“Oil sands development has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in northern Athabasca watershed”
Calgary – From Wednesday to Friday of last week, Treaty Chiefs representing the Treaties 6,7 and 8 nations of Alberta met and passed a resolution, unanimously, to support the calls for no new oil sands approvals until Treaty First Nations have approved a comprehensive watershed management plan and resource development plan for the region.
“It is time for the Alberta Government to feel the pressure that our communities have been feeling for so long, the tide has turned in our favour,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Fort Chipewyan First Nation. “Thresholds have to be put in place that will protect ecosystem and human health along with the well being of our land.”
The Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan Dene First Nation and member of the Keepers of the Athabasca brought forward the resolution moved by Chief Janvier of the Cold Lake First Nation and seconded by Chief Laboucan of the Driftpile First Nation. After a few minor additions to the resolution it passed, on Friday, unanimously.
“The cumulative impacts of oil sands development has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in northern Athabasca watershed. The law is clear that First Nations must be consulted whenever the province contemplates action that may negatively affect Aboriginal and treaty rights,” explains Keepers of the Athabasca member Vivienne Beisel (B.A., LL.B., LL.M).
“The province has continued to issue approvals for new developments without obtaining their consent or consulting with First Nations in a meaningful and substantial way. This is in direct breach of Treaty 8 First Nations’ treaty-protected Aboriginal rights to livelihood, and thus a violation of s.35(1) of the Constitution and Articles 26 and 27 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, and international agreement which Canada, along with three other nations, has refused to sign.”
Keepers of the Athabasca is a new non-profit organization working to unite the peoples of the Athabasca River and Lake Watershed to secure and protect water and watershed lands for ecological, social, cultural and community health and well-being.
“We came to the Treaty Chiefs of Alberta meeting last week to request an inquiry into the lack of consultation by all levels of government and our peoples regarding the impacts of oil sands development,” states Chief Albert Mercredi of the Fond du Lac First Nation, located on the eastern shores of Lake Athabasca. “Pollution from the developments do not stop at the political borders between Alberta and neighbouring provinces. The Federal Government and the Governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan have a legal duty to consult and accommodate around the uncertainties associated with development and their impacts on our right to livelihood.”
Gaining the support of the Treaty Chiefs is an important step for the Keepers of the Athabasca, as there are 15 directly affected First Nations reserve-based communities as well as numerous other indigenous communities.
“In passing a resolution for no new oil sands approvals, the chief’s of Alberta have shown great leadership,” says Peter Cyprien, co-chair of Keepers of the Athabasca, who was present at the passing of the resolution, “it is our hope now, as citizens of Fort Chipewyan, that the Government of Alberta and Canada will show the same leadership.”
The Keepers of the Athabasca are committed to completing a community-based watershed management plan based on the interests, rights and needs of the residents living throughout the basin. They have planned to visit communities along the Athabasca River this summer and with the goal of completing a report on the state of the Athabasca River and Lake Basin.