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.
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.