News Articles Featured | MARTY KLINKENBERG | EDMONTON JOURNAL | October 26, 2012
Constitutional challenge to Shell oilsands development raised by First Nation, Metis groups
EDMONTON - The Joint Review Panel reviewing Shell Canada’s proposed Jackpine oilsands mine expansion project on Friday ruled that it does not have jurisdiction to consider a constitutional challenge raised by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and a regional band of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
On Tuesday, the groups had argued that the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada had failed to meaningfully address the impacts of the company’s proposed development on First Nations and was therefore in violation of their treaty rights.
On Monday, the federal and provincial panel will proceed with a public hearing on Shell’s proposal to expand its bitumen mining operations north of Fort McMurray on the east side of the Athabasca River. The company’s proposal calls for increasing its bitumen production from 255,000 to 355,000 barrels per day.
Eriel Deranger, a communications co-ordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said Friday that the band’s legal team was studying the panel’s 15-page decision against allowing the legal challenge and was preparing a response.
“Our lawyers are reviewing the document to to determine our recourse, but we have always been prepared to take this to the Alberta courts if necessary,” Deranger said. “We are fully committed to be part of the hearing process, but we also feel our questions of constitutional law have to be addressed.”
More than 50 environmental groups and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, are supporting the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s attempts to block Shell’s efforts to extend work in an existing lease area.
Environmental groups are especially concerned because Shell’s own assessment of the project predicts that it will contribute to a regional loss of habitat that could have significant affects on birds and wildlife, including woodland caribou and wood bison.
The panel, which includes representatives from Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, will convene the hearing at 1 p.m. Monday at MacDonald Island Park in Fort McMurray.
Approximately 15 groups, including five First Nations, Syncrude and the Government of Canada, will appear before the panel to debate the merits of the project.