First Nation takes province to court over oilsands leasing
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Thursday.Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Thursday. (CBC)
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta announced Thursday it has filed a request asking a court to review how Alberta grants leases for oilsands developments.
The notice was filed Wednesday in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench.
Members of the First Nation want the court to order the province of Alberta to consult with them before it grants leases to companies.
"The province has the duty to consult with First Nations and yet they fail to do so," Chief Allan Adam said at a news conference on Thursday. "And that's why we're launching this judicial review."
The band is based in Fort Chipewyan, which is downstream from Alberta's oilsands developments.
The issue raised in the case is an important constitutional question, said Bob Freedman, the lawyer for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
The courts have ruled many times on government's legal duty to consult with First Nations, Freedman said, but this case asks whether the process should start before the province grants tenures to resource companies.
"In our view, the only realistic chance for meaningful consultation and for some realistic way of dealing with concerns of First Nations is before you sell the lands to industry," he said.
Freedman said the entire Alberta system is based on developing the land once the tenures are granted.
Consultation with the province is important for his First Nation, Adam said.
"Only then would we have certainty for our future," he said. "We would be able to have a better understanding of where and how development could take place.
The first hearing on the motion is set for Jan. 13 in Edmonton. Freedman said the dates for future hearings will likely be set that day, with arguments taking place in spring 2009.
With files from the Canadian Press