By Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post
CALGARY • With tensions flaring between oil sands companies and First Nations in the Athabasca region of Alberta over growing development, the Fort McKay band is hosting a conference Jan. 23 and 24 in Fort McMurray to bring together all players.
It’s the first time the Fort McKay community, which is embroiled in a legal tussle with Athabasca Oil Corp. over a major oil sands project, will host such a conference.
Held in cooperation with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the two-day event will provide a platform for aboriginals in the oil sands region to air concerns about environmental impacts, push for adoption of better industry practices, discuss treaty and aboriginal rights.
Speakers include Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation; Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation; JP Gladu, president & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business; Bill Gallagher, lawyer and author of Resource Rulers; and John Rhind, vice-president, heavy oil, at Royal Dutch Shell PLC.
The legal dispute between the Fort McKays and Athabasca has squeezed the company’s finances by delaying final approval by the Alberta government of the Brion project, owned in partnership with PetroChina. The delay is holding back a $1.3-billion payment from the Chinese company to take over the entire project.
The Fort McKay are seeking a large buffer zone between the Brion project and their lands. The dispute is being closely watched because it could to set a precedent.