Beaver Lake Cree Nation - The Tar Sands Trial

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation - The Tar Sands Trial

Thank Beaver Lake Cree Nation

Since the New Year, the Beaver Lake Cree legal team has been working flat-out, devoting every waking hour to preparing for the Feb 19 hearing. That date is fast approaching, and we want to make sure the Beaver Lake Cree enter that courtroom with full legal and grassroots support.....

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At the Frontlines of Climate Change

Wednesday February 6th 2019 • Doors 6:30, event 7-9pm

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, 16 Spadina Road, Toronto, ON

About the Event

Please join us for an evening of story-telling and solidarity. All are welcome!

The Tar Sands Trial aims to force Canada and Alberta to honour their treaty obligations to the Beaver Lake Cree and — by extension — all Nations across the country.  That means taking on the toxic tar sands and rampant industrial development that takes up 80% of  the territory of the Beaver Lake Cree. It means forging a new framework that evaluates new projects according to cumulative impacts on the water, forests, and animals that Indigenous Peoples were promised would be there 'as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow'.

COLE GLADUE, Beaver Lake Cree Nation
LAURIE MACKENZIE, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs)

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..from an email

On Tuesday, Feb 19, Beaver Lake Cree Nation will be arguing a key motion in their precedent-setting constitutional challenge over the violation of their Treaty rights and the devastation of their lands.

This is a Nation who've fought, who've refused to be silenced, and who've made sacrifices to force protections to land, air and water that will benefit everyone. We all owe a debt of gratitude to this tiny Nation who are standing toe to toe with Canada and Alberta to press for the honouring of treaty rights and an end to unchecked tar sands development in Alberta. 

Please support the Beaver Lake Cree as they take on the fight of a generation.

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..from an email.


Throughout the hearing, the court heard affidavit evidence from 10 band members. In submission after submission, Beaver Lake Cree people expressed many painful losses. Elders, knowledge keepers and community members described how, due to unchecked industry, they are no longer able to meaningfully exercise the way of life and culture that was promised to them under Treaty 6. They spoke of the broken promises reflected in the 19,000+ Crown authorizations for tar sands and other industrial development in their territory.

Loss of caribou, pollution of water, fragmentation of culture: over three long days, Beaver Lake Cree witnesses spoke of the tragic consequences of neglected treaty rights in northern Alberta.

It was inspiring to see the resilience of this community that travelled for hours to have their presence felt. Youth sat front and centre, attentively listening and watching the colonial system in action. Elders struggled to hear but seemed to find humour in the evidence; specifically at claims from the province that Beaver Lake does not live in poverty.

Part of what was being debated at the hearing is whether the issues raised by the Beaver Lake Cree are of national importance. Of course, we think that they are: this is a case that goes to the heart of what Canada’s responsibility to uphold the treaties really means. In particular, the case — known as The Tar Sands Trial —  addresses questions about whether Treaty 6 (and all the Numbered Treaties) assures Indigenous Peoples of a way of life, and whether there should be  limits to how much land and resources the Crown can take up, as allowed in the agreement, before the Treaty is infringed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government denies that the rights asserted by the Beaver Lake Cree even exist. The Crown denies that treaty infringement has taken place. For these hearings, a whole suite of Department of Justice lawyers has been tasked to challenge an under-resourced First Nation’s attempts to secure the funding it needs to go to trial.

“Canada’s position in Court stands in stark contrast to the high-level promises of the Trudeau government to promote reconciliation and to listen to Indigenous people,” says Me Karey Brooks, legal counsel for Beaver Lake Cree. “Without this case, and the advanced funding order, these critically important issues will not get resolved.”

It is important to remember that reconciliation has a specific meaning in law: it is about forcing Crown sovereignty to take account with and be reconciled with the pre-existing rights of Indigenous Peoples, reflecting the prior use and occupation of land and resources. The  issues being brought forward by the Beaver Lake Cree are deeply significant for First Nations across the country – and for all Canadians who care about acting honourably and setting right our relationships with Indigenous Peoples.