Athabasca Chipyewan First Nation
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is a Denesuline community based in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. Its territory spans and includes lands within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the Lower Athabasca and North West Saskatchewan planning regions. Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation hold rights that are protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Since time immemorial and long before ACFN entered into Treaty, Denesuline Peoples of its region lived and continue to live and sustain themselves, their families and their community from Mother Earth and all that she provides. Denesuline Peoples had an intricate relationship with Mother Earth and customary practices allowed them to live in harmony with her as she kept their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being in balance. This relationship included customary practices that entailed the care of Mother Earth along with the ability for economic development and survival: the very essence of Denesołine culture and identity.
Industrialization of ACFN’s traditional territories has lead to the cumulative removal of lands, wildlife and fish habitat as well as the destruction of ecological, aesthetic and sensory systems. This will consequently affect Treaty promises, cultural and spiritual renewal, procurement of resources, and Denesuline Peoples connection and use of landscape that is integral to traditional use. In truth, the current industrialization occurring in North-eastern Alberta is putting ecosystems, the watersheds that sustain them, and the First Nations who depend upon them, at risk for large-scale impacts that will permanently change the biophysical and socio-cultural landscape of the region.
This industrialization has thrust the ACFN to the forefront of the tar sands controversy. Canada and Alberta’s elected leaders have been promoting tar sands development on ACFN traditional lands at a pace that appears irresponsible and irreparably destructive. Canada has avoided its duty to properly enforce the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Constitution Act and Treaty No. 8. Alberta is actively changing its laws to pave the way for devastation of ACFN lands and rights. Throughout a vast tract of ACFN’s traditional territory the ecology is being completely destroyed in order to extract bitumen. Alberta has granted Shell Canada the rights to mine out the land to the boundaries of Poplar Point (Reserve 201G), in the heart of the ACFN homelands.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) filed suit against Shell Oil Canada in September of 2011. Papers were served to Shell executives in November.
The Case against Shell arose from Shell not meeting contractual agreements made with ACFN in 2003 and 2006 regarding two open pit mining tar sands projects. Shell had made promises to provide adequate resources for the community to participate in mitigation discussion, to map out traditional areas and study potential impacts of Shell projects on sacred sites, and for the community to implement a community monitoring program.
After years of unmet agreements with Shell Oil, the Athabasca Chipewyan people decided to risk everything by challenging Shell’s practices and filing suit represented by Othuis Kleer Townshed Firm. The agreements in question were meant to ensure Shell would provide measures to lessen impact of these mines on ACFN, including agreements to address environmental issues and mitigation. Shell’s failure to meet these agreements with ACFN has led to harmful impacts on the environment and ACFN’s constitutionally protected rights and culture.
In addition to the lawsuit against Shell, ACFN also plans to oppose all future tar sands projects by Shell. Tar sands have been widely recognized as the most destructive project on earth because of the serious impacts on treaty and aboriginal rights, ecological destruction and global green house gas emissions (GHG). Shell is one of the largest players in the tar sands producing close to 20% of overall production. Shell Canada recently submitted proposals to expand its current tar sands operations and if approved, would more then double their production. This would translate into further encroachment of open pit mines on ACFN traditional lands, and into the pristine wilderness of the Pierre River, a previously untouched area.
New Campaign Campaigns
First Nations: We believe you, not Big Oil CEO'sNeil Young continues to make national headlines with his cross-Canada concert tour this week, and Canadians are responding in droves, crowdfunding almost $60,000 for ACFN’s legal defence at www.HonourTheACFN.ca. Young’s response to the Prime Minister’s attacks was brilliant: “... to the thousands of hard-working Canadians… we have respect for all working people. The quandary we face is the job they are working on. They are digging a hole that our grandchildren will have great trouble digging their way out of. … There are better jobs to be developing, with clean energy industries to help make the world a safer place for our grandchildren.” Canada must clean up its act in the oil sands, and stop denying the significant downside to out of control resource exploitation that only benefits a few yet leaves such a great cost for the rest of us. Now is the time to push: thanks to Neil’s concerts this week, the media's attention is finally on the reality of tar sands impacts, and his message is reaching ordinary Canadians across the country. Let's show the Athabasca Chipewyan and other First Nations that Canadians acknowledge their reality and want solutions for the tar sands disaster, not more denial and empty talking points. Please sign and share. Let’s do this, Jason P.S. 100% of the funds from Neil’s tour are going to the legal defence fund of the ACFN, and over 1,000 generous supporters have donated to their crowdfunding website! They are ¾ of the way to their goal of $75,000. Can you chip in $10? www.HonourTheACFN.ca Sources: Neil Young Comments get massive support in Alberta: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/14/neil-young-oilsands-comments_n_4597793.html Neil Young Responds to PMO’s Defence of Oilsands: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/neil-young-responds-to-pmo-s-defence-of-oilsands-1.249495010,549 of 15,000 SignaturesCreated by Jason Mogus