FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Fort Chipewyan community alarmed: Two deformed and lesion covered fish caught in Lake Athabasca

Fort McMurray – May 31, 2012 – Wednesday afternoon members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), including Chief Allan Adam, found two grotesquely deformed, lesion covered Fish in Lake Athabasca near the community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, a remote fly in community in Northern Alberta. The Suckerfish and Jackfish were found at two separate locations on Lake Athabasca Wednesday afternoon and are now stored in the community and will be sent for analysis at the CCWHC lab in Calgary.

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Pictures of the fish show lesions and sores across the fish’s entire body raising concerns among community members in Fort Chipewyan.

“These fish are just another reminder of why we have to keep challenging government and industry about the pace of development and what it’s doing to our water and land. Government and industry are clearly failing to adequately protect our waterways and wildlife from contamination upstream,” states Chief Adam.  “This is a clear indication of violations to the current Fisheries Act and our constitutionally protected Treaty rights.  If we continue to allow irresponsible development in the region what is going to be left for the next generation of our people?”

This is not the first time fish deformities have been found in the region, in September 2010 a slideshow of fish with tumors, deformities and signs of disease or infection collected from Athabasca region, downstream from the tar sands was presented to the public and made headlines.  Since this time the community has been waiting for independent studies on the health effects of the tar sands on the fish and people in northern Alberta. Instead of stronger protection and monitoring government announced drastic changes to the Fisheries Act removing provisions that prevent any industrial activities that “result in the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat.”

Members of ACFN and much of the larger community of Fort Chipewyan are long time critics of upstream tar sands development and its impacts on traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering practices. Chief Adam, like many other residents of Fort Chipewyan, hold unique treaty rights that protect their ability to continue practicing traditional and cultural lifestyles that are now being impeded by encroaching tar sands projects, large water withdrawals and contamination of vital waterways.  In the wake of government failure to protect sacred and vital waterways and land ACFN sees no other choice but to seriously explore their own independent monitoring and stewardship plans that would adequately monitor and protect the land and waterways.

Chief Adam and ACFN have been vocal opponents to what they are calling irresponsible tar sands development in the Athabasca Delta.  ACFN filed suit against oil giant Shell Oil Canada in 2011 citing the company failed to meet past agreement for two of its open pit mining projects.  Chief Adam has publicly stated ACFN plans to challenge Shell Oil Canada’s two new proposed tar sands projects stating that allowing these projects to proceed would further impact their territory and way of life by taking away land, putting species at risk, lowering water levels and contaminating the fish supply.

“Enough is enough, we can no longer let the government grant permit after permit without adequately addressing impacts to our rights, our lands and the environment. We will do everything in our power to ensure that our water, our land and our rights are protected by pursuing all avenues for our own independent monitoring and stewardship of the region.”

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For More information contact:

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-713-1220

Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598

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Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation present grievances to Shell Chairman, board and shareholders

For immediate Release

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation present grievances to Shell Chairman, board and shareholders

May 22, 2012/The Hague, Netherlands – Today, Eriel Deranger, spokesperson and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) addressed Shell executives and shareholders at Shell’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Hague, Netherlands highlighting the communities grievances with Shell’s current and proposed tar sands projects in their traditional territory in northern Alberta.

Shell’s Chairman was provided with a copy of the report “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria” launced last week by ACFN in partnership with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).  The report profiles Indigenous communities impacted by Shell’s operations in Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands, Alaska’s Arctic Ocean, Ontario’s Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Africa’s Niger Delta arguing that the impacts of Shell’s destructive activities outweigh the benefits and exposes the company to both reputational damage and political risk, including litigation.

ACFN traveled with an Indigenous delegation from Canada and Alaska, coordinated by the UK Tar Sands Network and IEN, to attend Shell’s AGM. Indigenous representative presented to Shell’s Chairman and Board about the human and ecological rights violations the company’s operations have brought to their respective communities.  

“Shell has failed to address our concerns in Canada’s tar sands by not meeting environmental standards, past agreements and refusing to address their impacts to our constitutionally protected treaty rights,” stated Deranger. “Shell’s current projects are contributing to the destruction of our traditional territory including vital watersheds and eco-systems.  Now they propose to expand projects further degrading our lands and impairing our ability to practice our constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather in the region.”

Shell executives refused to address the concerns brought forward by Deranger, stating that ACFN is nothing more then anomaly among First Nation communities in Alberta’s tar sands.  Shell has been operating in Alberta’s tar sands since 2003 and now accounts for approximately 20% of overall operations in the region.  ACFN has numerous grievances with the oil giant with disputes arising around permits, leases, applications, and unmet agreements.  ACFN made headlines last year suing the oil giant for failure to meet past agreements regarding existing tar sands projects within ACFN traditional territory.

Shell’s plans to expand current projects include a new open pit tar sands mine in previously untouched regions of Athabasca Delta, more then doubling their production producing over 600,000 bpd. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation stated, “I sincerely hope that Shell executives and shareholders listen to our spokesperson. Our community is drawing the line because we’ve had enough.  We have full intention of opposing all of Shell’s future tar sands projects in the region until our past grievances are met and there is full protection of our watersheds, eco-systems and our treaty rights in the region.”

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Media Contacts:

Chief Allan Adam in Canada 780-713-1220

Eriel Deranger in the Netherlands  +31 644941380

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation representative join Indigenous Peoples from Canada, Alaska and Nigeria in the UK to criticize Shell for environmental destruction and human rights abuses

PDF VERSION AVAILABLE HERE – PR Shell Report & AGM

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation representative join Indigenous Peoples from Canada, Alaska and Nigeria in the UK to criticize Shell for environmental destruction and human rights abuses

Report to be launched in London on Friday at public meeting before delegation travels to The Hague for AGM next week

London, UK – This Friday 18th May the Indigenous Environmental Network in partnership with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are launching an Indigenous-led campaign and report against Shell and its harmful projects. A delegation of four Indigenous people from North America will participate in the public launch of a report profiling the British-Dutch company’s increasing involvement in the world’s dirtiest and riskiest energy projects. The groups are working in solidarity with Indigenous communities in Nigeria to stop Shell’s plans to expand tar sands oil, Arctic drilling and refinery operations on Indigenous lands across North America.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation made headlines in 2011 by filing suit suing the oil giant for failure to meet past agreements made between Shell and the First Nation regarding existing tar sands projects within ACFN traditional territory and Canada’s pristine Athabasca watershed. Now, the First Nation is aggressively opposing Shell’s future tar sands projects in their traditional territory in Northern Alberta including a proposed project in the pristine wilderness of the Pierre River, a previously untouched area.

The new report being launched in London, entitled “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria” profiles Indigenous communities impacted by Shell’s operations in Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands, Alaska’s Arctic Ocean, Ontario’s Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Africa’s Niger Delta. It argues that the impacts of Shell’s destructive activities outweigh the benefits and expose the company to both reputational damage and political risk, including litigation.

Eriel Deranger, a community member and appointed spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in the UK and the Hague, stated, “This new report highlights the dangers our community could face if we don’t protect our rights and land.  We don’t want our community to become the next Niger Delta—where Shell’s unregulated actions have left communities devastated and resulted in the need for a 30-year clean-up estimated to cost $1 billion USD.”

Eriel Deranger will continue traveling with the delegation to attend Shell’s Annual General Meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, on 22nd May 2012, where they will present to the Chairman and Board about the human and ecological rights violations the company’s operations have brought to the community. Other UK activist groups, including UK Tar Sands Network and London Rising Tide will be in attendance at the AGM to protest the oil giant both in Hague and London, UK via satellite AGM in the Barbican Centre.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation stated, “As a Chief I must often remain in my community and I regret that I could not attend the report launch and the AGM however, ACFN are drawing the line and we will continue to take a strong stance against Shell’s proposed projects. We want no further development in our territory without our consent until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts of tar sands in the region are addressed.”

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Media Contacts:

Chief Allan Adam 780-713-1220

Eriel Deranger in the United Kingdom +44 (0)7831484133

Full Report Here Risking Ruin – Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria

Shell under fire from Indigenous Peoples over human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Canada, Alaska and Nigeria

For immediate release: 17.5.2012

Shell under fire from Indigenous Peoples over human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Canada, Alaska and Nigeria

Report to be launched in London on Friday at a public meeting before the delegation travels to The Hague for next week’s Annual General Meeting of Royal Dutch Shell.

London, UK – This Friday, May 18th, the Indigenous Environmental Network in partnership with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are launching an Indigenous-led campaign against Shell and its harmful projects. A delegation of four Indigenous peoples [1] from North America will participate in the public launch of a report profiling the British-Dutch company’s increasing involvement in the world’s dirtiest and riskiest energy projects.

The launch event, ‘Get the Shell Out’ [2], is taking place at 7.30pm at Toynbee Hall, East London, with opportunities from 6.30pm for media interviews. It is co-hosted by a coalition of organizations which also includes UK Tar Sands Network, Women of Africa, Platform, Rising Tide UK, FairPensions, Greenpeace, Shell to Sea, Climate Rush, Art Not Oil and the Rossport Solidarity Camp.

The new report, entitled “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria” [3] profiles Indigenous communities impacted by Shell’s operations in Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands, Aamjiwnaang First Nation’s territory in Ontario, Alaska’s Arctic Ocean and Africa’s Niger Delta. It argues that the impacts of Shell’s destructive activities outweigh the benefits and expose the company to both reputation damage and political risk, including litigation.

The delegation will then attend Shell’s Annual General Meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, on 22nd May, where they will confront the Chairman and Board over the massive human and ecological rights violations and economic devastation that the company’s operations have brought to local communities. There will also be a simultaneous creative protest by UK activist groups, including UK Tar Sands Network and London Rising Tide, at Shell’s satellite AGM in the Barbican Centre on May 22nd.

Eriel Deranger, community member and spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Alberta – an Indigenous community residing downstream from tar sands operations and who are currently suing Shell for violating past agreements [4], states:

“Tar sands extraction projects on our traditional lands are being approved at a pace that is both irresponsible and irreparably destructive. People in the community of Fort Chipewyan
 are genuinely afraid. Our food and water sources are contaminated, resulting in a fear of eating traditional foods and eroding the continuation of our cultural and subsistence lifestyles. Yet Shell plans to aggressively expand its activities, doubling production. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is calling on Shell to meet its past agreements and halt expansion until our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts of tar sands operations are addressed.”

Ron Plain, from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Ontario – which has been called ‘the most polluted place in North America’ by the National Geographic Society, and the ‘the most contaminated airshed in Canada’ by the World Health Organization due to its proximity to ‘Chemical Valley’ where Shell’s and other tar sands operators’ refineries are causing serious health and reproductive impacts – said:

“Aamjiwnaang is the first community in the world to experience birth ratios of 2 girls to 1 boy due to endocrine disruption from the pollution. This is the first step towards extinction. Shell have admitted that their current facility, which is located at the fence-line of Aamjiwnaang, ‘could not meet today’s environmental regulations or standards.’ But Shell’s proposal for a new facility within Aamjiwnaang territory was recently denied by Canada for a whole host of environmental, social and other reasons. The corporate response to that set-back was to build onto the antiquated facility the equipment needed to process more tar sands bitumen.”

Robert Thompson, Chairman of REDOIL and an Inupiat from Kaktovik, a village on the edge of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, where Shell plans to drill offshore in Arctic waters this summer, said:

“Shell plans to drill in the Arctic this summer without the proven technology or infrastructure to deal with inevitable spills. They have not demonstrated the ability to clean up spills within or from under the ice or during storms. Our culture depends on a clean ocean, and we have subsisted in this region for 12,000 years. We oppose Shell’s plans that have the potential to destroy the culture of our people and will further push the planet into irreversible climate change.”

Ben Powless, a Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario, representing the Indigenous Environmental Network [5], said:

“Not only have Shell reveled in being a climate criminal, they have also been exposed as fighting the European Union’s proposed Fuel Quality Directive, in collusion with the Canadian government. Their continued environmental destruction and violation of Indigenous rights across Canada, Alaska and Nigeria show that Shell needs to change their operations or face increasing protest and opposition across the world. Our organization is supporting an Indigenous-led campaign against Shell’s extreme energy projects to bring together front-line impacted communities.”

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For UK interviews contact: Suzanne Dhaliwal, UK Tar Sands Network, +44 7807095669

For North America contact: Clayton Thomas-Muller, IEN Tar Sands Campaign Director, ienoil@igc.org, +1 613 297 7515

1. The delegation consists of: Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Tar Sands Communications Coordinator, Robert Thompson, Chairman of REDOIL & Inupiat resident of Kaktovik, Alaska, Ben Powless, Indigenous Environmental Network, Ron Plain, Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

2. For more information about the event, see: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/events/get-the-shell-out/ As well as the delegation there will be speakers from Nigeria and the Rossport Solidarity Campaign. Media representatives are invited to arrive from 6.30 for interviews with the speakers.

3. Email suzanne@no-tar-sands.org if you would like to receive an advance copy of the report. It includes contributions from:

Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria; Faith Gemmill, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Alaska; Eriel Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation; Ron Plain, Aamjiwnaang First Nation; and Ben Amunwa, Platform London

It will go online at www.no-tar-sands.org on Friday morning.

4. For more information see: acfnchallenge.wordpress.com

5. To find out more about the Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign, see: http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html

Check out Chief Adam’s Op-Ed: Pipelines

Check out Chief Adam’s Op-Ed: Pipelines Threaten a way of Life #tarsands #pipeline #enbridge #shell http://ow.ly/aMDqI

Op Ed: Pipeline threatens a way of life

By Allan Adam, Edmonton Journal May 5, 2012

In January the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation signed the Save the Fraser Declaration offering support to the Yinka Dene Alliance and those opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines. Alliance representatives are now travelling on the Freedom Train tour from northern B.C. to Toronto for Enbridge’s annual general meeting May 9 to enforce their legal refusal of the projects. We at the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation understand what is at stake for them, as our homelands are at the centre of the oilsands developments that are fuelling this controversy.

From a First Nations perspective, it doesn’t matter whether we stand on the coast of B.C. or in the heart of the oilsands – our struggle is largely one and the same. We don’t want our lands, our rights, or our people to be sidelined and destroyed by irresponsible development.

As Denesuline People, we have an intricate relationship with Mother Earth that keeps our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being in balance. This sacred connection is shared by our brothers and sisters in B.C. and is the very reason we support the opposition to the Gateway pipeline. We intimately understand their struggle to protect environmental values – values not only significant to First Nations peoples, but at the heart of what it used to mean to be Canadian.

Throughout a vast tract of our traditional lands, the land, air and waters upon which our people depend for our culture and livelihood are being devastated to extract the very bitumen that would be shipped through pipelines to the West Coast. In Alberta, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is challenging two oilsands proposals by Shell Oil – an expansion of the existing Jackpine Mine and the new Pierre River open pit mine.

The Pierre Rive Mine is proposed in a pristine region of the Peace-Athabasca Delta and would adversely impact critical habitat for species at risk, traditional lands and the ecology of the fragile and globally significant Delta that our people rely on. Both projects would be developed with adjacent wet tailings and require additional withdrawals from the Athabasca River – a sacred lifeline for our community.

Shell’s proposed projects would more than double their production. The proposed Enbridge pipelines would cross 1,000 rivers, three major salmon-bearing rivers and unceded territories of many First Nations. A spill would devastate the lives and economies of these communities and the fragile rivers and ecosystems they rely on.

What is more, despite assurances by Canada and Alberta that our environmental regulations are among the strongest in the world, both governments are taking steps to reduce environmental regulation to accelerate the pace of development. In recent years, Canada has shirked its duty to properly enforce the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, and the constitutionally protected provisions of treaties 6 and 8. Now, the federal government has proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, both designed to streamline and reduce regulatory approvals processes for oilsands projects including pipelines.

Approval of the Enbridge pipeline would threaten B.C.’s $1-billion ecotourism and fishing economy and enable further expansion of oilsands development in our traditional lands, pushing us beyond the tipping point of what our lands and way of life can sustain. However, if First Nations in B.C. are successful in asserting their rights in the face of this unwelcome development, then we may share in their strength in meeting the challenges we face here in northern Alberta.

It is clear to us the Enbridge pipeline and oilsands expansion are linked at the source, and they all weigh heavily on our common future. It is our people – not those making the decisions in Ottawa, Calgary and elsewhere – who endure the constant concern of contamination, loss of livelihood and diminishing water quality. And yet, our concerns and the impacts to our people go largely unrecognized, unaccounted for and unaddressed as project after project receives approval and corporations continue to profit at the expense of our culture and way of life.

Allan Adam is chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

ACTION ALERT: Let the government and Shell know you are on watch!

ACTION ALERT: Let the government and Shell know you are on watch!
Sign up to be an interested party for Shell’s proposed Tar Sands projects

Join the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and voice you concerns and sign up as an Interested Party for Shell’s proposed projects the Pierre River Mine and the Jackpine Mine Expansion projects by emailing Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca and blind copy etchekwied@gmail.com.

Governments are changing the regulatory framework making it harder for the public to voice their concerns. Sign up while you still can! Signing up will notify you of additional environmental submissions by Shell, hearing dates, locations, and when you can make your own written/oral statements to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about the projects.

We have said enough is enough. It’s time to ensure our critical eco-systems, Indigenous rights and traditional lands are protected in the wake of Tar Sands expansion. ACFN is putting everything on the line by challenging Shell’s two proposed Tar Sands projects.

WHY?

Shell’s past performance on ACFN’s traditional lands has given good reason for ACFN to oppose the proposed Jackpine Mine expansion and the Pierre River Mine projects. Both projects would adversely impact critical habitat for species at risk, traditional ACFN lands, and the ecology of a fragile Delta that our people are reliant on.  ACFN traditional lands and sacred waterways lay within the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s last remaining intact freshwater deltas, as well as Canada’s Wood Buffalo National park.  The protection of these areas is important for ACFN and all Canadians alike.

Shell’s proposed projects would produce 600,000 bpd of tar sands, contributing to cumulative impacts and creating enough oil to fill the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines pushing us beyond the tipping point of what our lands and way of life can sustain.

Help us tell Shell and the government that ACFN’s traditional lands and rights, Canada’s nationally protected parks and Delta cannot be sacrificed for more Tar Sands projects. ACFN welcomes you to join us and sign up as an interested party to voice your own concerns about the proposed projects.

Join ACFN and sign up today!

Email Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca and bc etchekwied@gmail.com to sign up as an Interested Party to both the Pierre River Mine and the Jackpine Mine Expansion and let them know you stand with ACFN and voice your own personal concerns or questions. There are TWO projects! Make sure you’re clear you want to sign up for both.

Alternately you can write or call the respective Directors, Kurt Saunders and Jill Adams at the following:

 Pierre River Mine Project
Kurt Saunders, Associate Director
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Place Bell Canada
Ottawa  ON  K1A 0H3
Telephone: 613-957-0700 or 1-888-957-0941
Fax: 613-957-0941
Email: Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca

 Jackpine Mine Expansion Project
Jill Adams, Panel Manager
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Place Bell Canada
Ottawa  ON  K1A 0H3
Telephone: 613-957-0700 or 1-866-582-1884
Fax: 613-957-0941
Email: Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca

For more information please email
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Tar Sands Communications Coordinator at etchekwied@gmail.com


Yinka Dene Alliance Freedom Train – Tar Sands to Pipelines

The Yinka Dene Alliance is taking a Freedom Train across Canada to enforce their legal ban on the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipelines and tankers project, and to stand up for their freedom to choose their own future. A large delegation of Yinka Dene people will travel with allied First Nations from their traditional territories in northern BC all the way to Toronto, with events in Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg along the route.

In Toronto, the Yinka Dene Alliance will take the Save the Fraser Declaration – which bans oil pipelines and tankers in the territories of more than 100 First Nations –  directly to Enbridge’s leadership and the centre of financial power in Toronto, at Enbridge’s annual shareholders meeting. These oil pipelines and tankers threaten the very survival of First Nations peoples with devastating oil spills. That is why the Yinka Dene Alliance are taking this Freedom Train across Canada: to stand up for the freedom to live according to their own cultures, the freedom to govern themselves and their lands, and the freedom of all of us from the catastrophic risks of big oil and their inevitable oil spills.

As part of this tour they will be stopping in Edmonton on May 1 and 2 and we would like to show them a warm welcome.

On May 1st various groups have organized a feast, round dance and time for people to hear the Yinka Dene speak and share the stories of their journey. For more information please check out the facebook event here.

On May 2nd, the Yinka Dene will rally at the Alberta Legislature and march to the Enbridge office in downtown Edmonton at 11:30am.  We welcome everyone to come and join them and help elevate their voices. For more information please check out the facebook event here.

As many of you remember, ACFN signed onto the Save the Fraser Declaration in January of this year.  We signed onto the declaration because we understand what is stake for the Yinka Dene and our struggles are one and the same.  We don’t want our rights, lands and people sidelined by profits and “development.” As Indigenous peoples we have an intricate relationship with Mother Earth and all that she provides us and we must carry out our duties as stewards of the land and stand up for those that cannot speak.

The connection to the Enbridge pipelines challenge lies in our own challenge of Shell’s proposed projects .  Shell’s proposed projects would more then double their production producing 600,000 b/p/d of tar sands contributing to cumulative impacts already felt in the region.  Shell’s projects alone would be enough to fill the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines enabling Shell’s expansion of tar sands development in our traditional lands, pushing us beyond the tipping point of what our lands and way of life can sustain. The proposed pipelines would also cross over 1000 rivers, 3 major salmon bearing rivers, and across unceeded territories of many First Nations in BC.

Both Shell and Enbridge projects have lacked proper analysis of Treaty and Indigenous rights and meaningful and proper consultation with impacted communities.  The JRP of the Enbridge pipelines has seen First Nation communities stand up in opposition in community after community asserting their connection to the land and culture are far greater then the piece meal profits and jobs they would get from the project.

Because the themes of our struggles intersect, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has been and will continue to keep a watchful eye on the progress of the Yinka Dene Alliance’s challenge of these massive pipelines.  It is our hope they will be successful in asserting their rights to both the corporations and the governments, then perhaps we can share in their strength challenging projects here in Northern Alberta.

US Senate rejects amendment to Transportation Bill and approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

The cross border battle in the tar sands achieved a victory today.   The Hoeven Amendment to the Transportation Bill, which would have over-ridden the President’s recent denial of the Keystone XL pipeline and mandated its approval,  failed to get enough votes to pass through the Senate.  This amendment would have undercut processes to protect the public’s safety, health and economic well being by bypassing the need for proper environmental review of the project.  The vote was 56-42 in favor of KXL, however under Senate rules it needs 60 votes to pass.

It’s clear that our voices, our concerns and hard work are no longer falling on deaf ears.  US leaders are no longer following suit with it’s Canadian counterparts who appear to rubber stamp all projects without adequate review, assessment or consultation with First Nations.   US leaders are willing to take a stand and support the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and the massive dirty energy projects associated with it that would ultimately impact the waterways, critical lands and the health and safety of it’s people through the US heartland.  If only we could see the same protections being put in place here in Canada.

The reason this rejection is such a victory for the people of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is simple, without adequate delivery methods for tar sands oil producers will be choking on the oil they plan on or currently mine/produce.  Without massive pipeline allowing for cheap transportation of oil major oil companies, like Shell, will be left holding hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil with no method to transportation. Current tar sands transportation lines cannot adequately handle the proposed expansion and increases development in tar sands production.

I want to stress the Keystone XL pipeline is not gone and rest assured new routes and new pipelines with be proposed. However, what has been shown is that our concerns are finally being heard and that we can make a difference.

Again, I would like to appalled all those that worked tirelessly to make this happen and repeat the words of Chief Allan Adam when we first heard the news of the rejection of the pipeline this January:

“The decision to reject this pipeline comes from the opposition of the many Indigenous communities and our allies.  The Mother Earth Accord outlined the serious implications the pipeline would’ve had on the people, our rights and our lands.  This is a major victory for Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. We hope the Canadian government recognizes Obama’s rejection as a sign to slow down the current pace of development in the tar sands.  Rapid expansion in the tar sands has left developers struggling for inexpensive ways to ship, refine and sell their oil.  Stopping these massive pipelines is key to stopping further destruction of our territory.  We are still working to oppose Shell’s proposed tar sands expansion of open pit mining projects in our traditional territory in Northern Alberta. We hope that you all join the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation this year in opposing Shell’s projects and the development of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  Together we can protect our lands, our futures and our treaty rights.”

12 Major oil companies, including Shell, ban together to greenwash the Tar Sands

Today 12 oil companies have joined together to create the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).  The groups state the purpose of COSIA is to share and conduct research and technology development in several key areas of environmental performance in the tar sands. These  areas include greenhouse gases, land disturbance, water, air emissions and management of tailings, the toxic effluent produced by tar sands. For more information please see the report in the National Post.

One must be skeptical of such an alliance of multi-national corporations operating in the tar sands.  Tar sands development has been under heavy criticism over the last year after disparaging reports from the October Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which criticized current monitoring and the legitimacy of RAMP’s data.  That coupled with tar sands pipeline opposition in the US (TransCanada – Keystone XL) and Canada (Enbridge Northern Gateway), and the recent heated debates surrounding the labeling of tar sands as a high carbon fuel in the new EU Fuel Quality Directive, one starts to see the motives of these corporations.  They are doing their best to create positive PR for their shareholders and the public.

This effort of major oil companies banning together to try and create “independent data” on tar sands seems like a last ditch effort to try and greenwash the industry. COSIA even went so far as remarking that although they will be independent of CAPP they feel CAPP will be supportive of their research and work.  Of course they will be and already are. CAPP has been working as hard as the tobacco industry did by exploring any and all efforts to disprove the negative impacts of their respective industries. CAPP has highlighted COSIA on their homepage with a link directly to COSIA’s “independent” site.

One should be cautious of the data being developed by COSIA, which will produce non-binding recommendations with no actual set goals or timelines for any environmental protection or stewardship.  In fact, in their opening statement representatives from COSIA made it clear they are looking at improving environmental leadership while facilitating the growth of the work in the tar sands.  Basically, business as usual with the continued pace of ridiculous growth, but now with a new veil to try and placate the public.

All of this is so reminiscent of the efforts of the tobacco industry, see here for a short video on the history of tobacco industry efforts.

Greenpeace had this to say about today’s announcement:

In the absence of any commitments to real reductions in pollution with penalties for not meeting them, this is simply another example of “greenwash”, where an industry association makes vague promises to clean up its act in order to avoid regulations with real teeth. This regulatory dodge was invented by the chemical industry in the 1980s post-Bhopal and perfected by the oil and auto industries in the 1990s as they signed up to a “voluntary challenge” in order to avoid real limits on greenhouse gas emissions.[1]

What is interesting about today’s announcement is that the audience for this PR initiative is not the federal or Alberta governments, who have made it clear that they won’t bring in new regulations[2] or even enforce the ones they have[3], but governments in the US and Europe who are preparing to act on the climate impact of the tar sands because they recognize that Canadian governments won’t.

[1] For an academic take on this, see Douglas Macdonald, Business and Environmental Politics in Canada, Broadview Press (2007), especially Chapter 5.[2]  We’re still waiting for those tough new limits on industrial polluters John Baird promised in 2007, while Peter Kent has indefinitely delayed his promised regulations on the tar sands. [3] The Government of Alberta is not enforcing its own tailings rules.

The 12 companies which have signed the COSIA Charter are: BP Canada Energy Company, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corp., Devon Canada Corporation, Imperial Oil, Nexen Inc., Shell Canada Energy, Statoil Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc., Teck Resources Limited, and Total E&P Canada Ltd.

The names on this list are not surprising.  Most of them are corporations with heavy stakes in the tar sands with new projects awaiting approval.  This includes Shell.  It becomes increasingly clear Shell is willing to pull out all the stops and pursue all angles to try and argue there is nothing wrong with current projects to give way for a clear path for approvals of their two new projects, Jackpine Mine Expansion and Pierre River Mine. Both projects currently under review and being contested by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. It should also be mentioned that Shell has also been involved in lobby efforts in the EU to try and dissuade EU countries from labeling tar sands as a high carbon fuel.

So the question remains, who’s interests are being served by such a coalition of multinational corporations deeply invested in tar sands expansion?

I hardly believe that it will be in the public’s interest and I guarantee that First Nations traditional and ecological rights will not be included in the development of any data created by COSIA.  Once again a platform is being developed that exclude our people, our rights and our knowledge out of the bigger picture and gives the power to the very people who are oppressing us.

Response to Supreme Court of Canada’s rejection of appeal of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Response to Supreme Court of Canada’s rejection of appeal of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

February 23, 2012 Fort McMurray – Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) are disappointed with yesterday’s response from the Supreme Court of Canada announcing that it would not hear their appeal.  In January of 2011, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation presented a case against arguing that tar sands leases granted to Shell in the Poplar Point area along the Athabasca River were made without proper consultation.  The Alberta courts summarily dismissed the case prompting leadership to take an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

ACFN asserts their treaty rights were violated by the provincial government through current policies of granting of tar sands leases and in particular to leases granted to Shell Canada Ltd. The leases in question are in an area of important cultural value allowing the continued hunting, fishing and gathering practices of the community.  ACFN are signatories to Treaty 8, a constitutionally protected agreement, which asserts the right to hunt, fish and trap on their traditional lands.  The federal government has a duty to consult with First Nations regarding any development on their lands before breaking ground.

The current Alberta Energy Ministry’s policy is to consult with aboriginal groups when development has the potential to adversely affect traditional uses and their constitutionally protected rights to hunt, trap, and fish. The provincial government stands by their stance that is does not consult with First Nation at the preliminary lease-granting stage because there are many steps to go before tar sands development actually occurs. Currently, the government’s policy is to simply post lease sales online and not consult directly with First Nations.

“I’d say the province isn’t doing a good job,” Bankes said when an Alberta court quashed the First Nation’s initial appeal last year.

“Particularly when it comes to granting oilsands rights, because they basically say, ‘We can fulfil our duty simply by posting stuff on our website.’ I don’t think that’s real consultation.”

ACFN is disappointed the Supreme court of Canada does not deem this issue of national interest and they stand by their stance that Alberta tenure system needs to be reviewed and amended to include the constitutionally protected rights of First Nations at the early stages of granting leases.

In recent months, tar sands development has come under fire across the globe; in the US there is growing opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which is proposed to carry Alberta’s tar sands to the gulf of Mexico through the agricultural heartland of the US; the EU cannot agree on a decision on whether to classify tar sands oil as a high carbon fuel; and here in our own country growing opposition in British Columbia to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which proposes to carry tar sands oil to the coast of Kitimat to be shipped as far away as China.

Tar sands have clearly become a national issue garnering attention across the globe and yet Canada’s supreme court does not support the idea of scrutinizing the current structure of provincial First Nation consultation and how they grant leases in the province.