First Nations upset after Alberta appeal court rejects argument over Shell’s Jackpine Mine

First Nations upset after Alberta appeal court rejects argument over Shell’s Jackpine Mine by Marty Klinkenberg, November 26, 2012, Edmonton Journal
The Alberta Court of Appeal on Monday dismissed a leave to appeal from First Nations groups who complained their treaty rights are being violated by Shell Oil’s proposed expansion of its Jackpine Mine 100 kilometres northeast of Fort McMurray. Justice Frans Slatter rejected an application from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Métis Nation of Alberta, who requested the $12-billion project be delayed because the Crown failed to consult with the bands whose traditional lands will be affected by the development. Earlier, a review panel convened to hear arguments about the project ruled that the bands’ request for a stay was beyond its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal agreed. The joint review panel “is not required … to make any determination as to … whether the Crown has met its respective duties to consult …,” Slattery wrote. The justice said that since the First Nations were given an opportunity to raise their objections to Shell’s project with the panel, they could not issue a constitutional challenge.

Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said he was disappointed with the decision. “At this point we are pretty much frustrated,” Allan said. “We anticipated the court would hear our arguments. The fact remains that there was a was a breach in protocol, and the judge should have taken that into account. “A project of this magnitude couldn’t possibly be in the public interest if our rights have not been upheld and we have not been adequately consulted. I don’t think the judge understands aboriginal law.”  During hearings in Fort McMurray and Edmonton over the past month, the First Nations raised concerns about the project with the joint review panel, saying the proposed development would adversely affect their rights to hunt, fish and trap. “There has been a complete devolution of the Crown’s duty to consult pushing consultation into the hands of the proponents and downgrading First Nation rights,” Adam said Monday. “Our people are being failed by all levels of government.”

Shell is undertaking the project, which will result in substantial habitat loss and reduced air quality, to increase its output of bitumen from 255,000 to 355,000 barrels per day. [Emphasis added]

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