FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: First Nation preparing for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion Environmental Hearings

First Nation preparing for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion Environmental Hearings

August 27, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – For over a year the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) has been preparing for the Joint Review Panel hearings to challenge Shell Oil Canada’s proposed Jackpine Mine expansion and the Pierre River open pit mine tar sands projects.  Last week, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced the first hearing dates for the Jackpine Mine Expansion project starting October 29th in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Chief and Council of the ACFN made clear commitments to protect the treaty rights of their people and the first nation feels the proposed Shell Oil projects are in breach of Treaty 8 rights leading to degradation of critical hunting, trapping, fishing lands and waterways in the region.  Shell and the ACFN have been at odds with each other since last November when the first nation filed suit against the company citing breaches of past agreements and over $1.5 mil in losses for the first nation and impacts on treaty rights.  Now the first nation has full intentions of challenging both applications at the hearings citing massive impacts on treaty rights, land and waterways.

“We are rightfully concerned about how Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion Project will impact and infringe our rights. Our lands and way of life are supposed to be protected by Treaty and Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act,” stated Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.  “It’s clear Shell’s current application does not include enough information for the JRP to appropriately assess potential impacts on our rights and it’s time both government and industry to ensure our rights are protected now and into the future.”

The ACFN assert that participation in the hearing process is critical and is a chance for the people to influence the government and industry to create stronger protections for the land, the environment and the people. We hope the JRP will respect our unique rights and implement our recommendations and not let Shell slide through the approval process without addressing our concerns,” stated ACFN Councillor Anthony Ladouceur. “We will no longer stand on the side lines as Shell permanently destroys our lands, our rivers, our rights and our community.”

The ACFN communications coordinator, Eriel Deranger, stated “We hope more people will support the community by ‘signing up’ as interested parties and voice their support for the first nation and their own concerns surrounding Shell’s applications.”  People can do so by emailing Shell.Reviews@ceaa-acee.gc.ca before October 1, 2012. Becoming an interested party allows you to be notified of changes, hearing dates and location and when you can submit your own written/oral statements to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Joint Review Panel.

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For More information contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Chief Allan Adam, 780-713-1220

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lower Athabasca Plan fails to address the concerns of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lower Athabasca Plan fails to address the concerns of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations

August 24, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) for northeast Alberta was released this week laying out plans for managing cumulative development and conservation but failed to address the staggering number of concerns raised by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). Although the plan identifies six new conservation areas and minor restrictions for development in the province the first nation argues its does not adequately protect treaty rights or address how first nation guaranteed rights to continue their cultural livelihood will be included in the plan.

The ACFN have been in dialogue with the province discussing co-management, implementation of first nation traditional ecological knowledge into western science methodologies, development of partnerships and concrete commitments to address their unique rights and land base. However, LARP leaves first nation co-management, rights, title and knowledge out of the equation. Instead, it sets weak provincial environmental standards that don’t address cumulative effects, the destruction of traditional territories and ecosystems critical to the first nation while setting the stage for unabated increase in tar sands operations.

“Your plan, your land, your future?  This is not our plan it’s the governments plan to annihilate our lands and our future. There are no commitments to our people and no protection of our lands and rights.  We thought we were working towards a partnership with the government, but this plan doesn’t reflect that,” states Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.  “Instead, they want more discussion. We should be equals sitting at the table from start to finish not just called on when they need to give the optics that we’ve been consulted, particularly the day before a new plan is launched. Our people and our rights are constantly being undermined by policies and plans like LARP that are created without meaningful participation in the development and implementation.”

The plan states, “the Alberta government will look for opportunities to engage these communities and invite them to share their traditional ecological knowledge to inform land and natural resource planning in this region,” but stops short of making any real commitments to allow first nations to be full contributors to the plan or assist with its implementation ensuring treaty rights now and into the future. The ACFN asserts this is nothing more then a demonstration of how the federal government is downloading it’s responsibilities of cumulative environmental management to the province and the province is creating weak systems that do nothing more then impede treaty and aboriginal rights and the environment.

The First Nation also criticizes the current protection zones created in LARP stating their own stewardship plan, Nih Boghodi, created by elders, indigenous knowledge holders and western scientist, identified much larger protection zones for culturally significant wildlife, such as caribou and bison herds, and a need for co-management. The first nation states the lands set for protection in the plan are minimal at best and not adequate for survival of species and treaty rights and completely forgo protection of any of their treaty territory, something the first nation has been requesting for many years. Chief Adam indicated the first nation will be putting the plan before legal council to explore potential litigation if need be.

“If we don’t stand up for our rights now and work to protect the land and animals, what are we leaving for future generations?” said Elder Pat Marcel Elder of the ACFN. “The current plan is paving the way for full environmental and economic destruction of our lands, people and treaties. We can no longer accept the status quo if this plan is implemented as is.  We are the stewards of this land and we will do what needs to be done to ensure our lands and rights are protected now and into the future.”

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For More information contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Chief Allan Adam, 780-713-1220

 

Tar Sands Healing Walk Press Release

More Than 250 First Nations and Allies From Across North America Gather In Alberta To Raise Awareness

First Nations delegations from British Columbia and Ontario show growing concern and resolve against tar sands infrastructure projects across Canada.

FORT MCMURRAY ALBERTA (August 4, 2012) – Hundreds of First Nations leaders from BC, Alberta, the NWT and Ontario along with First Nation actress Tantoo Cardinal and allies from across North America, gathered in Fort McMurray today, to walk 13-kilometres through the visceral landscape of tar sands operations to bring attention to the destructive impacts of tar sands projects and pipelines on surrounding communities and the environment.

First Nation representatives from the Heiltsuk (BC), Yinka Dene (BC), Coastal First Nations (BC), the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Six Nations (Ontario) and Aamijiwnaang (Ontario) joined with local First Nations leaders in a traditional mixing of the waters ceremony, bringing water from their respective territories as a symbol of importance of the protection of water and the sacred connection to mother earth.

Local elders led the group in prayers along the route that was once valuable northern Boreal forest and fertile traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, stopping in the four directions to lay down tobacco as an offering for healing of the land.

“We have come from all over North America to walk together through the heart of the destruction caused by the ever-expanding tar sands and offer prayers for the healing of the land and its people,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. “For more than 500 years governments have fought over our lands and resources. It’s time the provincial and federal governments sit down with the First Nations, the rightful owners of these lands and resources, to decide if and when these lands should be developed.”

The third annual healing walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and allied communities along the Athabasca River that includes people whose lives have been directly impacted by tar sands operations.

“The places where we used to pick berries and find our medicines have been destroyed by rapid tar sands projects,” said Anthony Ladouceur, Councillor of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our people have lived here for thousands of years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to live off the land with industry expanding all around us.”

The Alberta tar sands currently produce approximately 1.8 million barrels of oil per day; if industry and government’s expansion plans are approved that number could reach six million barrels per day. Local opposition to Shell’s two proposed open pit mine applications is growing, along with North American-wide resistance to pipeline proposals. Four pipelines are being proposed to transport tar sands oil: Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, Trans Canada Keystone XL, and Enbridge Line 9 reversal.

“I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “This sacred walk serves to remind us that we, as parents and grandparents, have the unconditional responsibility to safeguard and pass on the legacy of respecting and caretaking Mother Earth, entrusted to us by our ancestors, to our children and grandchildren.”

“This walk creates strength and unity among the people who have to live with the destructive impacts of tar sands. Together, we are more empowered to ensure a clean and healthy world for future generations,” said Roland Woodward Chair of the Keepers of the Athabasca.

The walk was not a protest, but a spiritual gathering to offer prayers for the healing of Mother Earth and all those negatively impacted by tar sands projects and associated infrastructure. Participants walked along Highway 63 past Suncor and Syncrude’s operations to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on.

To Arrange Media Interviews :

Eriel Deranger 780-903-6598
Melina Laboucan-Massimo 780-504-5567

Roland Woodward, Keepers of the Athabasca, 780-972-1339
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 250-490-5314
Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Nation 613-859-5063
Anthony Ladouceur, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-881-5115

HEALING WALK MEDIA ADVISORY

Media Advisory

Hundreds to participate in third annual Tar Sands Healing Walk

For Immediate Release

1 August 2012 (Edmonton, AB) – Hundreds of First Nations leaders and allies from across North America will gather in Fort McMurray to walk 13 kilometres through the heart of Alberta’s tar sands operations as part of the third annual healing walk. The walk will begin with a traditional water ceremony where water brought from various communities is mixed together followed by speakers from tar sands and pipeline impacted communities. During the walk itself local Elders will lead prayers along the route in the four directions offering prayers for the healing of Mother Earth and all those negatively impacted by tar sands projects. The walk will take approximately 4 hours and be followed by a feast at the Anzac community Hall.

Who – First Nations, Metis, settlers, and allies from across Canada and the United States
What – Third annual healing week
When – Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 10 am
Where – Crane Lake Park off Highway 63 – 20 km North of Fort McMurray

For more information, please contact:

Eriel Deranger – 780 903 6598
Melina Laboucan-Massimo – 780 504 5567

For Immediate Release: First Nation meet with Alberta government proposing First Nation driven co-management and conservation in Northern Alberta

First Nation meet with Alberta government proposing First Nation driven co-management and conservation in Northern Alberta

 

JULY 10TH, 2012 EDMONTON, AB – Last week the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) met with Alberta Minister of Environment McQueen and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Campbell to discuss a new First Nation driven report entitled Níh boghodi: We are the stewards of our land developed by ACFN with support from the Firelight Group. It outlinesa co-management stewardship plan for woodland caribou, barren-ground caribou and wood bison in Alberta based on traditional Dene ecological knowledge, sound conservation science and habitat protection and ACFN’s unique treaty and traditional rights. Massive industrial development and poor management practices are identified in the report as key factors in the decline of species in the region.

“Currently government and industry are not adequately addressing the annihilation of species and habitat necessary for survival in our traditional lands,” stated Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.  “Our stewardship plan addresses this problem and provides a tool for sustaining our way of life with community-based implementation and monitoring goals in partnership with science-based monitoring and management programs. We hope our discussions with the provincial government opened the doors to build a partnership and implement the necessary co-management and stewardship in the region.”

ACFN has held discussions with past provincial leadership regarding co-management of ACFN traditional lands with little progress.  Although Alberta’s new leadership gave no clear indication about moving forward with co-management, ACFN is optimistic the government will follow through with the “open door” promise to continue exploring the implementation of this new stewardship plan and ensuring responsible management and sustainable development of Treaty lands in Northern Alberta.

Níh boghodi, based on pro-active protection and restoration of habitat, establishes a Protection Zone north of the Firebag River with no new permits or development. The Stewardship zone, south of the Firebag River, is designed to provide a transitional area between the Protection zone and other areas with higher industrial development.  Much of the ACFN’s lands are already impacted or currently under threat from existing and proposed tar sands development. The ACFN hopes that a co-management partnership with the provincial government will protect these lands and cultural keystone species from further erosion and annihilation.

Pat Marcel, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Elder and co-author of Níh boghodi stated, “Dené sųłiné people of ACFN have unique rights to the lands identified for protection and stewardship in our report. Under the 1932 Game Act, the Crown set aside land from the 27th baseline north to the NWT, east to Saskatchewan, and west to Wood Buffalo Nation Park, for the exclusive use of the Chipewyan people.” He went on to say, “We have relied on our traditional lands and all they provide since time immemorial. Thunzea (woodland caribou), et’thén (barren ground caribou) and dechen yághe ejere (wood bison) have a central role our culture. Immediate action is necessary and it’s time for the governments to work with our people to ensure the protection of our treaty rights and the caribou and bison in our region.”

A copy of the full report is available online at www.acfn.com and http://www.thefirelightgroup.com/in-the-news/acfn-caribou-and-bison-project-nih-boghodi-we-are-the-stewards-of-our-land

 

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For more information contact:

 

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598 to set up an interview with Elder & co-author Pat Marcel or Chief Allan Adam.

 

 

 

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