Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'All litigation all the time' on oilsands

First Nations challenging new changes to regulations

  • Print

EDMONTON -- Simmering disputes over the oilsands between Alberta aboriginals and the provincial and federal governments will break into the open in 2014 as virtually every one of the many recent changes in oversight of the controversial industry comes under legal and political attack.

"All litigation, all the time, is what I see on the horizon," said Larry Innes, lawyer for Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Over the last 18 months, Ottawa and Edmonton have rewritten the book on resource development. Everything from how aboriginals will be consulted to land-use planning to oilsands monitoring to the basic ground rules for environmental assessment has been changed.

Governments say the new regime is more efficient, predictable and transparent. Aboriginals say it violates their rights and ignores their recommendations.

So as aboriginal groups in British Columbia prepare for an expected attack on the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Alberta aboriginals are pushing back with a long list of lawsuits either now or soon to be before the courts.

Fort McKay First Nation is appealing an approval of Brion Energy's plans for a 50,000-barrel-a-day operation northwest of Fort McMurray. It says the province has violated the Constitution by setting up an energy regulator expressly forbidden from hearing arguments based on aboriginal rights.

Mikisew Cree and Frog Lake First Nation are before the courts arguing Ottawa's recent amendments to the Fisheries and Navigable Waters Acts run afoul of their rights.

The Beaver Lake Cree are fighting both levels of government in a case that seeks to force them to consider the cumulative effects of oilsands development when issuing new permits.

A total of 17 First Nations from around Alberta are trying to get legislation on access to public lands tossed out in a long-running case expected to go to trial this year.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation plans to file a lawsuit in January attacking Ottawa's new environmental-assessment legislation after the approval of a major oilsands expansion it says will violate both treaty rights and federal laws.

At the same time, the Alberta government's other major oilsands initiatives are running into heavy weather.

All six First Nations in the oilsands area have requested a statutory review of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, the government's attempt to balance development and environmental values. Those same bands, along with many others, have also rejected the province's plans to centralize and control aboriginal consultation.

One major band -- Fort McKay First Nation -- has pulled out of the Joint Oilsands Monitoring program, the showpiece federal-provincial effort to monitor environmental change in the oilsands.

Even Lubicon Cree First Nation is back in court, with another try in a decades-long attempt to win a reserve and get some royalties on energy extracted from what they say is their land.

Alberta Environment and Minister Robin Campbell declined to be interviewed. "We work with aboriginal leaders and communities in a variety of areas and will continue to do so," said spokesman Kevin Zahara. "We will not speculate on possible legal challenges."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 B11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Spring fashion trends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • July 1, 2012 - 120701  -   Canada Day fireworks at The Forks from the Norwood Bridge Sunday, July 1, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google