Defend the treaties

Stand with Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Draw the line.

The  homeland of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta is being taken over by Canada’s biggest fossil fuel extraction project: the oil sands.

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is going to court to defend its rights to hunt, fish and practice their culture as guaranteed under Treaty 6. In the process, the Nation is also pushing back against one of the largest and most carbon-intensive energy developments on the planet.

Indigenous people are drawing a line in the sand.


Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the cumulative impacts of industrial development.

Not one project, not one mine: all of them at once.



After hearing the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's case, the court will have to consider whether Canada and Alberta have authorized too much industrial development without meaningful regard to treaty rights. A victory for Beaver Lake Cree Nation would become a strong precedent for other treaty Nations — and all Canadians — to allow for protection of land, air and water for future generations. 

Backed by strong allies, Indigenous legal challenges have stopped pipelines, pushed back open pit mining, and protected vast landscapes from extractive industry. Together we are a mighty force!


Stand with the Beaver Lake Cree in this historic, precedent-setting case. Your support is vital.


Time to Defend the Treaties and protect rights

Treaties are living agreements between First Nations and the Crown. All Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are therefore treaty people. Treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are affirmed and recognized as central to Canada’s very existence as a nation by The Constitution Act, 1982.

Yet despite these lofty commitments, Canada continues to turn treaty lands like Beaver Lake Cree’s territory into sacrifice zones. Beaver Lake Cree lands, waters and resources have become inaccessible and unusable for the exercise of the Nation’s rights under Treaty 6.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said that although the Crown has a right to authorize land use, there may come a time when treaty rights are rendered meaningless because of too much Crown-authorized land use. Beaver Lake Cree Nation is determined to halt the destruction before it reaches that point. This is what the Defend the Treaties case is all about.

Time to transition off fossil fuels

Canada is home to one of the world’s largest and dirtiest oil reserves – the Alberta oil sands. Scientists have warned that continuing to rely on oil sands oil would mean “game over” for the climate, triggering the melt-off of Antarctic ice and other tipping points. Climate change would then become unstoppable.

Indigenous communities are increasingly taking the lead in the transition to renewable energy. Even as they fight the oil sands giant, the Beaver Lake Cree are solarizing their schools and community buildings – exercising energy sovereignty and building an alternative to the oil and gas economy on their land.

“The beauty of this moment is that our future could easily hold much more than just oil and gas. The time for a just transition beyond fossil fuels is now. The transition in Germany, where they have created 400,000 clean-energy jobs, is waiting to be emulated here,” Beaver Lake Cree’s Crystal Lameman wrote in an editorial for the Globe and Mail.

"Beaver Lake Cree Nation is so very grateful for the unwavering support of our allies; you all have consistently shown up and stepped up when we called out. We lift you up and give thanks to you all. No one said that this would be easy, but we know it will be worth it. Together we stand up together for the health and longevity of our Mother Earth".


Defend the Treaties:
A Timeline
  • 2021


    March 18: The Supreme Court of Canada overturned a ruling from Alberta’s top court that Beaver Lake Cree Nation wasn’t entitled to advance funding for its long-running legal case. The Supreme Court said the band was entitled to put first priority for the money it had on “pressing needs.” BLCN must return to lower court to prove need for Advance Costs based on new criteria laid out by the Court. 

  • 2021


    November 4: The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s appeal to restore its advanced cost order.

  • 2021


    The Supreme Court of Canada announces it will hear Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s appeal to restore its advanced cost order.


  • 2020


    The decision to revoke funding for Beaver Lake Cree essentially closes the door for other Nations to receive advance costs awards to pursue justice. It is a massive setback to reconciliation: that’s why the Beaver Lake Cree are filing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

  • 2020


    Alberta's highest court has overturned an order that would have required the provincial and federal governments to each pay advance legal costs of $300,000 per year to BLCN.

  • 2019


    Court of Queen's Bench Justice Beverly Browne ordered the provincial and federal governments to pay advance legal costs in an action she deemed 'of national importance'. 

  • 2013


    The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Beaver Lake Cree. They are the first community to ever be granted a trial in relation to the cumulative impacts this industry has had on inherent Treaty rights.

  • 2013


    One spill was discovered under a lake on the south-west shore, where elders say ancestors are buried. Over 200 animals and amphibians died as a result and over 300,000 kg of oily vegetation was removed from site.

  • 2008


    In May, Beaver Cree filed their case, challenging the governments in Canada and Alberta.  The case rests on a treaty entered in 1876 under which the Beaver Lake Cree agreed to share land, in return for a guarantee that rights to hunt, fish, and practice culture would be upheld “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow."


Image of coastal oil refinery with smoke coming out of a chimney, meant to illustrate pollution caused from fossil fuel industry.

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Defending The Treaties

The Beaver Lake Cree are passionately pursuing the groundbreaking case known as "Defend the Treaties".  The case aims to set a precedent that would force ALL projects in Beaver Lake Cree territory to be evaluated according to their cumulative impacts on Treaty rights. 

As they are situated in the epicentre of Canada's tar sands, a win would curtail the expansion of fossil fuel industries and protect land, air and water for future generations. 



Tar Sands spell ecological and human rights disaster

Canada is home to one of the world’s largest and dirtiest oil reserves – the Alberta tar sands. Located in the epicentre of the disaster, Beaver Lake Cree territory is now covered with 35,000 oil and gas sites, 21,700 kilometres of seismic lines, 4,028 kilometres of pipeline and 948 kilometres of road.

In addition to pushing back with the Defend the Treaties case, Beaver Lake Cree are pioneering renewable energy projects in their community. The goal? To chart a different energy future.

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Defending Climate

Scientists have warned that continuing to rely on tar sands oil would mean “game over” for the climate, triggering the melt-off of Antarctic ice and other tipping points. Climate change would then become unstoppable.

It’s not too late! The Beaver Cree have not only endured and survived, they are envisioning and proactively building a very different future for their land and their community. Their resilience and commitment to healing their land models what is possible for all of us. If we’re going to save our planet, NOW is the time.