The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation announce new legal filing challenging the recent Jackpine Mine approval


The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation announce new legal filing challenging the recent Jackpine Mine approval


January 15, 2014 – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), accompanied by Canadian iconic folk singer Neil Young, announced new litigation against the Federal government and Shell Canada during the official press conference for the “Honour the Treaties” benefit tour on Sunday January 13 in Toronto. Woodward & Company filed an application on behalf of the ACFN on January 3, 2014, asking the Federal Court to review the Crown’s decision to approve the Joint Review Panel report[i] and decision to authorize Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion project proposal, and declare the decision invalid and unlawful.


“The ACFN remains unsatisfied with the Crown’s response to consult and accommodate. The Crown is unwilling to meaningfully address the extensive concerns we have brought forward before, during and after the public review process for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion,” stated Doreen Somers, ACFN Industry Relation Corporation (IRC) Consultation Coordinator


The ACFN hold unique rights as agreed upon in Treaty 8.[ii]  Their legal filing declares the Crown has breached its constitutional duty to adequately consult with the First Nation regarding the impacts to their section 35 rights from the Project. The filing outlines breaches to constitutional duty to accommodate, duty of consultation, and duty of accommodation in respect to the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion project. Further, they affirm the Minister of the Environment has breached section 53 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.  

“The Crown is in direct violation of their fiduciary obligations. We have not even begun to effectively address the many impacts this Project would have on ACFN’s Aboriginal and Treaty rights, yet they have already granted an approval? The approval of the project was hypocritical, on one hand they outlined all of the various violations of laws and legislation but ultimately approving the project in the public interest. Frankly, it’s insulting and unlawful,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.


The ACFN Treaty rights concerns are typically deferred to regional plans and cumulative effects processes. For its part, ACFN has participated in various industry and Crown led planning and cumulative effects management processes. Despite ACFN’s good faith efforts, these processes have not resulted in meaningful protection of ACFN’s Treaty Rights.


The ACFN are requesting that the decision is suspended until adequate consultation and accommodation is completed.


“The decision to approve the Jackpine Mine expansion will seriously threaten the survival of our traditional way of life as Denesuline people,” said ACFN Elder Pat Marcel. “Canada has breached its own laws in approving the Jackpine Mine Expansion decision. We have worked for the past six years raising our concerns about the project and meaningful protection for our Treaty rights with nothing but empty promises from government and industry.” 


The ACFN maintains a position of not being against development, but rather are working towards achieving responsible and just relationships, governance, development and economies. The ACFN’s legal challenges are driven by an Elders Declaration[iii]  that outlines a protection zone north of the Firebag river, an area they say is critical to protect and preserve their cultural and treaty rights. It does not single out a specific industry but rather simply states that any initiatives that would impact their rights.


“We will hold the line and challenge all proposals, projects and approvals that impacts the lands, territory and rights that are necessary for our cultural and Treaty rights,” stated Chief Adam.




Summary of Legal filing:


For more information:


Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator (780) 903-6598


[i] The Joint Review Panel (JRP) report and decision on the Jackpine Mine Expansion was released July 9th, 2013, with 88 recommendations. The JRP found that 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. There is also a lack of proposed mitigation measures that have been proven to be effective. The Panel also concludes that 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.”


[ii] Treaty 8 was signed with the Crown in 1899 on the shores of Fort Chipewyan.  Treaty 8 guaranteed that ACFN and its members continue access to their lands and territory to exercise their Aboriginal rights- including hunting, fishing, and trapping.  Treaty 8 is recognized within Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.