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


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.


For more information please contact

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598





Federal government grants delay on approval for Shell’s Jackpine Mine project

logoFirst Nations request for federal delay on approval for Shell’s tar sands Project granted

November 6, 2013, Fort McMurray, AB – Earlier this week  the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) announced that a federal decision on Shell Oil’s Jackpine Mine Expansion, a 100,000 barrel per day open pit tar sands mine expansion, would be delayed an additional 35 days.  At the heart of this decision is the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who has been speaking out against the project since day one citing a variety of concerns relating to treaty and aboriginal rights as well as  direct and cumulative environmental impacts.

In July 2013 the Joint Review Panel appointed to review the Jackpine Mine Expansion project granted a conditional approval laying out 88 non-binding recommendations.  However, the Panel also made some remarkable findings including the following:

… 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… in combination with other existing, approved, and planned projects, would likely have significant adverse cumulative environmental effects on wetlands; traditional plant potential area; old-growth forest; 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.[i]

Many of the findings of the panel give way to serious concerns of breach of federal legislation including Treaty and Aboriginal Rights, and the protection of species at risk. Many groups, including the First Nation, were surprised the Panel justified the Project on the grounds that it would be in an area ‘in which the government of Alberta has identified bitumen extraction as a priority use’.[ii]

“We’re glad an extension was provided.  It is clear that there is a lot of work to do before this project can meet the federal requirements for approval.  However, we are disappointed the Minister only granted 35 day and not the full 90 days allowed. The amount of work that needs to be done to mitigate and accommodate impacts to our Nation seems almost impossible in only 35 calendar days. But we will make best efforts and hope that Canada does the same.””  said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

The ACFN raised concerns about the Project early on citing adverse impacts on Treaty and Aboriginal rights and title and difficulties with consultation and accommodation with the oil giant Shell.[iii]  The hearings for the Project became one of the longest hearings seen for a tar sands project and included over 60,000 letters of support for ACFN position against the project. .

“The ACFN is taking a big risk challenging the status quo of project approvals and development in the region,”  stated Crystal Lameman, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Sierra Club Prairie Chapter.  “We support their arguments that are strongly rooted in the governments’ failure to protect species at risk and the biodiversity of the region and the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of the Nation,”

Many of the ACFN’s concerns were echoed and supported in the Panel Report itself, and most recently by the report of the Commissioner on Environmental and Sustainable development which, criticized Canada’s failure to meets legislative requirements under the Species at Risk Act stating ‘the findings are cause for concern.’ The report also noted that a new collaborative approach rooted in using sound management practices, transparency and strong engagement is necessary to achieve the results necessary to fulfill federal commitments and responsibilities.

ACFN’s requests that Canada take concrete, immediate steps to address impacts, rather than commit to future action, are supported by the Commissioner’s observation of  “the wide and persistent gap between what the government commits to do and what it is achieving”.[iv]

Since the Panel Report  we have repeatedly requested meetings with the Federal Ministers to address the extensive list of outstanding issues we have with Shell Oil’s application to develop this recognizably devastating project in our traditional land use areas. The Nation states their request for meetings with high level ministers have been denied and they have only had opportunities to reiterate their concerns and position to technicians with little or no authority to make the necessary decisions to move their concerns forward.

“We need real action and a game plan created in partnership that addresses our concerns,” asserts Adam .  “At present we don’t feel that our issues are being taken seriously and the consequences for this governments inaction will be the annihilation of critical habitat for species at risk and other traditional resources, and the degradation of the Muskeg River and the Athabasca Delta, in our traditional homelands.”

The ACFN maintain their position that they are challenging these projects in the public interest and for the interest of all Canadians.

“The Muskeg and Athabasca Rivers drain into the Athabasca Delta, which remains one of the last remaining fresh water delta’s in the world and vital carbon sink that helps maintain atmospheric stability for the entire planet.  As Denesuline people we are the stewards of this region and we will do what is necessary to ensure that it remains here for all future generations,” concluded Chief Adam.


For More information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Crystal Lameman, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter 780-337-9262

[i] Executive Summary – Joint Review Panel Report, Shell Canada Energy, Jackpine Mine Expansion Project, Application to Amend Approval 9756, pg. 2 para. 9

[ii]Executive Summary – Joint Review Panel Report, Shell Canada Energy, Jackpine Mine Expansion Project, Application to Amend Approval 9756; pg.2, para. 8

[iii] Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) Technical Review – Jackpine Mine Expansion Project

[iv] 2013 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development; The Commissioners Perspective and Chapter 6 – Recovery Planning for Species at Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Another Project approval raises further questions in Alberta’s motive to stop at nothing to develop in the region

Another Project approval raises further questions in Alberta’s motive to stop at nothing to develop in the region

October 22, 2013 – Fort McMurray, Alberta – Yesterday the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released their decision on the Teck drilling applications. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), who submitted concerns triggering a public hearing, are disappointed with the decision and the entire Regulatory process.

Teck Resources Limited applied for licence to drill 177 tar sands evaluation wells within the territory of the ACFN on the west side of Athabasca River within critical habitat of the Ronald Lake Bison herd. The wells are being drilled to support the proposed Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project, which is also under a review.

The ACFN submitted concerns to the AER and the Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) that Teck’s Program would have direct and adverse impacts on ACFN members’ ability to exercise their constitutionally protected rights, and contribute to loss of access to lands, the deterioration of water quality and quantity in the Athabasca River and interfere and impact critical wildlife including species at risk such as Ronald Lake Bison herd.

Concerns regarding the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts were mirrored by concerns submitted by other neighboring communities. ACFN put forward compelling evidence of serious impacts experienced during last years’ Frontier drilling program, and the vulnerability and rarity of the Ronald Lake Bison herd as a culturally important resource. Despite this, the AER found that Program effects would be localized, temporary and of short duration and would not result in significant adverse effects on Aboriginal rights.

“Over the past five years we have repeatedly tried to intervene in various applications and proposed policies governing tar sands development in the region in an attempt to safeguard our Treaty rights,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Yet, it would seem that our concerns fall on deaf ears and application after application and policy after policy are continually approved without adequate consultation or consideration of our inherent and constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”

The ACFN, along with other First Nations in the region have been raising red flags regarding the consultation process, adverse environmental impacts and the protection of Treaty and Aboriginal rights in the wake of out of control tar sands expansion.

Last year, the ACFN participated as interveners in the lengthy hearings for the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion project, bringing forward compelling and hard evidence regarding the negative and adverse impacts that the project would have on the environment and Treaty and Aboriginal rights. However, the Joint Review Panel granted a conditional approval of the project outlining 88 non-binding recommendations.

The Panel however, ultimately admitted “…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.”

While the findings of the Panel were somewhat groundbreaking, albeit late, the ACFN is concerned with whether or not the recommendations will be adhered to by the Alberta government and Shell. The Nation will continue to pursue alternative means to ensure this project does not move forward without adequately addressing their rights and concerns.

Earlier this year the AER released a decision granting unconditional approvals for development even in the face of an intervention by Fort McKay First Nation. Chief Adam stated, “If people really understood the government of Alberta has been pushing full steam ahead regardless of the impacts to the public and evidence I would hope they would be appalled. The actions of the AER demonstrate that the government is failing miserably to uphold their obligations under the law. When we start making positive changes within the law, they simply change that too.”

In all three approved applications the AER and Panel relied heavily on the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) as justification to preclude the protection of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and traditional land uses of Aboriginal peoples in general, and of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in particular.

LARP is currently being contested by numerous First Nation, including the ACFN, who have requested a formal Request for Review of LARP under the basis that as it is today the plan does not address, nor provide protections for ACFN’s Treaty and Aboriginal Rights, traditional lands use, use and enjoyment of reserve lands, and culture. LARP is a smoke and mirror approach to give the impression that something is being done. I’m here to say, the only thing being done is approval after approval for tar sands extraction in the name of economics” said Adam

The AER and the Panel both justified the contested projects based on the fact that LARP had identified the areas as bitumen extraction priority use areas regardless of the compelling evidence brought forward by the First Nations and other interest groups.
“We have tried to resolve our issues within the limitation of the regulatory system, the courts and even on the streets,” stated Eriel Deranger. “Yet, nothing changes, its’ business as usual for Industry while our rights are slowly being phased out along with the pristine biodiversity and culture in the region.”

These recent approvals are now coupled with recent decision by an Alberta judge that the Alberta government has been working behind the scenes to silence groups that question the effects of tar sands operations on the environment. The decision condemns the Alberta government for interfering with the intervener selection process and only allowing more favorable groups to participate in the public review process. Many groups, including First Nations are losing faith that the review process in Alberta is fair or just.

Just last week, UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People wrapped up his Canadian tour with a scathing report on Canada’s track record on the treatment of Treaty and Aboriginal people in the country stating disputes over land and natural resources continue to be a source of tension and distrust. He went on to remark on the recent situation of the Mi’kmaq in N.B. as a “manifestation of this frustration with the unresolved issues” and “There’s a crisis in Canada with regard to indigenous issues.”

“We’ve had enough. Our Elders and members don’t want to see any more destruction of our traditional lands and territory,” stated Chief Adam. “We have drawn a line in the sand and we don’t want to see any development North of the Firebag River and into our homelands. We will do what it takes to ensure our rights are protected now and into the future.”

In response to LARP, the caribou recovery strategy and various other proposed land policies in Alberta, the ACFN have created a defined area they would like to see protected from unfettered development and abuse. They refer to this area as North of the Firebag river and a map can be viewed in the report here.

Now more then ever, it’s important that the rights and freedoms of First Nations in Canada and Alberta alike are addressed, protected and upheld. It is the view of the ACFN that the Federal government needs to step in to uphold their fiduciary obligations to protect both treaty rights and species at risk in the region before both are lost forever.


For more information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

Treaty 8 Releases their statement and position on Alberta’s Final draft Aboriginal Consultation Policy

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation would like to share the following statement released by the office of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

It is very important to understand the long term implications this policy would have on many First Nations ability to effectively assert and meaningfully protect their lands, rights and culture.  This is particularly important in resource rich areas of Alberta where many of the lagging environmental policies and practices have already lead to the cumulative removal of  lands, wildlife and fish habitat as well as the destruction of ecological, aesthetic and sensory systems that many Nations rely on. This has consequently affected Treaty promises, cultural and spiritual renewal, procurement of resources, and Peoples connection and use of landscape that are integral to traditional use. The proposed consultation policy does not leave room for adequate space and time to address these issues.  

Our people have unique rights and are developing our own sovereign tools and policies to pave the way forward.  The Alberta goverments proposed policy is nothing more then a slap in the face to our rights and sovereignty. 

Please share the following:


Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta
To Protect, Promote, Bring to Life, Implement, and Sustain the True Spirit and Intent of Treaty No. 8 as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the waters flow.


Chiefs Have No Input On Consultation Policy Changes


c/o Santa Fe Plaza
18178 – 102 Avenue Edmonton, Alberta T5S 1S7 Telephone: (780) 444-9366 Fax: (780) 484-1465

Edmonton, Alberta – September 10, 2013 – The Government of Alberta has recently released it’s latest installment of Consultation Policy and draft Guidelines and long standing recommendations from First Nations are still noticeably absent from the document.

“In September of 2010, the Chiefs from across Alberta got together to produce a position paper on how to improve consultation policy within this province. That position paper gave clear recommendations on ways to create a better system, yet these are not reflected in this newly released policy. It is obvious that the government has not taken any of our positions into account in the development of this policy. This has been a very frustrating process,” states Richard Kappo, Grand Chief of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta.

“The Chiefs from across Treaty 8 [Alberta] have just met to discuss this issue and after years of trying to improve consultation for both us and Albertans, they are not happy. We [The Chiefs of Treaty 8 Alberta] want to be clear that we were not just outright rejecting previous policies but instead, we provided the government with workable alternatives, all of which were ignored.” In addition to the position paper, Grand Chief Kappo is referring to numerous letters, since 2010, that have been sent to Alberta in regards to working with them to change the consultation process into a more adequate model. These attempts have had little success in adjusting this newest policy creation.

“We are talking about the very core of our Treaty Rights, the hunting, trapping and fishing rights of our members and ensuring those rights are preserved so we can continue to practice a traditional lifestyle,” says Grand Chief Kappo before adding, “We recognize that consultation is a two way street, and we made significant efforts to try to create meaningful opportunities for consultation and get the voices of our citizens heard. Unfortunately, no one within the Government of Alberta is listening to us.”

“Many of the Nations of Treaty 8 already have their own consultation practices and policies in place, something that they put a lot of thought, effort and resources into developing. This latest policy overrides any policies First Nations already have and leaves it up to industry on whether or not they want to follow them,” states the Grand Chief.

Alberta claims to be committed to working with First Nations but First Nations are skeptical. “We have already comprehensively laid out how to make the system better, but I don’t see any of that work reflected here [in the policy and draft guidelines],” says the Grand Chief. “They will have difficulty in finding receptive Chiefs when recent history suggests that our input will have no influence on the outcome.”

Greg Posein Communications Coordinator
18178 – 102 Avenue Edmonton, Alberta T5S 1S7 Ph: (780) 444-9366 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation preparing to stand before regulatory board challenging tar sands winter drilling project


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation preparing to stand before regulatory board challenging tar sands winter drilling project
August 16, 2013 Fort McMurray, AB – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) will once again stand before a regulatory body to bring forward evidence regarding the negative and irreversible impacts of tar sands development projects in Northern Alberta.  This time the ACFN will present before the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to address the impacts of the Teck Frontier Oil Sands Mine project exploratory winter drilling project.
This is a unique and rare hearing of a winter drilling program that do not often trigger hearings before the AER.  For years the ACFN has warned both Federal and Provincial governments about adverse impacts on Treaty Rights created by tar sands development in their territory including early exploratory projects.  In November 2012 and February 2013 the ACFN brought forward evidence to the AER outlining impacts the Teck Frontier’s Winter drilling could have in what ACFN has identified as critical and vital lands that require protection north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
“The process for granting tenure as well as the project-specific environmental impact assessment process in the tar sands has failed to address the impacts that exploratory projects could have on First Nations rights and title,” stated Doreen Somers, ACFN Industry Relations Corporation. “We hope that the AER will consider our evidence and recognize the necessity of assessing and protecting the rights of First Nations early on.  This would not only create certainty for all parties in the area but would address the concerns of Industry who are often left with unexpected project delays.”
In 2008 ACFN took Alberta to court over its failure to consult before issuing oil sands tenures in their territory highlighting Alberta’s irresponsible leasing practices that lend to uncertainty for both First Nation and Industry alike.  Although the ACFN lost this case due to a very novel interpretation of the both the law regarding notice required to trigger time periods for judicial review, and of the nature of declaratory relief the ACFN is hoping the AER hearing will highlight the importance of addressing these rights early on in the permitting process.
Teck’s Frontier exploration drilling would disrupt an area of land that is vital to one of the only herds of Bison that is disease free.  This area has minimal disturbance and is critical habitat for the protection of the Ronald Lake Herd.  The survival of species at risk is critical and the ACFN has been identified this particular area as a special management zone that is required in the protection of Treaty Rights.
“We are looking out of the best interests of our people, our lands, our rights, and the public,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN. “Our Elders identified lands that were necessary for the continuation of our rights and survival of species. During the Jackpine Mine hearings the government recognized development is having adverse impacts on our rights. It’s become obvious expansion is out of control and is proceeding without adequately addressing our concerns and the unique rights of First Nations.”
“It’s time government and industry listen because we are serious about asserting our rights and title to protect our territory for current and future generations,” remarked Adam.
In the spring of 2012 the ACFN released a report entitled Níh boghodi: We are the Stewards of our Land which identifies the necessity of developing protection zones and proximate zones north of what is known as the Firebag River.  The ACFN assert these lands are critical to the survival of species such as Caribou and Bison and the continuation of Denesuline culture and identity.
The ACFN will appear before the AER on Monday August 19 at the Chateau Nova Fort McMurray, Alberta starting at 1:00pm.
– 30 –
For More Information please contact:
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: First Nation responds to results of oily sheen on Athabasca River is LIKELY a by-product of a blue-green algae

logoFirst Nation responds to results of oily sheen on Athabasca River is likely a by-product of a blue-green algae

July 10, 2013, Fort McMurray, AB – Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) was informed this morning that results from the testing of the oily sheen seen along the Athabasca River and into lake Athabasca has likely been caused by large blue-green algae bloom.  The algae was likely caused by run off during record high waters and set into motion by the record high temperatures that followed.  When the algae blooms died they released an oily sheen into the river that resembled a petrochemical substance. It is conclusive the sheen was not a petrochemical in nature.

“The ACFN was made aware of the oily sheen on the river late Friday night.  Our community monitoring program and employees were deployed first thing Saturday.  We were the first on site and the first to assess the situation.  Given the nature of the occurrence on the river, coupled with the extensive development upstream in the Athabasca tar sands our communities did not take this incident lightly or casually.

Our people have never seen algae blooms like this in the region and it caused great alarm to our members who rely on the lands and river systems for food, water and sustenance.  Given the numerous oil spills, leaks, bursts and breaches seen in the province in recent pasts it becomes easy to understand our concern when situations like this arise. All appropriate precautions were taken including the shutting off of the water intake system in the community of Fort Chipewyan until conclusive results were available.

The high run off caused by record-breaking rainfalls coupled with record-breaking temperatures created a situation never seen before in the region.  Although it may be ‘natural’ we have to consider why we are seeing more ‘natural disasters.’ It has become hard to ignore that the flooding and record temperatures seen here in the Athabasca, in southern Alberta and globally is an indication that things are changing and climate change is becoming a reality.

Our people, Indigenous peoples and land based peoples, are the first to recognize and feel the impacts of climate change, and the incident on the river is perfect example. Now more then ever is it time that governments begin the process to work with our nations to adequately protect, monitor and mitigate negative and adverse impacts on eco-systems that are vital not only to indigenous peoples, but to our planet as a whole.

Our communities have been working to create stronger partnerships with government for full integration of a co-management plan in the region with little to no success.  The government is spending millions of dollars on a world class monitoring system that has failed to integrate First Nations communities into its planning and implementation. We hope that our rapid response to the incident on the river is an indication that we are more then capable partners as stewards and caretakers of the region and valuable assets in being first responders and monitors in the region.”


For More information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communication Coordinator 780-903-6598

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: ACFN disappointed by JRP’s initial approval of Shell tar sands mine expansion; expects mitigation and accommodation to be in place prior to further approvals for the expansion

logoACFN disappointed by JRP’s initial approval of Shell tar sands mine expansion; expects mitigation and accommodation to be in place prior to further approvals for the expansion

July 9, 2013 Fort McMurray, AB— Quick on the heels of oil washing up on the shores of Ft. Chipewyan and a 100 km long slick along the Athabasca River, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is disappointed by the recent decision by the Joint Review Panel (JRP) to recommend Shell’s Jackpine mine expansion project go forward, despite a Panel acknowledging, for the first time, the significant adverse impacts tar sands have on Aboriginal rights and cultures.

“We see from this approval that the JRP has prioritized oil industry profits before the health and well being of our community and the environment. It’s truly appalling.  First Nation and environmental rights shouldn’t take a back seat as the destruction of our homelands continues,” comments Eriel Deranger Communication Coordinator for the ACFN.

The report from the JRP admitted within its approval that “the Project, in combination with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects, would likely result in significant adverse cumulative effects on wetlands; old-growth forests; traditional plant potential areas; wetland-reliant species at risk and migratory birds; old- growth forest-reliant species at risk and migratory birds; caribou; biodiversity; and Aboriginal TLU, rights, and culture.” Furthermore it acknowledged that “some types of habitat cannot be reclaimed, the landscape will be significantly altered, and some species loss may be irreversible” but still approved the project with non-binding conditions.

The ACFN put forward extensive resources in both their research and participation in the JRP to assert their position that the project violated their constitutional rights, threatened the health of their community and would destroy 21 kms of the Muskeg River, which is a culturally significant waterway for their traditional practices. Although the ACFN provided significant evidence of the adverse impacts the Panel chose not to require conditions in its approval that would adequately protect ACFN’s rights and culture.

In addition, despite past failings by government regulators, the Panel continues to lean on Provincial and Federal regulators to oversea permitting and development in the region.  ACFN is now left wondering whether its resources could have been better spent educating the world about the adverse impacts of Canada’s tar sands rather than participate in the panel process.

“We appreciate that the Panel heard many of our concerns and created many non-binding recommendations intended to persuade the Crown to honour our Treaty and uphold the Constitution.  Unfortunately, many of the Panel’s recommendations are likely to continue to fall upon deaf government ears,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

“The Crowns lawyers have already demonstrated their indifference for our rights during their presentations to the Panel and the Court during our constitutional challenge, we can only hope that this time will be different,” continued Adam.  “This is an opportunity for the Crown to adequately work with us to translate the Panel’s recommendations into meaningful and enforceable protections for our rights and culture. We are going to the table in good faith and we expect the same from the Crowns. We will be holding them to our Treaty.”

“’Trust us’ isn’t good enough when it comes to protecting our rights and way of life. We’ve seen broken promises too many times for them to hold any worth.  We need policies, regulations and hard limits in place before projects go ahead, not just rhetoric that something should be done at some time in the future. We need action now.” stated Deranger.


“It is very concerning that the project lacks adequate mitigation and will contribute to additional adverse impacts in an already devastated region. Our people are already feeling the impacts of current project in the tar sands and it’s time we saw real change. As Denesuline people, it is our responsibility to protect our lands, our rights, and all that mother earth provides for our people and regardless of this decision we will continue do just that.”



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