – Being Quietly Rammed Through Approvals Say First Nations

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Little Known “Feeder” Pipeline – Vital To Tar Sands Expansion – Being Quietly Rammed Through Approvals Say First Nations

JULY 15, 2014 EDMONTON, ALBERTA – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation(ACFN) and numerous Alberta landowners presented evidence today to challenge TransCanada’s proposed Grand Rapids Pipeline project. Characterized by TransCanada as a “feeder” pipeline, the 500km pipeline would transport 900,000bpd tar sands oil from Fort McMurray to the Heartland Terminal outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The project is essential to the proposed Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines and has a volume capacity double the size of the controversial Northern Gateway project.

“Without the Grand Rapids pipeline, you can say goodbye to Keystone XL, goodbye to Energy East and goodbye to a lot of the proposed oil sands expansion,” said Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator. “This isn’t a project that should be fast tracked, it needs a thorough and comprehensive review.”

The ACFN assert the proposed pipeline would require new tar sands developments “the equivalent to the size of three Suncor sites” to fill the proposed volume of 900,000bpd, something the ACFN say will destroy their ability to hunt, fish and trap in the region and severely affect their Treaty and Aboriginal rights.

“Our peoples rights, and our way of life, are being threatened by out of control development in the region. This project approval process is another example of how government is trying to push us out,” states Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

“Grand Rapids would provide the main feed from the source for other major pipeline projects, but the new Alberta Energy Regulator and the Alberta Consultation Office has decided the project is minimal impact, with no need to consult with our First Nation. It’s a disgusting misuse of power and poor policy,” continued Adam.

The ACFN asserts that the project is within their traditional territory, however, the new and barely functioning Alberta Consultation Office decided TransCanada was not required to consult with the ACFN on the project. The proposed pipeline would cross 56 waterways and rivers including the Athabasca River, which flows northward into the ACFN communities. The ACFN had to file a constitutional challenge against the project saying the pipeline would pass through its territory, across and beneath major waterways, critical bison and caribou habitat, and atop major ground water aquifers in order to bring forward critical evidence to the hearings. Something the ACFN feel should have never had to happen.

The push back on this pipeline isn’t just from the ACFN, Alberta landowners and environmental groups are also concerned that TransCanada has not completed its Environmental Protection Plan, Caribou protection plan, spill contingency plan or safety plan for the project yet have been granted the go ahead to enter into a full hearing process.

“The government needs to get its carbon act together before it starts green lighting more new pipelines that will just accelerate the problem,” said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “Just last week Alberta’s Auditor General scathing report showed that Alberta has no plan for reducing its growing emissions and is severely failing to meet even its own paltry climate goals. As climate fuelled floods once again rage across the prairies it should be a wake-up call to the Alberta government about the need to move away from high-carbon resources like the tar sands not to plunge deeper into them.”

The ACFN successfully argued for standing at the hearings and will be presenting evidence today along with concerned landowners in the region.

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For more information, please contact:

Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, 780-903-6598

 

Press Conference Held to Discuss Alarming Results of Fort Chipewyan Health Study

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) held a press conference in Edmonton on Monday, July 7 in conjunction with the release of Environmental and Human Health Implications of the Athabasca Oil Sands, a study that is the first to document associations between oil sands-perpetrated environmental contaminants and unusually high incidences of rare illness in Fort Chipewyan.

The report integrates laboratory data with survey and interview responses from community members to provide a window into the complexities of health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan that is much more comprehensive than any previous research in the region.  This approach reveals what head researcher Dr. Stéphane McLachlan (University of Manitoba) calls the “double-bind”: As heavy metals and carcinogenic hydrocarbons flow downstream from bitumen extraction sites, traditional, wild-caught foods like moose and fish becoming increasingly risky for consumption, thus jeopardizing a tradition of living off the land that has been preserved by Cree and Dené people for thousands of years.  But if Fort Chipewyan residents choose to avoid toxins by purchasing store-bought foods, they must pay exceptionally high prices for low-quality ingredients or highly processed items.

At Monday’s press conference, ACFN Chief Allan Adam, MCFN Chief Steve Courtoreille, and Dr. Stéphane McLachlan each provided remarks on the study before fielding questions from the media, moderated by ACFN communications coordinator Eriel Deranger.  Chief Courtoreille, who opened the conference with a prayer of healing and gratitude, spoke of his commitment and duty to protect his people against disconcertingly high rates of cancer and other serious illnesses—the “scariest part,” he says, “is that you wonder who’ll be next.”  The Chief reminded the crowd that though the report is backed by advanced analysis and statistical calculations, it simply confirms what the Elders have been saying all along: “that the changes in health in our community are connected to tar sands.”  He asked, “if I allow this to continue, what is the future going to look like—for our children, our grandchildren, and the ones that are not here yet, that are still coming?”

A reverence for the wisdom of Elders and for generations of the future is of great importance to the people of Fort Chipewyan, and this health study worked to recognize such community values.  Though the project is broadly structured following conventions of Western science, the project is particularly notable for its unprecedented emphasis on integrative methodology; conventions of Western science and traditional Native ways of knowing are employed to observe and document environmental anomalies, dietary practices, healthcare access, and cultural norms and shifts.  This makes the wisdom and teachings of Fort Chipewyan Elders and involvement of youth instrumental to the research process.  The study was completed in combinationwith the community-based monitoring (CBM) program, an initiative through which Elders work directly with youth—in school and in the bush—to develop monitoring and observational skills.

The health report supplements statistical evidence of the connection between declining health and increasing oil sands activity, with the personal experiences and stories of ACFN and MCFN members—thus reflecting the McLachlan team’s efforts to prioritize community participation and feedback.  Community members are kept abreast of findings and new developments through social media, a quarterly newsletter, and this news aggregator website (onerivernews.ca). The voices of the community members are also amplified in One River, Many Relations, a feature-length documentary produced in constant collaboration with people in Fort Chipewyan.

Chief Allan Adam concluded the comments section of Monday’s press conference, reminding those present of the urgency for further study of the health concerns facing Fort Chipewyan.  He exclaimed that thus far the “government—both federal and provincial—refuses to do anything about it.”  The only way to find a solution,” said the Chief, “is through regulatory reform”—”it comes to a time where we have to sit down and talk to each other… We’re still at the table and not going nowhere,” he said.  Chief Adam was clear: any industry projects must be able to demonstrate that they have “no effects on the Athabasca River whatsoever.”  But until the oil sands project approval process is restructured to prioritize thorough research and communication of the health and environmental risks posed to First Nations communities, adequate consultation cannot be achieved.   And development will continue to accelerate unchecked, leaving the community of Fort Chipewyan to handle the aftermath of contaminated food and declining health.  “It’s time for government to truly represent the people of Alberta,” urged Chief Adam.

 

Divya Farias

For more information:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator, 780-903-6598

 

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

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation announce new legal filing challenging the recent Jackpine Mine approval

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The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation announce new legal filing challenging the recent Jackpine Mine approval

 

January 15, 2014 - The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), accompanied by Canadian iconic folk singer Neil Young, announced new litigation against the Federal government and Shell Canada during the official press conference for the “Honour the Treaties” benefit tour on Sunday January 13 in Toronto. Woodward & Company filed an application on behalf of the ACFN on January 3, 2014, asking the Federal Court to review the Crown’s decision to approve the Joint Review Panel report[i] and decision to authorize Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion project proposal, and declare the decision invalid and unlawful.

 

“The ACFN remains unsatisfied with the Crown’s response to consult and accommodate. The Crown is unwilling to meaningfully address the extensive concerns we have brought forward before, during and after the public review process for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion,” stated Doreen Somers, ACFN Industry Relation Corporation (IRC) Consultation Coordinator

 

The ACFN hold unique rights as agreed upon in Treaty 8.[ii]  Their legal filing declares the Crown has breached its constitutional duty to adequately consult with the First Nation regarding the impacts to their section 35 rights from the Project. The filing outlines breaches to constitutional duty to accommodate, duty of consultation, and duty of accommodation in respect to the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion project. Further, they affirm the Minister of the Environment has breached section 53 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.  

“The Crown is in direct violation of their fiduciary obligations. We have not even begun to effectively address the many impacts this Project would have on ACFN’s Aboriginal and Treaty rights, yet they have already granted an approval? The approval of the project was hypocritical, on one hand they outlined all of the various violations of laws and legislation but ultimately approving the project in the public interest. Frankly, it’s insulting and unlawful,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

 

The ACFN Treaty rights concerns are typically deferred to regional plans and cumulative effects processes. For its part, ACFN has participated in various industry and Crown led planning and cumulative effects management processes. Despite ACFN’s good faith efforts, these processes have not resulted in meaningful protection of ACFN’s Treaty Rights.

 

The ACFN are requesting that the decision is suspended until adequate consultation and accommodation is completed.

 

“The decision to approve the Jackpine Mine expansion will seriously threaten the survival of our traditional way of life as Denesuline people,” said ACFN Elder Pat Marcel. “Canada has breached its own laws in approving the Jackpine Mine Expansion decision. We have worked for the past six years raising our concerns about the project and meaningful protection for our Treaty rights with nothing but empty promises from government and industry.” 

 

The ACFN maintains a position of not being against development, but rather are working towards achieving responsible and just relationships, governance, development and economies. The ACFN’s legal challenges are driven by an Elders Declaration[iii]  that outlines a protection zone north of the Firebag river, an area they say is critical to protect and preserve their cultural and treaty rights. It does not single out a specific industry but rather simply states that any initiatives that would impact their rights.

 

“We will hold the line and challenge all proposals, projects and approvals that impacts the lands, territory and rights that are necessary for our cultural and Treaty rights,” stated Chief Adam.

 

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Summary of Legal filing:

http://media.wix.com/ugd/58e3a4_f72564f2de2543e5828db938441ce1e6.pdf

 

For more information:

 

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator (780) 903-6598

www.drawtheline.ca

 


[i] The Joint Review Panel (JRP) report and decision on the Jackpine Mine Expansion was released July 9th, 2013, with 88 recommendations. The JRP found that the project would likely have significant adverse environmental effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity. There is also a lack of proposed mitigation measures that have been proven to be effective. The Panel also concludes that the Project, in combination with other existing, approved, and planned projects, would likely have significant adverse cumulative environmental effects on wetlands; traditional plant potential areas; old-growth forests; wetland-reliant species at risk and migratory birds; old-growth forest-reliant species at risk and migratory birds; caribou; biodiversity; and Aboriginal traditional land use (TLU), rights, and culture.”  http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p59540/90875E.pdf

 

[ii] Treaty 8 was signed with the Crown in 1899 on the shores of Fort Chipewyan.  Treaty 8 guaranteed that ACFN and its members continue access to their lands and territory to exercise their Aboriginal rights- including hunting, fishing, and trapping.  Treaty 8 is recognized within Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_8

First Nations furious with governments weak response to massive contaminant spill in Athabasca River

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First Nations furious with governments weak response to massive contaminant spill in Athabasca River

November 21, 2013 Fort McMurray, AB – That Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) are seriously concerned with government inaction regarding the Sheritt Coal slurry spill that occurred on October 31st resulting in close to a billion litres of contaminant entering  tributaries of the Athabasca River and eventually the Athabasca River itself.  The Alberta government and the Alberta Energy Regulator waited three weeks to issue a clean up order and release information about the contents of the spill.

“We are furious with the Alberta Energy Regulator and governments for the lack of response for the largest spill in Canadian history. We are asking for the resignation of Minister McQueen and Gerry Protti for failing to do their job.  For three weeks we have been living in uncertainty about the safety and level of contamination of our water systems. For us, it’s not just about our drinking water, it’s about our rights and culture,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

The Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality decided only yesterday they would shut down the water intake at the water treatment facility and work with Sheritt to deliver clean, safe potable water to members of communities along the path of the plume.

Bruce Maclean from Maclean Environmental Consulting, a company that works with the local First Nations monitoring programs raised some serious concerns and stated, “Water quality data from the first days of the spill indicate many contaminants of concern to be above CCME guidelines, some 70 times above the guidelines. This includes PAHs, cadmium, arsenic, lead, selenium, silver, thallium, and even uranium. These numbers and contaminants represent real danger to human health and associated drinking water.”

Maclean also commented on the long term impacts of the settling of this sediment load and associated contaminants on fall spawning fish. “It will be difficult to assess without some serious sampling efforts, some of which may need to take place in the spring. We can assume that survival of fish eggs in the path of the plume will be compromised.”

The Nation asserts that the government failure to protect and safeguard the Athabasca river, the environment and eco-systems, equates to a failure to uphold the Canadian Constitution and Treaty and Aboriginal rights in the region. Treaty and Aboriginal rights to hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights are uniquely protected under the Canadian constitution.

“Government and industry continually ignore that our rights, our culture and our people rely on safe, clean eco-systems and waterways to continue our way of life,” stated Lorraine Hoffman, Councillor for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.  “We can’t keep the moose, caribou, bison, and fish from the contaminated plume as it travels downstream. This spill is just another example of both Alberta and Canada’s failure to protect the interests of not only First Nations, but the interests of all Canadians.  Water is life, no matter who you are or where you are.”

Last year the federal government made sweeping changes to numerous environmental protection acts, however the Athabasca River was one of few rivers, lakes and oceans that maintained federal protected under the Navigable Protection Act.  The ACFN is now questioning why the federal and provincial governments are allowing the continued abuse of this river system.  To date there has been no contact with federal agencies about the implications of this spill.

“We have been raising concerns about the lack of safety and protection of the river and environment for years. This summer Dr. Timoney released a report Environmental Incidents in Northeastern Alberta’s Bitumen Sands Region outlining 9,262 industry incidents on the Athabasca river and how the government is failing to enforce environmental regulationsNow, the Athabasca is subject to the largest coal mine spill in Canadian history and it has taken governments three weeks to show any concern. Where is the federal protection?  Something is seriously wrong with this picture,” stated Chief Adam.

In light of the new data, the Nation feels that a formal review of the official communication protocols around environmental disasters is needed.  The huge lag time in reporting and overall lack of transparency and leadership has led the ACFN to take matters into their own hands. The ACFN will be launching their own sampling before, during and after the plume passes through their community.

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For more information please contact

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598