Courtesy Lubicon Lake Cree Nation
Leadership of the Lubicon Lake Cree Nation meet in their longhouse to discuss the Penn West court order and their anti-fracking blockade.

Court Tells Lubicon Lake Cree in Alberta to Stop Blocking Fracking Activities

Martha Troian

An Alberta First Nation is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading fracking operations on unceded territory.

Initially to Calgary-based oil and gas giant Penn West Petroleum Ltd. was seeking a seven-day order from an Alberta court against the blockade set up by Lubicon Lake Nation community members. Instead a judge handed down an additional six months during the court proceeding in early January. The court date came three weeks after Lubicon Lake Cree members began blockading a road northeast of Peace River that leads to a Penn West fracking site. The First Nation community has taken issue not only with the court order but also with the proceeding itself and the rationale behind it.

“The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon,” said Garrett Tomlinson with the Lubicon Lake Nation. “More time must be provided for both sides to be heard.”

Lubicon Lake Nation’s leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon lands issued to Penn West by Alberta null and void. Penn West is exploring fracking between Haig and Sawn lakes, areas where Lubicon Lake people are known to carry out traditional activities such as fishing and hunting.

In late November, approximately 20 members of Lubicon Lake took a stance against the company by blocking the road. A few weeks later Lubicon Lake even filed a "Notice of Trespass" and an "Order to Vacate" to Penn West.

“First and foremost, one of the things [Penn West] has to do first is have a meaningful dialogue with Chief and Council,” said Dwight Gladue, councilor of Lubicon Lake Nation and one of the community members at the blockade site.

However, dialogue among the Lubicon themselves may be difficult, since the people are actually divided into two bands. Chief Bernard Ominayak represents the Lubicon Lake Nation, whereas Chief Billy Joe Laboucan leads the Lubicon Band, a separate group that was federally recognized by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in February 2013.

The First Nation split during the mid-1990s, a breakup that some say was orchestrated by Aboriginal Affairs in order to undermine an unfinished land claim settlement with Chief Ominayak's group. Chief Ominayak and his council say that by supporting industry, Chief Laboucan's group is out to destroy the Lubicon lands, as are PennWest and the provincial government.


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