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Dene block road in Saskatchewan to stop oil companies

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A group of northern trappers is blocking a road near LaLoche, Saskatchewan to prevent oil companies' access to exploration camps north of that point. LaLoche is located about 600 kilometres north of Saskatoon and about 100 kilometres east of Fort McMurray.

A media release notes, "The Dene people of Ducharme, who have made a living from the land for centuries, have found access to their trap lines blocked by security gates. ...Trappers are making a stand because for the past 6 and half years, there has been a mad rush on mineral and oil exploration. ...The trappers are concerned that they are being ignored and driven off of their lands by oil and mineral companies, like Cenovus from Calgary, Alberta."

In November 2013, Sandra Cuffe wrote that Cenovus owns a 34,000-hectare tar sands permit containing the nearby Axe Lake project. It is believed Axe Lake could produce 30,000 barrels per day for 25 years or more. She adds, "Local trappers say ... they were never consulted about the Axe Lake project. A gate and fences around the project have cut off access to their trap lines."

Metis Local 130 spokesperson Don Montgrand says, "We've had enough! The animals are disappearing. Even the minnows are dying in the lakes. All of the chemicals they are dumping and burning in our local landfills and what they are leaving in the bush and running into the lakes. Even the people are dying of cancer and some are pretty young. We buried six in the last few months when we used to see maybe one person die of cancer in a year."

He adds, "This has to be done. Our lakes, our rivers, our kids are suffering. This roadblock could be there for a long time."

The Council of Canadians Saskatoon chapter has been helping to share information about this blockade.

Friday morning they issued a message saying, "We are in agreement with the northern trappers' concerns regarding the plausible environmental and health impact arising from the activities of oil and other mineral companies in northern Saskatchewan.  We acknowledge the right of the Dene people to self-determination on their land and, in particular, the right of those who live closest to the land to determine what types of development do and do not occur on their land. We acknowledge nonviolent civil disobedience as a valid form of political action in a democratic society, and we are willing to mobilize in support of this or other subsequent blockades, particularly in the event that this or other blockades continue over an extended period of time."

For more on this, please see the Facebook page Holding the line - Northern Trappers Alliance.

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