Claiming that Shell Canada has held back on promised funds meant to mitigate the effects of oil sands development on its territory, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is suing the conglomerate for C$1.5 million.
As Environment Minister Peter Kent took flak at the COP17 climate talks in Durban, South Africa, for his remarks about developing nations and their requests for easier greenhouse gas rules, opposition to the very oil sands he is championing was heating up at home. Debate is raging over the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico, and up in British Columbia, First Nations are bitterly opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge through their territory to the Pacific Coast.
Several First Nations announced at a press conference in Vancouver on December 1 that they would close British Columbia’s borders to any pipeline development from Enbridge, the Canadian Press and other media reported. Their statement came in the wake of a report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council and two other conservation groups saying that the risks of a spill were too great to allow the pipeline’s construction.
Rallying outside Shell Canada’s Calgary headquarters on November 30, Chief Allan Adam and the tribe’s lawyer, Othuis Kleer Townshed, served the corporation with the papers, ACFN said in a press release.
Shell’s development is the country’s third-largest mining development in the huge area known as the Alberta oil sands. Shell stands accused by the Athabasca Chipewyan of failing to fulfill all its promises to mitigate the effect of its oil sands operations on the nearby community.
“Shell’s failure to meet these agreements with ACFN has led to harmful impacts on the environment and ACFN’s constitutionally protected rights and culture,” the First Nation said.
Shell Canada vice president for heavy-oil development John Broadhurst told Reuters that the requests the company denied were things like a scholarship that didn’t get used because there was no student available and the company didn’t want to merely hand over cash instead as the First Nation requested. Shell has spent more than $200 million under its “good neighbor” program over the past five years, Reuters said.
In addition the Athabasca Chipewyan will oppose future oil sands developments, especially those that propose expanding into as-yet-untouched land such as the Pierre River, its statement said.
“We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed,” said Adam. “The fate of our communities and our river is at stake, and we are in the crosshairs of Shell’s plans to aggressively expand tar sands in our traditional territory. We ask the public to support ACFN’s efforts to stop Shell from permanently destroying our lands and community.”