Want the backstory on the Tar Sands Trial? Watch the video of a powerful discussion between Beaver Lake Cree’s Crystal Lameman, lawyer Karey Brooks, and RAVEN Campaigns Director Ana Simeon.
Crystal Lameman led us through a history of the Tar Sands Trial legal action. She says, “Our nation is tired of how industry runs amok in our territory without consideration of combined impacts: how projects affect treaty rights and a livable planet for future generations.”
The legal basis for the case begins with the fact that Beaver Lake Cree’s ancestors thrived for generations before signing any treaty, living off the lands and waters. The claim then looks at what happened when Treaty 6 was signed in 1876. The case evaluates the promises which were made at that time and how these were understood by both signatories: Indigenous members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and the Crown. According to the legal challenge, treaty commissioners told Indigenous Peoples then that they were giving up nothing: the treaty was about establishing a relationship and that the Queen would protect them. Lawyer Karey Brooks read the words of Treaty Commissioner Alexander Morris out for us all to hear: “What i am offering does not take away your way of living – you will have it now, as you had it before.” Crystal Lameman explained that in Beaver Lake Cree oral history, this understanding of the meaning of Treaty 6 has been recorded and passed down through the generations.
Brooks went on to explain how BLCN’s claim looks at the way the promises that were made in the Treaty have been compromised by the cumulative impact of activities on the land.
“The heart of the claim is that cumulative impacts have infringed treaty rights,” says Brooks. “Unique considerations of cumulative impacts include cultural impact, as well as environmental impact. Although ‘taking up of the land’ is not considered infringement, there may be a time when ‘too much is too much. The BLCN claim is the first attempt to prove just what that threshold is, in deciding where the line gets drawn regarding treaty infringement.”
Says Lameman, “This case is NOT about pitting economic revenue and industry against First Nation’s assertion of sovereignty and our right to FPIC. It’s about BLCN having a say in what development looks like in their territory and on their lands — which neither Canada nor Alberta have a bill of sale to. It’s about an intentional treaty relationship grounded in a coexistence of peace and sharing. It’s about our right to say yes OR no, and for that right and response to be honoured.
A win for Beaver Lake is a win for all, no matter race, colour or creed. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: if you breathe air, or you drink water, this is about you.”
Both highlighted the fact that the Crown has deep pockets and can afford to pursue costly applications of the law: which bring us to the present day, and the appeal that Beaver Lake Cree are currently challenging.
Even though the court has recognized the Tar Sands Trial as being in the public interest, and has given its approval for funding for the Beaver Lake Cree to pursue the case, Canada and Alberta have appealed the granting of an Advance Cost Order. This appeal can only succeed if the Crowns can prove that the judge who granted the award made a significant legal error. June 4th, Beaver Lake Cree will face Canada and the province: once again, and with resolve, determined to keep this epic case on the rails for the benefit of future generations.
Says Lameman: “We are resilient, and we aren’t going to stop, thanks to the continued support of our allies and supporters. We are very grateful for that.”
In tandem with Thursday’s hearing, RAVEN will be matching donations to the Tar Sands Trial. Starting June 3rd, all donation will be DOUBLED. Give here.