On May 20th, 2013 two oil spills were reported in Northern Alberta followed by two more on June 8th and June 24th, a total of four and as of today (November 1st, 2013) none have stopped. It’s killing beavers and loons while contaminating water that we all depend on. Welcome to ground zero of SAGD tar sands destruction, the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation; where 84% of the land has been leased out to big oil without the Canadian Government following due process in their duty to consult the community.
This reckless disregard for the inherent Treaty rights and the place I call home is what moved former retired Chief of the Beaver Lake Cree, Al Lameman to mount an unprecedented constitutional challenge against the Albertan and Canadian government on behalf of the entire nation.1
“This would be the most powerful ecological precedent ever set in a Canadian court.” - Jack Woodward, First Nations Legal Expert
$25,000 is needed to hire a scientist to conduct research on cumulative tarsands impacts within the territory. What would make raising this amount even more important is if we could collectively raise it by the time R.A.V.E.N. Trust visits the community December 2013 because it will show the band of 900 people that they are not alone in this struggle. The government has done everything in their power to keep this case out of the courts for the last five years, but they’ve failed and soon the Beaver Lake Cree will move to trial.2 Winning this case will take several more years and approximately 2.8 million dollars per year in carrying costs. Right now the Beaver Lake Cree needs resolve to take the next critical step forward. Right now - the support of allies like you is needed.
This is where I grew up.
My name is Crystal Lameman and I am a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. I am a mother, a daughter, a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, a friend. I am someone who loves where she comes from, my roots, my place of birth, my home; but my home is under attack by and industry and a government that will stop at nothing to get the tar sands from the ground.
The tar sands are the size of England and Wales combined and are the largest industrial project in the world.3 Two of the three major tar sands developments fall within our territory, located about two hours North East of Edmonton, Alberta.
The abundant Northern caribou we have traditionally hunted are now dwindling, an animal once in abundance now a population of approximately 175-275. My children can’t safely drink the water straight from the land, the way I did as a child. There are reports of deer with green meat and moose with puss bubbles under the skin. Medicines that are natural to us, disappearing because they rely on a healthy eco system. As a member of the Beaver Lake Cree I’ve seen the devastating impacts of the tar sands firsthand and I’m not alone.
Every day more people like you are hearing our story and saying enough is enough. This story is about the mobilization of the grassroots people where I come from and about the mobilization of the grassroots people in your community. This cannot be done alone, this is a collective fight to stop big oil, how much are you willing to contribute in helping the Beaver Lake Cree fund the next critical step in this historically precedent setting challenge?
Over 19,000 permits to date have been granted to every major oil company in the world within the traditional hunting territory of the Beaver Lake Cree, without their consent. Why do I continue to return to the question of consent? Because 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 these megaprojects are destroying the First Nations rights to hunt, trap, and fish which are in direct violation of our Constitutional rights – The highest law in Canada, then there is grounds to challenge.4
Raising funds for the cumulative impacts study is one critical step in raising the necessary funds to mount the full legal challenge, further funding is needed which would cover fees like evidence gathering by elders; expert wildlife and environmental impacts research and reports; historical research, analysis and reports; and procedural costs like document discovery, writing arguments, and attending case management hearings.
If the tar sands are found to be unconstitutional, existing and future tar sands development will no longer be permitted to proceed without the consent of the Beaver Lake Cree. This would also set a precedent for other First Nations near or around the development areas, who could issue similar court challenges and potentially stop further tar sands expansion on their lands.
What you can do to support.
Billions of dollars is being taken out of the traditional territory by tar sands projects every year, yet here we are born into 3rd world living conditions in a 1st world country, suffering from endemic poverty, high unemployment, and severe health problems.
R.A.V.E.N.’s Executive Director, Susan Smitten points out that, “It’s not fair to rely on the poorest people in our nation to stand alone and be the voice of reason in this effort. They have the power of their treaties to protect the planet, and we have the power of a nation to support them. I just encourage people to get behind the line they’ve figuratively and literally drawn in the tar sand.”
If we raise $25,000, we can move forward with crucial evidence gathering and bring this case one big step closer to a day in court. As Indigenous peoples we are standing up to protect the land, water and our collective future, not only for us but for the very existence of the human race. Please take a stand.
~ In Solidarity, Crystal Lameman
1 Crystal Lameman, PowerShift 2012 Keynote, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kds5cLuEr_4
2 Alberta Court of Appeal, ABCA 148, http://www.albertacourts.ab.ca/jdb_new/public/ca/2003-NewTemplate/ca/Civil/2013/2013abca0148.pdf
3 The Independent, Cahal Milmo, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-biggest-environmental-crime-in-history-764102.html
4 Carol Linnitt, DeSmog Blog, http://desmog.ca/2013/05/23/beaver-lake-cree-judgment-most-important-tar-sands-case-you-ve-never-heard