Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation pulls out of Grand Rapids Hearings: Citing Prejudiced Process that favors Industry

July 15, 2014 Edmonton, Alberta – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) announced they will no longer participate in the TransCanada Grand Rapids Pipeline hearing citing impossible timelines and prejudice within the process. The First Nation is referring to the project as the “Mother of All Pipelines” feeding projects like the Energy East Pipeline and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline projects.

“The AER put us in an impossible position. I am dumbfounded by this process,” stated Adam before he continued to speak about the obstacles the ACFN has faced in trying to get action from both government and industry to adequately address their concerns.

Adam spoke about how TransCanada consistently showed little regard to actually addressing the concerns raised by the ACFN and were more concerned with how much it would cost to “buy us off.”

Adam added, “this new [Alberta Energy Regulator] regulatory process is fundamentally flawed. It is supposed to be the test of the new regulatory regime for oil and gas and pipelines in Alberta. Yet, it has seriously undermined our efforts to address any concerns about First Nations impacts.”

Adam was referring to the lack of assessment or studies done on the impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, impacts to hunting, fishing and trapping and the incomplete Caribou Protection plan in relation to the project brought up earlier in the day by their legal counsel.

“The Grand Rapids hearings demonstrated how the Alberta government is willing to put the cart before the horse. TransCanada’s application included incomplete studies and reports and yet the AER still granted a fast tracked hearing where TransCanada continued to submit last minute evidence. ACFN was raising concerns that should concern all Albertans – how can you ensure safety and protect the environment if you haven’t even completed the necessary studies,” stated Lorraine Land, ACFN legal Counsel of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP.

The ACFN will be exploring other avenues to challenge the proposed pipeline project and Chief Adam closed his remarks with “It is our law that we need to protect the land and the water so that our people will be here for another 9000 years. We must do this as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows. Today, we respect Dene law and for that reason we can no longer continue in this process.”

For More information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598

 

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Little Known “Feeder” Pipeline – Vital To Tar Sands Expansion – Being Quietly Rammed Through Approvals Say First Nations

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Little Known “Feeder” Pipeline – Vital To Tar Sands Expansion – Being Quietly Rammed Through Approvals Say First Nations

JULY 15, 2014 EDMONTON, ALBERTA – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation(ACFN) and numerous Alberta landowners presented evidence today to challenge TransCanada’s proposed Grand Rapids Pipeline project. Characterized by TransCanada as a “feeder” pipeline, the 500km pipeline would transport 900,000bpd tar sands oil from Fort McMurray to the Heartland Terminal outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The project is essential to the proposed Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines and has a volume capacity double the size of the controversial Northern Gateway project.

“Without the Grand Rapids pipeline, you can say goodbye to Keystone XL, goodbye to Energy East and goodbye to a lot of the proposed oil sands expansion,” said Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator. “This isn’t a project that should be fast tracked, it needs a thorough and comprehensive review.”

The ACFN assert the proposed pipeline would require new tar sands developments “the equivalent to the size of three Suncor sites” to fill the proposed volume of 900,000bpd, something the ACFN say will destroy their ability to hunt, fish and trap in the region and severely affect their Treaty and Aboriginal rights.

“Our peoples rights, and our way of life, are being threatened by out of control development in the region. This project approval process is another example of how government is trying to push us out,” states Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

“Grand Rapids would provide the main feed from the source for other major pipeline projects, but the new Alberta Energy Regulator and the Alberta Consultation Office has decided the project is minimal impact, with no need to consult with our First Nation. It’s a disgusting misuse of power and poor policy,” continued Adam.

The ACFN asserts that the project is within their traditional territory, however, the new and barely functioning Alberta Consultation Office decided TransCanada was not required to consult with the ACFN on the project. The proposed pipeline would cross 56 waterways and rivers including the Athabasca River, which flows northward into the ACFN communities. The ACFN had to file a constitutional challenge against the project saying the pipeline would pass through its territory, across and beneath major waterways, critical bison and caribou habitat, and atop major ground water aquifers in order to bring forward critical evidence to the hearings. Something the ACFN feel should have never had to happen.

The push back on this pipeline isn’t just from the ACFN, Alberta landowners and environmental groups are also concerned that TransCanada has not completed its Environmental Protection Plan, Caribou protection plan, spill contingency plan or safety plan for the project yet have been granted the go ahead to enter into a full hearing process.

“The government needs to get its carbon act together before it starts green lighting more new pipelines that will just accelerate the problem,” said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “Just last week Alberta’s Auditor General scathing report showed that Alberta has no plan for reducing its growing emissions and is severely failing to meet even its own paltry climate goals. As climate fuelled floods once again rage across the prairies it should be a wake-up call to the Alberta government about the need to move away from high-carbon resources like the tar sands not to plunge deeper into them.”

The ACFN successfully argued for standing at the hearings and will be presenting evidence today along with concerned landowners in the region.

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For more information, please contact:

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

 

Press Conference Held to Discuss Alarming Results of Fort Chipewyan Health Study

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) held a press conference in Edmonton on Monday, July 7 in conjunction with the release of Environmental and Human Health Implications of the Athabasca Oil Sands, a study that is the first to document associations between oil sands-perpetrated environmental contaminants and unusually high incidences of rare illness in Fort Chipewyan.

The report integrates laboratory data with survey and interview responses from community members to provide a window into the complexities of health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan that is much more comprehensive than any previous research in the region.  This approach reveals what head researcher Dr. Stéphane McLachlan (University of Manitoba) calls the “double-bind”: As heavy metals and carcinogenic hydrocarbons flow downstream from bitumen extraction sites, traditional, wild-caught foods like moose and fish becoming increasingly risky for consumption, thus jeopardizing a tradition of living off the land that has been preserved by Cree and Dené people for thousands of years.  But if Fort Chipewyan residents choose to avoid toxins by purchasing store-bought foods, they must pay exceptionally high prices for low-quality ingredients or highly processed items.

At Monday’s press conference, ACFN Chief Allan Adam, MCFN Chief Steve Courtoreille, and Dr. Stéphane McLachlan each provided remarks on the study before fielding questions from the media, moderated by ACFN communications coordinator Eriel Deranger.  Chief Courtoreille, who opened the conference with a prayer of healing and gratitude, spoke of his commitment and duty to protect his people against disconcertingly high rates of cancer and other serious illnesses—the “scariest part,” he says, “is that you wonder who’ll be next.”  The Chief reminded the crowd that though the report is backed by advanced analysis and statistical calculations, it simply confirms what the Elders have been saying all along: “that the changes in health in our community are connected to tar sands.”  He asked, “if I allow this to continue, what is the future going to look like—for our children, our grandchildren, and the ones that are not here yet, that are still coming?”

A reverence for the wisdom of Elders and for generations of the future is of great importance to the people of Fort Chipewyan, and this health study worked to recognize such community values.  Though the project is broadly structured following conventions of Western science, the project is particularly notable for its unprecedented emphasis on integrative methodology; conventions of Western science and traditional Native ways of knowing are employed to observe and document environmental anomalies, dietary practices, healthcare access, and cultural norms and shifts.  This makes the wisdom and teachings of Fort Chipewyan Elders and involvement of youth instrumental to the research process.  The study was completed in combinationwith the community-based monitoring (CBM) program, an initiative through which Elders work directly with youth—in school and in the bush—to develop monitoring and observational skills.

The health report supplements statistical evidence of the connection between declining health and increasing oil sands activity, with the personal experiences and stories of ACFN and MCFN members—thus reflecting the McLachlan team’s efforts to prioritize community participation and feedback.  Community members are kept abreast of findings and new developments through social media, a quarterly newsletter, and this news aggregator website (onerivernews.ca). The voices of the community members are also amplified in One River, Many Relations, a feature-length documentary produced in constant collaboration with people in Fort Chipewyan.

Chief Allan Adam concluded the comments section of Monday’s press conference, reminding those present of the urgency for further study of the health concerns facing Fort Chipewyan.  He exclaimed that thus far the “government—both federal and provincial—refuses to do anything about it.”  The only way to find a solution,” said the Chief, “is through regulatory reform”—”it comes to a time where we have to sit down and talk to each other… We’re still at the table and not going nowhere,” he said.  Chief Adam was clear: any industry projects must be able to demonstrate that they have “no effects on the Athabasca River whatsoever.”  But until the oil sands project approval process is restructured to prioritize thorough research and communication of the health and environmental risks posed to First Nations communities, adequate consultation cannot be achieved.   And development will continue to accelerate unchecked, leaving the community of Fort Chipewyan to handle the aftermath of contaminated food and declining health.  “It’s time for government to truly represent the people of Alberta,” urged Chief Adam.

 

Divya Farias

For more information:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator, 780-903-6598