Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN)

October 01, 2007 15:36 ET

First Nation Challenges Alberta's Policy on Oil Sands Tenures and Development

Requests halt on approval of Shell's Carmon Creek Project

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Oct. 1, 2007) - In a historic application to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, the Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) has filed legal action against the Alberta government today. The First Nation asserts the Alberta government is breaching its legal and constitutional duty to consult with First Nations on oil and gas tenures, and specifically those relating to oil sands development projects.

The Judicial Review Application to the court seeks a ruling that will require Alberta to hold meaningful consultation with WCFN about the granting of all oil and gas leases. The First Nation is also asking that the court orders a halt to the Energy Utilities Board approval of the next project in the area, the Carmon Creek Project by Shell Canada Limited.

"Alberta has not consulted with us when granting tenure to Shell and other oil and gas companies. The Energy Utilities Board is not responsible for consulting with First Nations on behalf of the government. The province has to consult with us about resource development in our territory that could have an effect on the environment and on our Treaty and Aboriginal rights," said Chief William Whitehead.

Government policy delegates the responsibility for consultation with First Nation to oil and gas companies. However, such consultation occurs on a project-by-project basis and does not take into account the overall effect of development in the area. Only the government of Alberta can address the overall effects of resource development in any given area.

The WCFN is seeking a court order that will require consultation with the First Nation by the Alberta government on the following matters:

- the granting of oil sands leases to oil and gas companies;

- the type of studies needed and the role of the First Nations in carrying out those studies;

- the cumulative effects of oil sands development on the environment and First Nations;

- the type of oil sands development that would be compatible with WCFN members' ability to meaningfully exercise their Treaty rights; and

- how development of multiple oil sands tenures can be coordinated to ensure that WCFN members can continue to exercise their treaty rights.

"The Carmon Creek project alone will use large amounts of water from the Peace River and its tributaries, as well as affecting wildlife because of the extensive infrastructure that is needed. It is not the only project in our area. Together, the many individual oil sands projects take a heavy toll on the land, water, air and wildlife and have a detrimental effect on WCFN Treaty 8 rights, and our membership's ability to follow a traditional way of life. We do not want to see a repeat of what people in Fort McMurray are experiencing. Let's do it right this time," said Chief Whitehead.

Contact Information

  • CookRoberts LLP
    Bob Freedman
    Chief William Whitehead