Yinka Dene Alliance Freedom Train – Tar Sands to Pipelines

The Yinka Dene Alliance is taking a Freedom Train across Canada to enforce their legal ban on the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipelines and tankers project, and to stand up for their freedom to choose their own future. A large delegation of Yinka Dene people will travel with allied First Nations from their traditional territories in northern BC all the way to Toronto, with events in Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg along the route.

In Toronto, the Yinka Dene Alliance will take the Save the Fraser Declaration – which bans oil pipelines and tankers in the territories of more than 100 First Nations –  directly to Enbridge’s leadership and the centre of financial power in Toronto, at Enbridge’s annual shareholders meeting. These oil pipelines and tankers threaten the very survival of First Nations peoples with devastating oil spills. That is why the Yinka Dene Alliance are taking this Freedom Train across Canada: to stand up for the freedom to live according to their own cultures, the freedom to govern themselves and their lands, and the freedom of all of us from the catastrophic risks of big oil and their inevitable oil spills.

As part of this tour they will be stopping in Edmonton on May 1 and 2 and we would like to show them a warm welcome.

On May 1st various groups have organized a feast, round dance and time for people to hear the Yinka Dene speak and share the stories of their journey. For more information please check out the facebook event here.

On May 2nd, the Yinka Dene will rally at the Alberta Legislature and march to the Enbridge office in downtown Edmonton at 11:30am.  We welcome everyone to come and join them and help elevate their voices. For more information please check out the facebook event here.

As many of you remember, ACFN signed onto the Save the Fraser Declaration in January of this year.  We signed onto the declaration because we understand what is stake for the Yinka Dene and our struggles are one and the same.  We don’t want our rights, lands and people sidelined by profits and “development.” As Indigenous peoples we have an intricate relationship with Mother Earth and all that she provides us and we must carry out our duties as stewards of the land and stand up for those that cannot speak.

The connection to the Enbridge pipelines challenge lies in our own challenge of Shell’s proposed projects .  Shell’s proposed projects would more then double their production producing 600,000 b/p/d of tar sands contributing to cumulative impacts already felt in the region.  Shell’s projects alone would be enough to fill the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines enabling Shell’s expansion of tar sands development in our traditional lands, pushing us beyond the tipping point of what our lands and way of life can sustain. The proposed pipelines would also cross over 1000 rivers, 3 major salmon bearing rivers, and across unceeded territories of many First Nations in BC.

Both Shell and Enbridge projects have lacked proper analysis of Treaty and Indigenous rights and meaningful and proper consultation with impacted communities.  The JRP of the Enbridge pipelines has seen First Nation communities stand up in opposition in community after community asserting their connection to the land and culture are far greater then the piece meal profits and jobs they would get from the project.

Because the themes of our struggles intersect, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has been and will continue to keep a watchful eye on the progress of the Yinka Dene Alliance’s challenge of these massive pipelines.  It is our hope they will be successful in asserting their rights to both the corporations and the governments, then perhaps we can share in their strength challenging projects here in Northern Alberta.


Shell Case and Claim Update

It’s been a busy and hectic couple of months and it’s about time for an update on ACFN and our case against Shell, our challenges of the two newly proposed projects and other relevant news.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation will have a new website up and running in the next couple of weeks featuring maps, articles, links, and bio’s of ACFN leadership and staff.

So keep a look out at www.acfn.com!

Judicial review of Shell Leases

In 2006 and 2007 Alberta sold tar sands leases surrounding the Popular Point Reserve 201G, a reserve belonging to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, for future tar sands extraction.  When leadership became aware of the sale of this land in 2008 they immediately challenged Alberta’s right to grant these leases without the consent of ACFN.  In January of 2011, Alberta courts ruled that ACFN had missed Alberta’s six month deadline for objections and the sale must stand.

The Alberta provincial court ruled that formal notice was not required given that the information was posted to a government website. They cited that ACFN offices are equipped with computers connected to the Internet and therefore ACFN should have been aware of the leases being put up for public auction at the time they were posted.

Between April 2008 and July 2010, 117,753 hectares of leases within ACFN traditional lands were put up for anonymous auction by the province. Bidders can use names or numbers that hide their identities.

“Imagine someone trying to expropriate your home hundreds of times a year,” said ACFN Chief Allan Adam. “Every time that happens they don’t come to your house to notify you, they just publish a note on a website and a clock starts ticking.”

ACFN leadership took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada hoping they would hear an appeal.  However, in February of this year it was announced that the Supreme Court of Canada would not hear an appeal.

“ACFN is disappointed the Supreme Court of Canada does not deem this issue of national interest and they stand by their stance that Alberta tenure system needs to be reviewed and amended to include the constitutionally protected rights of First Nations at the early stages of granting leases.”

Shell’s Newly Proposed Projects and ACFN’s Challenge

The ACFN Industry Relations Corporation  is currently working on behalf of ACFN to prepare evidence, experts and legal arguments for the Joint Review Panel (JRP) Hearing on Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion and Pierre River Mine (PRM) Projects. The JRP Hearing is a high-level and intensive review of a proposed project conducted by the Federal and Provincial governments.

As outlined in our submission to CEAA in December of 2011, ACFN asserts that Shell’s proposed JPM and PRM projects raised issues of concern for ACFN members and could have significant impacts on ACFN members and the broader community. These include concerns about impacts to water quality and quantity, air quality, ACFN traplines, land use and impacts on wildlife such as Woodland Caribou and Wood Bison. These are just a few examples. The concerns outlined will ultimately impact ACFN’s constitutionally protected treaty rights.  The fact is, it’s getting harder and harder for ACFN members to exercise their rights and pass on their culture to their children and many of the newly proposed industrial development projects are further eroding peoples abilities to do so.

The Jackpine Mine Expansion would include additional mining areas and associated processing facilities, utilities and infrastructure. The project would be located about 70 km north of Fort McMurray on the east side of the Athabasca River. The expansion project would increase bitumen production by 100,000 barrels per day, bringing production at the Jackpine mine to 300,000 barrels per day

The Pierre River Mine Project includes the construction, operation and reclamation of an oil sands surface mine and bitumen extraction facilities.  The proposed mining project would be location approximately 90 km north of Fort McMurray on the west site of the Athabasca River.  The proposed development includes and open-pit mind, ore handling facility, bitumen extraction facilities, tailings processing facilities, support infrastructure, water  and tailing management plans and the construction of a bridge across the Athabasca River.  The project is designed to produce a total of 200,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

Often industry will want to negotiate agreements with First Nations as a way to address concerns. Past agreements with industry have not achieved strong protections for the land, water, air and wildlife, and done little to ensure our treaty rights can be sustained into the future. Furthermore, ACFN has already had issues with Shell not fully implementing past agreements, which led ACFN leadership to pursue a lawsuit against Shell last November.

The high level of concerns about these projects makes it very important to participate in the JRP Hearing process.  By participating in the hearing process there is an opportunity to influence government to implement stronger protection of treaty rights and the environment.   We are currently looking at ways that the public can be more engaged in the process and how you to can sign up to participate.  STAY TUNED FOR MORE LINKS AND WAYS TO GET INVOLVED!

ACFN Lawsuit Against Shell

ACFN is currently still in discovery phase of the lawsuit against Shell Oil Canada. Until this is completed there is little movement in the case. n

Shell Annual General Shareholder Meeting

Next month on May 22 Shell Oil International will host it  Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Shareholders Meeting in The Hauge, Netherlands.  The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation plans to send representatives to the AGM to address both Shareholders and Shell executives about the growing concerns surrounding the two newly proposed projects as well as the pending legal suit.

Pipelines and Other news

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has been supporting the Yinka Dene Alliance and their opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Northern Alberta to BC’s fragile coast for shipment in giant tankers.  The Yinka Dene Alliance will be traveling from by train from interior BC to Toronto, Ont for the Annual General Meeting for Enbridge.  ACFN has been working with various groups to ensure that this caravan across the country is successful in sharing their story.  The Yinka Dene Alliance will be stopping in Edmonton and we will be welcoming them with a feast and roundance on May 1.  We will also be joining them in Toronto on May 9th to present to Enbridge shareholders and executives.  Stay tuned for more information about the route, their stops and how you too can help.