Alberta First Nations take legal stand on oil sands

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Alberta First Nations Take Legal Stand on Oil Sands
April 9, 2010
Peace River Alberta

Two more Alberta First Nations are seeking the assistance of the Supreme
Court of Canada in defending their Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the
face of mounting oil sands development in Alberta. The Supreme Court of
Canada has granted intervenor status to Duncan's First Nation (DFN) and
Horse Lake First Nation (HLFN), in a case that may have major legal
implications for the development of oil sands, pipelines, oil sands
infrastructure projects and other major projects.

DFN Chief Don Testawich stated, "Our traditional territory is being
overrun and cut to pieces by oil sands, major pipelines, gas fields and
major power projects. Companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Trans Canada
Pipelines and Bruce Power are proposing massive projects that will fuel
unsustainable oil sands growth. Development on this scale will is making
our Treaty Rights meaningless and threatens our traditional way of life."

Chief Testawich added, "The governments of Alberta and Canada sit back and
refuse to address our concerns. We are intervening before the Supreme
Court because it is abundantly clear that neither the environment nor
First Nations can expect to receive a fair hearing within Alberta, where
oil sands revenues are at stake. We need help now and help fast."

This summer, the Supreme Court will hear conflicting arguments and views
of First Nations, governments and industry in the Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. v.
the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council case. The case will address the question
of whether regulatory boards and tribunals, such as the National Energy
Board (NEB) and Alberta's Energy Conservation and Resources Board (ECRB),
have a duty to decide whether the Crown adequately consulted and
accommodated First Nations' concerns before granting approvals for
resource development, including concerns about past infringements of
Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

The NEB and ERCB regulate, among other things, development of the oil
sands, pipeline projects and other energy projects that support oil sands
developments. The DFN and HLFN are intervening at the Supreme Court of
Canada because of their concerns over the growing number of oil sands
developments and major energy projects that will make oil sands expansion
realizable. The DFN and HLFN want the Court to direct governments and
regulators to fully and effectively address the consultation rights of
First Nations in the regulatory processes for the major oil sands and tar
sands infrastructure projects being proposed by Royal Dutch Shell, Trans
Canada Pipelines, Enbridge, Bruce Nuclear Power and other corporations.
The First Nations have opted to take this matter to the courts because of
their mounting frustration over the refusal by the governments and their
regulators to act on earlier court decisions that direct governments to
deal with their rights.

Chief Rick Horseman of the HLFN added, "To date, it's been like watching a
game of musical chairs where everyone is saying they are addressing our
concerns, rights and interests but no one actually gets down to it and
does it. We need a referee in Alberta that will deal with First Nations in
a serious and impartial way and blow the whistle when our rights are being

Mr. Jay Nelson: Woodward and Company (250) 383 - 2356
Ms. Audrey Horseman: Horse Lake First Nation (780) 518-5179
Mr. Matthew General: Duncan's First Nation (780) 597-3777


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