Beaver Lake Cree Nation - The Tar Sands Trial

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation - The Tar Sands Trial

Thank Beaver Lake Cree Nation

Since the New Year, the Beaver Lake Cree legal team has been working flat-out, devoting every waking hour to preparing for the Feb 19 hearing. That date is fast approaching, and we want to make sure the Beaver Lake Cree enter that courtroom with full legal and grassroots support.....

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At the Frontlines of Climate Change

Wednesday February 6th 2019 • Doors 6:30, event 7-9pm

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, 16 Spadina Road, Toronto, ON

About the Event

Please join us for an evening of story-telling and solidarity. All are welcome!

The Tar Sands Trial aims to force Canada and Alberta to honour their treaty obligations to the Beaver Lake Cree and — by extension — all Nations across the country.  That means taking on the toxic tar sands and rampant industrial development that takes up 80% of  the territory of the Beaver Lake Cree. It means forging a new framework that evaluates new projects according to cumulative impacts on the water, forests, and animals that Indigenous Peoples were promised would be there 'as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow'.

COLE GLADUE, Beaver Lake Cree Nation
LAURIE MACKENZIE, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs)

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..from an email

On Tuesday, Feb 19, Beaver Lake Cree Nation will be arguing a key motion in their precedent-setting constitutional challenge over the violation of their Treaty rights and the devastation of their lands.

This is a Nation who've fought, who've refused to be silenced, and who've made sacrifices to force protections to land, air and water that will benefit everyone. We all owe a debt of gratitude to this tiny Nation who are standing toe to toe with Canada and Alberta to press for the honouring of treaty rights and an end to unchecked tar sands development in Alberta. 

Please support the Beaver Lake Cree as they take on the fight of a generation.

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..from an email.


Throughout the hearing, the court heard affidavit evidence from 10 band members. In submission after submission, Beaver Lake Cree people expressed many painful losses. Elders, knowledge keepers and community members described how, due to unchecked industry, they are no longer able to meaningfully exercise the way of life and culture that was promised to them under Treaty 6. They spoke of the broken promises reflected in the 19,000+ Crown authorizations for tar sands and other industrial development in their territory.

Loss of caribou, pollution of water, fragmentation of culture: over three long days, Beaver Lake Cree witnesses spoke of the tragic consequences of neglected treaty rights in northern Alberta.

It was inspiring to see the resilience of this community that travelled for hours to have their presence felt. Youth sat front and centre, attentively listening and watching the colonial system in action. Elders struggled to hear but seemed to find humour in the evidence; specifically at claims from the province that Beaver Lake does not live in poverty.

Part of what was being debated at the hearing is whether the issues raised by the Beaver Lake Cree are of national importance. Of course, we think that they are: this is a case that goes to the heart of what Canada’s responsibility to uphold the treaties really means. In particular, the case — known as The Tar Sands Trial —  addresses questions about whether Treaty 6 (and all the Numbered Treaties) assures Indigenous Peoples of a way of life, and whether there should be  limits to how much land and resources the Crown can take up, as allowed in the agreement, before the Treaty is infringed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government denies that the rights asserted by the Beaver Lake Cree even exist. The Crown denies that treaty infringement has taken place. For these hearings, a whole suite of Department of Justice lawyers has been tasked to challenge an under-resourced First Nation’s attempts to secure the funding it needs to go to trial.

“Canada’s position in Court stands in stark contrast to the high-level promises of the Trudeau government to promote reconciliation and to listen to Indigenous people,” says Me Karey Brooks, legal counsel for Beaver Lake Cree. “Without this case, and the advanced funding order, these critically important issues will not get resolved.”

It is important to remember that reconciliation has a specific meaning in law: it is about forcing Crown sovereignty to take account with and be reconciled with the pre-existing rights of Indigenous Peoples, reflecting the prior use and occupation of land and resources. The  issues being brought forward by the Beaver Lake Cree are deeply significant for First Nations across the country – and for all Canadians who care about acting honourably and setting right our relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

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..update from an email


When it surfaced that the Beaver Lake Cree needed $120k - fast - to push back against an appeal that threatens to derail their long-fought Tar Sands Trial, we didn’t know what to do. How do you reach out, during a pandemic and free-falling economy, when people everywhere are facing such deep uncertainty?

But we made a commitment to stand with our friends in northern Alberta. So, we turned to you.

And - wow!- did you ever respond. From Seattle to Montreal to California, people mustered an astonishing $60,000 in a single week. The effect of your generosity has lifted spirits and rekindled hopes in tandem with the emergence of springtime’s first buds and blooms.
In just one week, you have propelled this urgent campaign halfway to its goal.

There is one thing for certain now: this community is as resilient as it is committed. Those who are financially struggling wrote in with messages of solidarity. Others who are more fortunate in this economic crisis have been extraordinarily giving. Thanks to a generous pool of matching funds, every dollar donated is being doubled. We fill in for one another in times like these, and together we are rising to the challenge of sustaining the Tar Sands Trial.

As we recover from the pandemic, there are two paths forward.
One path forward leads to doubling down on tar sands industries, sacrificing our children's and grandchildren's futures for the benefit of business elites. That path involves shortsighted decisions — like the one taken last week by Alberta’s energy regulator, who jettisoned environmental monitoring requirements for tar sands giants.

The other path forward has us re-invent our economies, and our relationships - with the Earth, and with one another. We can make innovative choices to respond to, and recover from, Covid-19  in areas like affordable housing, health care, and the energy sector.  On the renewable energy front alone, Canada would create nearly four million new jobs by using public stimulus funding to move to a net zero-emissions economy by 2050.*
This week, many of you showed how strongly you believe in the path of reinvention and innovation: springing forward, instead of falling back.

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Thanks for the information epaulo13.  I just donated to the fund.  If anyone else wants to, here is the link.!/donation/checkout

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture so did i.


"Our small but mighty organization has a laser focus: we raise legal defence funds for Indigenous Peoples to defend their treaty rights and the integrity of their tribal lands and cultures. We stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, so that we can achieve parity for the people on whose land we live."

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For the last decade, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation has proactively sought environmental justice and recognition of their Treaty rights. Last fall, the Beaver Lake Cree were awarded a rare Advanced Costs order that would have covered 2/3 of their trial costs. Granting the Advance Costs, the judge wrote that the court was “unwilling to force Beaver Lake leadership to choose between pursuing this litigation and attempting to provide for the basic necessities of life that most citizens take for granted.” 

However, Canada and Alberta have appealed that ruling, forcing Beaver Lake Cree back to court on June 4. According to Crystal Lameman, BLCN Government Relations Advisor/Treaty Coordinator, “The Crown has consistently denied that the Treaty promises my community the continuance of its way of life, and it denies that under the Treaty it must consider the combined effects of multiple industrial activities on the way of life of the Beaver Lake Cree over time. The appeal decision will determine whether or not the Nation will continue on our path to access justice.

A Behind the Scenes Look at the Tar Sands Trial

Webinar Registration

On Thursday May 28th at 4 pm PDT, join Beaver Lake Cree’s Crystal Lameman, together with BLCN’s legal counsel Karey Brooks for a lively and deep discussion about the Tar Sands Trial. Learn about the pending appeal hearing — June 4, 2020 — and what it means for the historic and groundbreaking Tar Sands Trial.

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..the above webinar was awesome. and the explanation of the trial was brilliant. the webinar was recorded so will post here when it arrives. i recommend that everyone watch it if they can. the mean time register for this.

Beaver Lake Cree Rally (virtual)

A short (1/2hr) gathering to send supportive messages and hold up solidarity messages for Beaver Lake Cree as they go to court to defend The Tar Sands Trial.

Jun 3, 2020 05:00 PM Pacific time

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture's yesterday's webinar. about 1 hr long. worth every minute of it.


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..from an email


For the past month, we’ve been reaching out to you about the tough fight facing Alberta’s Beaver Lake Cree. First, we told you about the outrageous injustice being faced by a small Indigenous Nation, forced to argue their financial poverty in court - on their own dime - while facing the deep-pocketed governments of Alberta and Canada. Then, we asked you to contribute whatever time or financial resources you could muster to spread the word and assemble a legal defence fund for Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

You didn’t just respond: you roared.

In 5 ½ weeks, over 1200 people donated a total of $148,000; 80 people attended our virtual rally and 320 people sat in on a webinar with Crystal Lameman and lawyer Karey Brooks. ( With every action you took you played a part in fulfilling a promise to Beaver Lake Cree: that the RAVEN community would persevere through thick and thin to see the Tar Sands Trial have its day in court.

Many of you have asked us how the hearing went. The proceedings took place behind closed doors: unfortunately, the technology used didn’t permit public access. In their appeal, Canada and Alberta conceded two out of three points that have to be proven to obtain advance costs: one, that the case has merit, and two, that it is of public importance. However, they contested the third point - Justice Browne’s finding that Beaver Lake Cree cannot afford the litigation. The governments’ position is that Beaver Lake Cree should not receive any advance costs unless they are completely destitute. The decision will be made by three justices who may take weeks, or months, to weigh the legal arguments and precedents before delivering a judgment. 

Read more about what’s at stake with this hearing in this Briarpatch piece

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..from an email


Last fall, the RAVEN community empowered Beaver Lake Cree Nation with the resources to pursue — and win — a partial advance costs award for a case that was ruled to be of national importance. 

Outrageously, Canada and Alberta appealed, and in June the award decision was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Court ruled that the Beaver Lake Cree government must exhaust all available resources before they can qualify for any amount of advance costs. Essentially: the BLCN government must bankrupt itself in order to defend its treaty and constitutional rights.

The decision to revoke funding for Beaver Lake Cree essentially closes the door for other Nations to receive advance costs awards to pursue justice. It is a setback to reconciliation: that’s why the Beaver Lake Cree are filing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

According to Beaver Lake Cree’s Government Relations Adviser & Treaty Coordinator Crystal Lameman, “The Alberta Court of Appeal has so severely narrowed the criteria for financial need that it will be impossible for most First Nations to obtain an advance cost order.”

In the ruling, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that if Nations were recipients of federal funding, proven in multiple reports to be woefully inadequate — including the type of critical funding that is afforded any municipality in the country for roads, infrastructure, and health care — they would be disqualified from receiving advance costs.  The costly demands placed on First Nations to vindicate their constitutional rights in court clash with a painful reality – First Nations are amongst the poorest people in Canada. Amidst that poverty, their governments are responsible for ensuring their communities endure and thrive over many generations. Yet a community cannot survive if its members are destitute or lands spoiled.

People power has kept the Tar Sands Trial alive through nearly a decade of government’s delay tactics. It’s energizing to reflect on our past successes, so that we can once again muster our forces to deliver the resources Beaver Lake Cree require — and deserve — to take on the Tar Sands behemoth. 

If this tenacious First Nation can take their treaty rights case to trial, the Nation could set a precedent that forces all projects to be evaluated according to their cumulative impacts on Indigenous rights. That victory would forever change the way business is done in Canada’s oil patch.

The Tar Sands Trial


If you can afford to do so, please donate to the Beaver Lake Cree case.  It is important for them, and for the precedent it sets for other cases.  I just did.!/donation/checkout