Courtesy Beaver Lake Cree Nation
Former Beaver Lake Cree Nation Chief Al Lameman speaks to press.

Federal and Provincial Governments Lose Appeal Against First Nation Oil Sands Lawsuit

Brandi Morin
May 08, 2013

A First Nation from Alberta is hailing a court victory in its fight against expanded oil sands development near traditional territories and hunting grounds with the dismissal of a government appeal attempting to block their case.

Beaver Lake Cree Nation first went to court against the provincial and Canadian governments in 2008 alleging breach of treaty rights. The Canadian and Alberta governments joined forces to get the lawsuit dismissed, but lost a year ago when the Court of the Queen’s Bench upheld the lawsuit despite the provincial and federal governments’ attempts to throw it out, on grounds that it was frivolous. In her decision last year, Justice Beverley Browne said the case raises issues and questions about aboriginal consultation overall that need to be addressed. (Related: Beaver Lake Cree Nation Allowed to Continue Lawsuit Against Province and Feds)

The two governments appealed. The April 30, 2013, Court of Appeal of Alberta decision puts the case one step closer to proceeding to trial.

“The appeals are therefore dismissed in their entirety,” read this most recent judgment. “The parties will be well-served by returning to their case management judge for the imposition of a litigation plan to advance this litigation through trial.”

Beaver Lake Cree Nation attorney Drew Mildon said that should this case be successful it could be precedent-setting when it comes to oil sands development, with repercussions throughout the country. “This is the thing that can keep tar sands development from moving forward,” he said.

The tiny Beaver Lake community, with a population of less than 1,000, sits near Lac La Biche in Northern Alberta and is surrounded by oil extraction activity. Its traditional hunting and fishing lands are intertwined with more than 13,483 miles of seismic lines, about 2,500 miles worth of pipelines and nearly 600 miles of roads. On top of that, oil companies are seeking to expand the oil sands development further into Beaver Lake territory.

Mildon said the effects of oil production through steam-assisted gravity drainage, which is most common in the area, is subtly damaging.

“You end up with oil in the water table, with animals being poisoned, with forests being so fractured that it no longer supports any of the fur bearers or other animals that First Nations depend on for food.”

The ultimate goal of the court case said Mildon, is to provide the First Nation with the co-management rights that are already a part of the Treaty. Thus giving them the ability to make decisions about the land base that they depend on for the future.

Justice Canada declined to comment on the case beyond stating, “The parties are working cooperatively to determine timelines and processes for next steps in the litigation.”

Mildon said Alberta and/or Canada will most likely apply to the Supreme Court of Canada for a leave to appeal and predicted that the government will attempt to “outspend a little First Nation like this as much as possible.”

Should this case continue to move forward, the trial would eventually be heard in the Alberta Court of the Queen’s Bench. Beaver Lake has relied almost entirely on donations for this proceeding. The band continues to hold fundraising events and has attracted significant sponsors, including the Co-Operative Bank out of the United Kingdom.

As far as current and pending oil sands development on the band’s traditional territory, Mildon said the First Nation might have to resort to seeking an injunction to stop development until the case is decided.

“In the meantime I would think that companies should be warning their investors that they may be throwing their money into a big giant hole in the ground after oil that may very well be staying right where it is,” said Mildon.



Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

the government is short sighted, greedy, and just simply evil. Just say no to raping Mother Earth.

kate dyson's picture
kate dyson
Submitted by kate dyson on


Donna Lynn's picture
Donna Lynn
Submitted by Donna Lynn on

The UK is awesome for helping. Hopefully they are given a hand from a little closer to home as well .

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

This is the first of many cases to win the fight against the corporate oil giants

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Protecting Mother Earth is of the utmost importance! Combine that with a First Nation's victory is even more heart warming. I am just sad that it is costing the Cree band so much in legal fees to get what is rightfully theirs. I worry about the length of the litigation and how much damage the Canadian government will do to their land.

Aaron's picture
Submitted by Aaron on

Congratulations on this victory, this is great news and sure other Canadians would welcome this chance to learn in greater detail what all this means in terms of the bigger picture. These people will continue raping Mother Earth of all Her life serving nutrients unless we the keepers and custodians of this great land stand against this wanton greed and destruction that will be our undoing unless stopped. Keep up the outstanding work.....Meegwetch !

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Good for you , I`m very proud of the First Nations of Alberta, keep up the good work/

Michelle - SCFN's picture
Michelle - SCFN
Submitted by Michelle - SCFN on

Keep up the good work Mr. Al Lameman, prayers sent for you, your family, and your Nation. (hugs)

Cathy Miller's picture
Cathy Miller
Submitted by Cathy Miller on

Thank goodness some people are fighting to restrict this development, I hope are able to learn more about it and can help with fund raising!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Tat is awesome. I hope lack of funds will not be the deciding factor on the outcome for this case.