First Nation sues Alberta, says oilsands project threatens sacred site

Prosper Petroleum’s $440-million, 10,000-barrel-a-day plans have been vigorously opposed by Fort McKay

An Alberta First Nation is suing the province over development approvals that the band says threaten sacred land the government has promised to protect.

“We will not stand idly by and let the area be destroyed,” Jim Boucher, chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, said in a release.

Fort McKay, a community of 800 about 80 kilometres from Fort McMurray, is surrounded by open-pit oilsands mines on three sides. The closest is within four kilometres.

Band members have long considered the pristine area around Moose and Namur lakes, west of the community, their last refuge for traditional hunting, trapping and berry-picking. The lawsuit argues there has been so much development in the region — from energy exploration to forestry to agriculture — that Moose Lake is all Fort McKay has left.

“Without the preservation of the Moose Lake area, the plaintiffs will no longer be able to meaningfully exercise their treaty rights,” says the statement of claim, which contains allegations that have not yet been proven in court.

“(Moose Lake) is now under imminent threat from industrial activity that has been or will be approved by Alberta.”

The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The alleged threat comes from an approval granted last June by the province’s energy regulator for an oilsands project that would come within two kilometres of Moose Lake. Prosper Petroleum’s $440-million, 10,000-barrel-a-day plans were vigorously opposed by Fort McKay at the time.

The green light came despite a provincial draft plan — the result of 15 years of talks under several different governments — to give the area some protection.

That plan contemplated a 10-kilometre zone around Moose and Namur lakes with safeguards for protecting Fort McKay’s land use. It would have established access control, environmental monitoring and thresholds for the surrounding region.

The Alberta Energy Regulator said at the time that it had taken into account social and economic issues, as well as impacts on treaty rights.

However, the regulator said it couldn’t weigh the approval’s effect on the province’s plan for the lake area because that plan was still being discussed and hadn’t been implemented.

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn permits for industrial activity within the 10-kilometre zone. It also asks the court to forbid Alberta from authorizing any more activity in the area unless Fort McKay agrees to it.

“Alberta has failed to … protect the Moose Lake area from the impacts of industrial development,” the statement of claim says. “Alberta will continue, unless restrained from doing so, to undertake or approve industrial development within the Moose Lake area.”

Prosper Petroleum has said it is committed to addressing its neighbours’ concerns.

The company would use steam injected into shallow horizontal wells to melt heavy, sticky bitumen crude and allow it to drip into a parallel well before being pumped to the surface, where it would be transported by truck to a buyer or pipeline.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: SD69 working on how to organize schools for planned fall re-opening

Qualicum School District required to have plan to ministry by Aug. 26

Major injuries averted after three-vehicle crash in Nanoose Bay

Poor road conditions believed a factor in early-morning mishap

Throwback: Parksville Makerspace shows off old Commodore 64 computer

Open house takes place Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

COVID-19: Modified beach volleyball a hit in Parksville

Organizer happy to get popular summer game going

47 British Columbians test positive for COVID-19

That brings the total number of confirmed active cased as of Thursday (Aug. 6) to 371 people

Acclaimed B.C. actor Brent Carver passes away

Carver, one of Canada’s greatest actors with a career spanning 40 years, passed away at home in Cranbrook

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Canucks blank Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying clash

Jacob Markstrom stops 27 shots to lead Vancouver past Minnesota

Tent Island closed due to neglect and abuse from campers

Illegal campfires common on Penelakut Tribe reserve land

North Okanagan man chains himself to tree in protest of construction

Crews began work clearing space for a new facility Thursday, Aug. 6

VIDEO: A B.C business used robots to bring down concrete walls

Walco Industries is the only firm on Vancouver Island to use specialized robots for hydro-demolition

As CERB winds down, labour group asks Liberals to rethink EI

The government estimates four million people will be moved onto EI after CERB ends

Most Read