Everyone’s downstream – The New Internationalist April 2010 Issue

The tar sands infrastructure straddles North America, and is fed by finance from all over the world. But its global reach is provoking global resistance.

‘Legal action is the only way’

When the ancestors of the Beaver Lake Cree signed a treaty with Canada in 1876, they ceded vast tracts of land in Alberta in exchange for continued rights to hunt, fish and gather plants and medicines, as they had always done. In recent years, the large-scale deforestation, wildlife disturbance and pollution resulting from tar sands developments have been eroding these treaty rights and now threaten the community’s traditional way of life.

So in 2008, they launched a legal challenge aimed at halting the wholesale destruction of their ancestral lands. It cites 17,000 infringements by oil companies of the Beaver Lake Cree’s constitutionally protected treaty rights and seeks injunctions against new developments. 

Chief Al Lameman is determined: “The governments of Canada and Alberta have made a lot of promises to our people and we intend to see those promises kept. Governments and industry ignore our concerns. This is our home. This is where we live. We have a responsibility to our children to see that these lands remain inhabitable. A legal action is the only way to make our voices heard.” 

This could have huge implications for Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Total, all of which have actual or planned developments within the Beaver Lake Cree’s ancestral lands. But if successful, all new tar sands projects could be brought to a halt. The case, which is financially supported by the Co-operative, is being led by lawyer Jack Woodward. He believes that: “Canada’s aboriginal people will be the ones that rescue Canada from international embarrassment and rescue all the people of the world from the worst effects of tar sands exploitation.” 

Find out more and donate to the Beaver Lake Cree’s legal challenge.

For a copy of the article, with photo of Chief Al, click here.

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