Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation files legal challenge vs. Shell

Markham Hislop


The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has filed documents asking the Federal Court to overturn the approval of Shell’s mammoth Jackpine oilsands mine expansion.
The northern Alberta aboriginal band says governments have failed to consult adequately with them as required by law.

They also say the project as approved would violate a number of federal laws.

“The ACFN remains unsatisfied with the Crown’s response to consult and accommodate. The Crown is unwilling to meaningfully address the extensive concerns we have brought forward before, during and after the public review process for Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion,” said Doreen Somers, ACFN industry relation corporation consultation coordinator, in a release.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says it holds unique rights set out in Treaty 8. The legal filing declares the Crown has breached its constitutional duty to adequately consult with the First Nation regarding the impacts to Constitutional Section 35 rights created by the Jackpine Mine project.

The filing outlines alleged breaches to constitutional duty to accommodate, duty of consultation, and duty of accommodation. It also argues the Minister of the Environment breached section 53 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

“The Crown is in direct violation of their fiduciary obligations. We have not even begun to effectively address the many impacts this Project would have on ACFN’s Aboriginal and Treaty rights, yet they have already granted an approval? The approval of the project was hypocritical, on one hand they outlined all of the various violations of laws and legislation but ultimately approving the project in the public interest. Frankly, it’s insulting and unlawful,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Lawyer Bill Gallagher, who specializes in First Nations and environmental law, says First Nations have a long winning streak of 190 legal victories in these kinds of cases.

The filing comes as musician Neil Young is touring in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation legal defence fund.

It joins a long list of other lawsuits from Alberta First Nations against the provincial and federal governments, all taking objection to how the rapid pace of oilsands development is being handled.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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