RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

Tar Sands Trial: Beaver Lake Cree Nation vs Alberta and 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.



“This is about the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. No matter your race, color or creed, this challenge is about you.”

— Crystal Lameman, Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager, Beaver Lake Cree Nation

You can help a small Cree community challenge industry and the Alberta and Canadian governments — in court — to help stop the destruction of their land, water, plants, animals, and all that gives life for our future generations. They are preparing for what could potentially be the biggest court battle in Canada’s history – Beaver Lake Cree Nation versus the unmitigated expansion of the Alberta tar sands.


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z_e_ImageVault-1258Enough is Enough: Beaver Lake Cree Nation has drawn a line in the tar sand. The nation is suing Canada and Alberta to stop the over-development of in situ/SAGD tar sands developments to save what is left of their homeland and its resources. This isn’t just for the Beaver Lake Cree, though. This is for anyone who breathes air and drinks water. We are all affected by the largest industrial project on this planet.

It’s not too late! In fact, if we’re going to save our planet, NOW is the time. Yes, industry has moved in, but no, it has not yet destroyed everything worth saving. And no, it is not too late to intervene. Success of this litigation means Indigenous Peoples acting as stewards of the Earth will determine what development will look like in their traditional territories.

“The governments fought hard to have this case thrown out of court, because the legal precedents weigh heavily against them. Now, with a judgment that this will go to trial, the two governments hope we’ll be defeated either by the cost of the litigation, or by the time it takes to gather the necessary resources to get this case in front of the judge, before the health of our land is irreversible.”

~~ Crystal Lameman

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Who are the Beaver Lake Cree?

The Beaver Lake Cree Nations Core Traditional Territory spans 38,972 square kilometers or 24,216 miles, with 34,773 square kilometres of that or 21,606 miles consisting of oil and natural gas well sites. Read the Ketuskeno Declaration. Watch Extraction to learn more.

What is the Beaver Lake Cree versus 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.

Canada has steadily weakened its environmental laws with the passing of Bill C-38 yet protection for aboriginal and treaty rights have been strengthened – even as recently as the June 27, 2012 BC Supreme Court of Appeal ruling.

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.

Cumulative Effects

While every project matters this Beaver Lake is not just fighting one project – they are concerned about the way the government has allowed their whole land to be made unrecognizable. They are affected by oil sands projects, conventional oil and gas, military bases, agriculture, roads and pipelines – how can it be that the provincial and federal governments completely forgot about them in this process?

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