The Dene Nation is in support of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a small First Nations band in northeast Alberta with a population of 800 people, who were victorious in making headway for a trial against the energy industry. The First Nation wants to know if its treaty rights are being violated namely by the cumulative effects of the oil sands development. They are also taking into consideration other industrial development impacts from the mining and forestry sectors. “It’s ironic that industry are allowed to keep expanding through approval of provincial and federal government grant permits,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.
Erasmus added that, “… the Beaver Lake Cree Nation contends that these industrial activities are violating their treaty rights so five years ago they launched a legal battle and that’s good! Now, the province of Alberta and the federal government have lost their shot to have it pitched out.” “This is significant, its big news! We are very pleased that the courts recognise the fact that the accumulated effects of the tar sands are having long term economic and environmental impacts on the Beaver Lake First Nations and other peoples. Understandably, the Beaver Lake Cree would seek compensation for having their hunting, trapping and fishing rights being imposed upon by these large projects,” said Erasmus. Erasmus concluded that the Beaver Cree First Nation need to see more limits to the development of the tar sands and more management control over these violations. “We are downstream and we too feel the effects from Alberta’s belief that they have legal ownership of the tar sands and therefore are abusing the land and water that becomes toxic through the refining process.”
Background (c/o RAVEN)
Beaver Lake Cree Nation is a community of 900 Woodland Cree whose homelands are in the path of the largest industrial project on earth. Their courageous fight to protect their hunting grounds is also the world’s fight – to prevent expansion of the climate-destroying tar sands developments in Alberta. The Cree ancestors signed Treaty 6 in 1876, and in exchange for access to their land, they were guaranteed the right to hunt and fish for all time. The Beaver Lake Cree allege that the tar sands projects are illegal and unconstitutional because they violate the treaty – by destroying the very habitat that the animals and fish depend on.
The legal action is based on the 1982 Constitution and recent Canadian court cases, which establish that the meaningful exercise of treaty rights requires protection of sufficient natural habitat for the animals and fish to thrive. Habitat is what must be preserved under the law – habitat that Beaver Lake Cree Nation says is being destroyed by the heavy oil industry. These constitutional rights are the strongest environmental laws in Canada (and possibly the world) now that the Canadian federal government has gutted Canada’s environmental legislation.
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