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BLCN vs. Alberta & Canada

The Cree people of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation live in an area of forest the size of Switzerland. Their homeland is on the front lines of destructive tar sands mining: the most toxic, polluting, and destructive form of oil production there is. In order to protect one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, caribou habitats, dotted with hundreds of freshwater lakes and rivers, this nation of 900 people are in the process of taking the Canadian government and the province of Alberta to court.

In their legal challenge, the Beaver Lake Cree claim that the more than 19,000 fossil fuel projects in their traditional territory threaten to destroy their way of life —by polluting and fragmenting the land and water that have sustained them for centuries.

What is the Beaver Lake Cree vs. the Alberta and Canadian Governments?

Alberta and Canada have far exceeded the land’s capacity for development. They have recklessly authorized oil sands projects, military facilities and other development without any real regard for the rights of Beaver Lake and other Treaty Nations. While any one of these projects by themselves might be tolerable taken together they threaten to destroy BLCN’s way of life and the land that has sustained them for thousands of years. In Chief Anderson vs Alberta and Canada, (formerly Lameman vs Alberta), BLCN is asking the courts to hold Canada and Alberta to account for what they have done and make it clear that there is a limit to development and they have ignored it.

First Nation’s Rights – enshrined as Aboriginal Rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 – are arguably some of the most important emerging rights on the Canadian legal landscape and certainly the most powerful environmental rights in the country. Thus, when it can be shown that these mega-projects are destroying the First Nations rights to hunt, trap, and fish, which is in direct violation of First Nation’s Constitutional rights – ultimately the highest law in Canada— then there is grounds to challenge.

Current Funding Need

Since 2008, the government has done everything in its power to keep this case out of the courts, but it has failed. Right now the Beaver Lake Cree have the resolve to take the next critical steps forward:

  • First, this case requires substantial support from expert witnesses who can describe the history of Beaver Lake and Treaty 6, substantiate the progress of development across the territory and demonstrate the cumulative effect of this development on critical wildlife populations and patterns of land use. These experts include wildlife biologists, satellite mapping specialists, ecologists, anthropologists and historians.
  • Second, Beaver Lake needs assistance in pulling together and presenting its community members’ evidence. This evidence will be crucial in demonstrating both the importance of the First Nation’s connection to the land for its community’s culture, identity and future and the reality of the effects of development.
  • Third, support is needed to help pay for the legal team carrying the litigation and the substantial amount of pre-trial and trial work that will be needed to bring this case to a successful conclusion.

Practically the greatest challenge Beaver Lake faces is maintaining a steady pace of trial preparation and evidence collection. From the perspective of the governments and industry, delay furthers their approach as it makes it harder to protect the undeveloped lands that remain and avoid the creation of commitments to industry and others.

Pressing this case ahead in steady way towards reasonable trial date is a monumental task for a small First Nation situated in Northern Alberta. Beaver Lake is using its own resources to push this case along as best it can but outside financial support is needed to make this case a success. The support of allies like you is needed. Please donate, and participate in sharing this important case with your network.

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