The Beaver Lake Cree are back in court on June 4th, facing down Canada to defend their treaty rights in the historic Tar Sands Trial.
Right now, we are matching every donation to the Tar Sands Trial : thanks to a generous donor, from May 5 every dollar you give will be DOUBLED.
Thanks to an incredible people-powered campaign for justice, the Beaver Lake Cree are on a winning streak in court. Having successfully proven that their case is in the public interest, last October a judge ruled that Canada and Alberta provide $600k towards the cost of taking the case to trial. That Advance Cost Award was carved out so that a third of the cost of the case would be paid by Canada, a third by Alberta and the final third by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN).
But now, this historic legal action is in jeopardy.
Outrageously, in the midst of a global pandemic, the government is now appealing that decision. Beaver Lake Cree BLCN are now being forced to dig into their community coffers to go to back court as soon as June 4 to argue that they are indeed entitled to receive Advance Costs. Don’t let the Beaver Lake Cree get nickel- and- dimed out of court: stand up for justice, and lend a hand to Indigenous People in this David vs. Goliath struggle.
“As the Nation looks to our Treaty partners for a clear definition on reconciliation and what those efforts mean in the spirit of our Treaty relationship, I am disheartened, yet again, to see and experience these tactics used against my Nation in our pursuit for justice and the upholding of our inherent and Treaty rights.” – Chief Germaine Anderson
First Nations are used to government officials paying lip service to Indigenous rights, and then sending lawyers to fight Nations in court with losing arguments – like denying Indigenous title – hoping that Nations will give up when the costs become too much. But in this appeal Canada and Alberta are stooping to new lows. They have claimed that, because Beaver Lake Cree recently paid for repairs to the community water truck – the only source of drinking water for many Beaver Lake members – the Nation can therefore easily pony up another $2-3 million for the tar sands trial.
What’s at Stake with The Tar Sands Trial?
The Beaver Lake Cree entered into Treaty No. 6 in 1876. This Treaty is a living agreement between First Nations and the Crown, and is affirmed in Sec. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Treaty affirms the First Nations inherent right to hunt, trap, fish and gather, “for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grasses grow”
Yet despite these lofty commitments, Canada continues to turn Treaty lands like the Beaver Lake Cree’s territory into sacrifice zones. The Nations lands, waters and resources have become in some areas inaccessible and unusable for the exercise of the Nation’s rights under Treaty No. 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. The Beaver Lake Cree is determined to halt the destruction before it reaches that point, and to set precedents on sustainable development, environmental protection and to ensure there is a livable planet all future generations – inclusive of our air, land and water beings.
The impact of the tar sands industry – one of the largest global polluters and a significant contributor to the climate crisis – has been particularly dire for Beaver Lake Cree, a small community located three hours north of Edmonton. This is a nation that has spent countless dollars and nearly 10 years to fight back against 19,000 tar sands projects that are encroaching on their lands and waters. Nearly 90% of their traditional territory has been scarred and polluted by numerous tar sands projects, displacing moose and elk and driving caribou to the brink of extinction.
In their quest to have their treaty rights upheld, BLCN have made many sacrifices, and have drawn heavily on scarce community resources. Why? Because they believe that the courts will deliver justice based on treaty rights that assure rights in perpetuity – in the words of Treaty 6, “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows.”
It’s not fair that Indigenous Peoples are being nickel-and-dimed in this way. The Beaver Lake Cree need to raise $120k to ensure they have the resources they need to mount this potentially precedent-setting case. A win would mean Indigenous Nations would be able to determine what development looks like in their traditional territories: in Beaver Lake Cree territory, it would limit tar sands expansion, and protect one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, guaranteeing a more sustainable future for everyone.
This case stands to be a game-changer in Alberta’s tar sands and, by extension, for a safe climate and healthy communities. The BLCN have come this far, and they aren’t backing down. Please make a tax deductible donation now to see your impact doubled.