Chipewyan chief vows fight will continue until treaty issues in oilsands area are resolved, This country will never be the same again’ by Marty Klinkenberg, January 24, 2014, Edmonton Journal
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam on Friday promised the Alberta band will continue to wage a fierce battle over its treaty rights in the oilsands. Speaking at an aboriginal oilsands conference in Fort McMurray, Adam said he is heartened by the support the Dene Nation from Fort Chipewyan has received in the wake of Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties Tour. “There is no turning back,” said Adam, who has called on Canada’s First Nations to stand beside him in a legal challenge. “First Nations people have a right to be at the table when decisions are made that will affect their future. “We are fighting and people across the country are waking up. I am here to tell you that the sleeping giant is being awakened, and this country will never be the same again until the issues affecting First Nations are addressed.”
Adam’s remarks came at the end of a historic two-day collaboration between Alberta’s First Nations and industry. The event was co-ordinated by the Fort McKay First Nation, which, while often acting as a partner with industry, has also issued legal challenges to energy projects within its traditional territory.
Earlier Friday, the Athabasca Chipewyans joined Fort McKay and the Mikisew Cree First Nation in withdrawing from the federal-provincial Joint Oil Sands Monitoring program. The Athabasca Chipewyans cited treaty rights concerns and “overwhelming disappointment with the lack of meaningful and effective incorporation of traditional knowledge.”
Adam, who accompanied Young during the concert series that raised $550,000 for the band’s legal defence fund, said the band has never been anti-development and continues to sign agreements with energy companies in northern Alberta. It is concerned because projects have been approved by government that it believes will hinder members’ rights to hunt, fish and gather, and will lead to environmental degradation. “We have a crisis on our hands,” Adam said.
Speaking at the conference, Cliff Supernault, a former senior adviser with Alberta’s Energy and Utilities Board, said regulators should be doing a better job consulting with native bands. “This government provincially does not have a good relationship with First Nations,” Supernault said.
John Rhind, vice-president of heavy oil for Shell Canada, said the company strives continuously to improve its performance. After listening to presentations by First Nation’s officials, he said he will take a closer look at the company’s operations. “I am not sure we are delivering on the commitments we have made,” Rhind said.
Adam said the Athabasca Chipewyans are poised to fight a prolonged legal battle and are buoyed by growing support in the wake of the benefit tour. “We don’t have to go to court, we could sit at the table and work this out,” he said. “But if you want us to go to court, I have friends out there who will match you dollar for dollar.” [Emphasis added]