FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Press Statement From Chief Allan Adam in reaction to the passing of Bill C-45

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December 14, 2012 – Fort McMurray, AB – Today the Harper government passed Bill C-45 also known as the Omnibus Bill.  The Bill includes major amendments to environmental legislation removing the protection of a majority of rivers and lakes in Canada and contributes to the erosion of Treaty and Aboriginal rights. The Bill has been long opposed by many First Nations across Canada and sparked groups like Idle No More calling for national protests.  Chief Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who had critiqued the bill in its infancy and asked others to stand in opposition stated this upon learning that it has passed through reading:

“Today, history was made.  The Harper government passed Bill C-45, a bill that strips down First Nations Treaty rights and protection and diminishes the democracy of this country.  We have seen the erosion of our people’s Treaty rights throughout various forms of legislation in the past, but this bill is proof the government holds little stock in our rights and title and is attempting to create more loop holes for industry to continue annihilating our lands,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “We hope the public outcry against this undemocratic and racist piece of legislation will continue. I support our leaders on hunger strikes, our people putting up protests and all those doing what they can to ensure that our rights no longer fall between the cracks.”

 

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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

 

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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

National Post Article: First Nations shut out of Jackpine oil sands hearing

I really thought this was worth sharing as it really puts a lens on what we are up against and why we need the support of the public behind us as we bring forward our challenge of another tar sands project.

First Nations shut out of Jackpine oil sands hearing

Kristen E. Courtney, Special to Financial Post | Oct 26, 2012

“A government review panel has denied dozens of First Nations people who live downstream from Shell Canada Ltd.’s Jackpine oil sands mine in Alberta the right to participate in environmental assessment hearings for the mine’s expansion, apparently due to problems with their applications.

At the same time, the panel overlooked the same problem in the application of the Canadian unit of a large French oil company and granted it standing to appear. Among those who were denied standing was Bill Erasmus, Dene National chief and Assembly of First Nations regional chief.

PLEASE READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE

 

Update on Shell Jackpine Mine Constitutional Hearings

This past week has had it’s ups and downs.  I just want to take this moment to thank everyone who has stood with ACFN through this process and we hope to continue this momentum as we move forward with next steps.
Update:

On Tuesday October 23 our lawyers presented arguements to the ERCB clarifying our position and why our questions of constitutional law should be heard and decided by the Panel.  The day was supported by upwards of 50 people in Fort McMurray who wore their “I stand with ACFN” t-shirts & scarves as well as a full page ad in Fort McMurray today that relayed the support of more the 50 human rights, conservation and first nation groups to ACFN challenge.

We held a noon press event with support from Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Grand Chief Bill Erasmus of Dene Nation, Clayton Thomas-Muller and Heather Milton Lightening of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Crystal Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree Nation and a bus of supporter from Sierra Club Prairie and Edmonton area who made the trek to Fort McMurray to stand in solidarity with ACFN.  As we made our statements about the importance of the hearings, our challenge and our Treaty rights all echoed by Maude Barlow, Bill Erasmus and Crystal Lameman the ERCB was quickly wrapping up the hearings inside.  The hearings closed with the ERCB announcing that a decision to hear our questions of constitutional law would not be made until the end of the week.  I, along with many other, thought this strange considering the full public hearings are scheduled to start on Monday morning which would give little time to hear our questions. However, we bit the bullet and began the sit and wait game for a decision.

By the afternoon participants from Edmonton wanted to make the best of the day so they took to the street and walked down Franklin Avenue to the Fort McMurray Shell station to raise a sign that read “I Stand with ACFN” and hand out info pamphlets about ACFN’s challenge and Shell’s proposed projects.  The group was very surprised by the supportive honks and the willingness of public engagement they received from people throughout the day.  This type of action was mimicked in BC with similar actions of support.  All this has come as a bit of a surprise from ACFN however we welcome the peaceful actions these groups have taken.

At the end of the evening we had a great speaking event that kicked off Maude Barlow of Council of Canadian’s No Pipeline & Tankers tour.  Maude, Chief Allan Adam of ACFN and Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network really brought the struggles across North America to light and gave empowerment to the people to continue our resistance and strength.

By the end of the week we were all anxious to hear the news from ERCB about a decision to hear our challenge.  The news was grim but not that surprising.  The ERCB released a statement reading “...today (the ERCB) ruled that it does not have the jurisdiction to consider the constitutional questions raised by Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation…” News reports title “Jackpine review panel won’t rule on First Nations challenge” began littering the news world and leaving ACFN no other option to begin exploring other options to continue to bring forward our challenge and will likely up with us in the courts.

“Our lawyers are reviewing the document to to determine our recourse, but we have always been prepared to take this to the Alberta courts if necessary,” Deranger said. “We are fully committed to be part of the hearing process, but we also feel our questions of constitutional law have to be addressed.”  – Edmonton Journal

ACFN is not about to stand down and we are gearing up for the long haul and hope that the support that has come in will continue and thank all those that have raised signs reading “I Stand with ACFN” and all the organizations that are standing behind us.  We hope that everyone understands the importance of our challenge of this project and how we are trying and change the course of how First Nations and treaty rights are recognized and accommodated by industry and industrial development in Alberta and put a stop to the injustices our people are facing.
Mahsi Cho

ACFN lawyers make impacting statements at Jackpine Mine constitutional hearings

I am sitting in a room in Fort McMurray listening to our lawyers argue about the need to protect our constitutionally protected rights to fish, hunt, and trap – rights that are being threatened by the expansion of the tar sands and specifically the Shell Jackpine Mine. We have been here before – in courtrooms, government offices, and the boardroom of Shell Canada – trying to protect our traditional way of life and the spirit of our community. But this time it is different because we are not alone. Today over 50 conservation and social justice groups along with many First Nations have come out in support of our efforts. Over 50,000 people have voiced their opposition to the Shell mine and as I write this there is a bus full of supporters making their way from Edmonton to join us. Facebook is littered with postings expressing support for the ACFN. We are honoured.

The oil companies have more money then we can ever dream of. They can out spend us at every turn, make more ads, and pay more experts. But we have the passion of our people, our culture, our Treaty, the Canadian Constitution, and the truth on our side. And with the outpouring of support that is coming in from all corners of Canada and the US, we will confront Big Oil and protect our land and our rights. We are not alone.

Mahsi Cho

MEDIA ADVISORY: First Nation Presents Legal challenge of Shell’s Tar Sands Expansion along with Allies and Supports

First Nation Presents Legal challenge of Shell’s Tar Sands Expansion along with Allies and Supports

FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTAOn October 23rd the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) will be presenting their arguments regarding their question of Constitutional Law to the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and the Joint Review Panel (JRP) with respect to Shell Canada’s application to expand their Jackpine Mine tar sands project. The questions brought forward by ACFN are rooted in section 35 of the Canadian constitution outlining the governments failure to meaningfully address the overall impacts of development on ACFN’s treaty rights as set out in Treaty 8. Although, the ERCB and JRP have agreed to hear evidence from ACFN they stated they have not determined if they will make decisions regarding constitutional challenges regarding section 35 rights.  Chief Allan Adam of ACFN, along with allies and supporters, will be making a public statement regarding the importance of this challenge noon at MacDonald Island Park.

What?   Drummers, Banners & Press Statement made by Chief Allan Adam with public support followed by evening speaking event with ACFN representatives, Maude Barlow and members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Fort McKay First Nation.  

When and Where?           Tuesday October 23, 20

9:00am Hearings Begin
MacDonald Island Park
151 MacDonald Drive,
Fort McMurrary, AB T9H 5C

12:00pm ACFN Press Statement
MacDonald Island Park
151 MacDonald Drive,
Fort McMurrary, AB T9H 5C5

6:30pm Speaking Event
Athabasca Room
MacDonald Island Park
151 MacDonald Drive,
Fort McMurrary, AB T9H 5C5

Why?     With new and emerging changes to environmental laws in Canada, ACFN’s constitutional challenge based on Section 35 constitutional rights and Treaty 8 may be the only recourse for effectively challenging tar sands projects.  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.

For more information about the rally and press event please contact Eriel Deranger at 780-903-6598 or eriel.deranger@acfn.com

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