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



First Nation discovers large petrochemical sheen on Athabasca River; Alberta’s new energy regulator missing in action

First Nation discovers large petrochemical sheen on Athabasca River; Alberta’s new energy regulator missing in action

July 7, 2013, FORT MCMURRAY – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is demanding answers and action from the Alberta government following reports of a large possibly petrochemical spill into the Athabasca River. The large visible peteochemical sheen may be from a previous spill that regulators failed to contain or from a new release. Either way it has been left unaddressed and has forced the community to close the communities water intake.


Early Saturday morning a community member from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) reported a large oily sheen on the Athabasca river about 60 km north of Fort McMurray that according to his account stretched over 5 km.

The sheen, that from pictures and eye-witness account appears to be petrochemical in nature, was reported both to the Alberta Governments new Alberta Energy Regulator and the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources. After silence from both government bodies, Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam flew over the site late Saturday afternoon reporting that the sheen now stretched for over 100 kms, and had soaked river banks. Nation members also took samples and pictures of the spill.


“Our Nation faces another toxic threat to our water supply and our calls for action are met by silence by the Alberta government and their new energy regulator. Our members appear to be the only world class monitoring system Alberta has,” said Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam.


The finding of the spill happened on the same day that hundreds of people from all across Canada gathered in Fort McMurray to participate in a healing walk through the inundated tar sands region.


“It’s tragically ironic that we would find this sheen on the same day that we walk to heal the land from tar sands destruction,” remarked Adam. “This spill is one of the number of reasons why we walk and is a oily reminder of Alberta’s growing pipeline and tar sands problem. The Alberta government needs to address these problems, ignoring them doesn’t make them go away.”


Pictures taken of the spill can be viewed here:


For more information contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598