“The fate of our communities and our river is at stake and we are in the crosshairs of Shell’s plans to aggressively expand tar sands in our traditional territory. We ask the public to support ACFN’s efforts to stop Shell from permanently destroying our lands and community.”
On November 30, on the eve of the world climate summit, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and allies rallied outside of Shell Canada corporate headquarters in downtown Calgary.
The Chief and Council served Shell executives papers declaring their intent to sue for failure to meet contractual agreements made between Shell and the First Nation regarding existing tar sands projects within ACFN traditional territory and Canada’s pristine Athabasca, a UNESCO heritage site.
After years of unmet agreements with Shell Oil, the Athabasca Chipewyan people decided to risk everything by challenging Shell’s practices and filing suit represented by the law firm Othuis Kleer Townshed. The agreements in question were meant to ensure Shell would provide measures to lessen impact of these mines on ACFN, including agreements to address environmental issues and mitigation. Shell’s failure to meet these agreements with ACFN has led to harmful impacts on the environment and ACFN’s constitutionally protected rights and culture.
“We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed,” stated Chief Adam.
In addition to the lawsuit against Shell, ACFN also plans to oppose all future tar sands projects by Shell.
Tar sands have been widely recognized as the most destructive project on earth because of the serious impacts on treaty and aboriginal rights, ecological destruction and global green house gas emissions (GHG). Shell is one of the largest players in the tar sands producing close to 20% of overall production.
Shell Canada recently submitted proposals to expand its current tar sands operations and if approved, would more then double their production. This would translate into further encroachment of open pit mines on ACFN traditional lands, and into the pristine wilderness of the Pierre River, a previously untouched area.
Councilor Anthony Ladouceur of ACFN stated, “Shell has failed to meet past commitments and governments have done nothing to mitigate the issue. Current government monitoring is inadequate and Shell cannot be trusted to monitor itself.”
ACFN is rightfully concerned these projects will further impact the First Nations ability to exercise treaty rights in a meaningful way into the future.
“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”, stated Eriel Deranger, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
“The fate of our communities and our river is at stake and we are in the crosshairs of Shell’s plans to aggressively expand tar sands in our traditional territory. We ask the public to support ACFN’s efforts to stop Shell from permanently destroying our lands and community,” stated Chief Adam in his closing remarks.
Solidarity actions against Shell Oil were held in London, England at Shell International offices and in Durban South Africa at the UNFCC climate negotiations. Shell is internationally renowned for bad business and the ACFN suit adds weight to the plight of many groups already challenging the corporation.
ACFN and the Indigenous Environmental Network plan to co-release a release a report next week outlining Shell’s broken promises and history in the tar sands. It will be available for download on the IEN website.
An international coalition of Indigenous and environmental groups, including Keepers of the Athabasca, AFN Regional Office (NWT), Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Yinka Dene Alliance, Dene Nation, Greenpeace, Indigenous Environmental Network, Sierra Club Prairie, Council of Canadians, Polaris Institute, International Indigenous Treaty Council, Platform UK, London Mining Network and UK Tar Sands Network, endorsed today’s action echoing the call on Shell Oil Canada and Shell Oil International to halt any further tar sands extraction in the Athabasca region until proper environmental safeguards are put into place and in accordance with Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which affirms the right to free, prior and informed consent for Indigenous Peoples regarding development projects which affect their lands, territories and resources.
I wish ACFN every success in their efforts to curb Shell’s predatory practices.
The proper name of the law firm acting for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. They are one of the top law firms in Canada specializing in aboriginal rights cases.