Fort McMurray region’s Indigenous groups support oilsands mine, company tells review panel

The company that hopes to build a massive oilsands project north of Fort McMurray says it has secured the support of all 14 Indigenous groups in the region.

On the first day of hearings before a joint-review panel, company officials said Teck Resources Ltd. has signed participation agreements with the Dene, Cree and Métis communities whose traditional territories intersect with the proposed mine.

The company’s $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mine project is undergoing public hearings in Fort McMurray before the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The mine’s lease areas, 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, overlap with traditional Indigenous lands and the territory of the threatened Ronald Lake bison herd.

But the land for the mine, a total of 292 square kilometres, or an area about half the size of Edmonton, would not be disturbed all at once.

Map showing the location of the Ronald Lake Bison Reserve in relation to a proposed oilsands mine planned by Teck Resources Ltd. (CBC News Graphics)

At Tuesday’s hearing, Teck officials announced the final Indigenous group from the region, the Mikisew Cree First Nation of Fort Chipewyan, had signed an agreement.

No company has ever obtained more such agreements before a public hearing to review the environmental and socio-economic impacts of an open-pit oilsands mine, said Kieron McFadyen, vice-president of energy for the Vancouver-based company.

Chief: ‘I used to be anti-development’

Archie Waquan, chief of the Mikisew Cree, told CBC News the agreement marks a personal change for him. 

“I think Teck has learned from Suncor and Syncrude and they want to do better,” Waquan said. “I used to be anti-development. I have to say if I don’t get on the train, I am going to be chasing the train.”

Waquan would not divulge details about the agreement but said it would allow Indigenous groups to hold Teck to account if the company doesn’t follow through on its promises to protect the environment.

Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Archie Waquan attends the opening of Fort Hills oilsands mine on Sept. 10, 2018. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Some of the region’s Indigenous groups say they still have concerns about the project.

Waquan said his First Nation will call on the federal government to create a buffer zone around Wood Buffalo National Park and a protected area for the free-roaming Ronald Lake bison herd.

Teck officials told the panel the company will support adding those requirements to its application.

Bullying Indigenous groups?

During cross-examination Tuesday, Indigenous groups in the Northwest Territories argued they weren’t properly consulted about the project.

McFadyen said given that the Kátł’odeeche First Nation and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation are so far from the proposed mine, the company saw no need to sign agreements with those groups.

When the joint-review panel finishes its five-week public hearing it will submit a report to the federal minister of environment and climate change. 

As of Monday, the panel had 200 working days before that report is due.

Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema, whose group opposes the project, accused Teck of bullying Indigenous groups into side deals.

Hudema said many communities were forced to compromise because they know regulators have never rejected an oilsands application and will likely approve this one. 

“That’s not living up to our commitment to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous reconciliation,” Hudema said. “When they feel forced into a decision they don’t want to make.”

Indigenous groups support Teck’s Frontier oilsands mine

Here’s a list of Indigenous groups that have signed agreements with Teck:

1. Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

2. Mikisew Cree First Nation

3. Fort McKay First Nation

4. Fort Chipewyan Métis

5. Fort McKay Métis

6. Fort Mc Murray Métis 1935

7. Fort McMurray First Nation #468

8. Métis Nation of Alberta- Region One and it’s member locals

9. Athabasca Landing Local # 2010

10. Buffalo Lake Local # 2002

11. Conklin Local # 193

12. Lac La Biche Local # 1909

13. Owl River Local # 1949

14. Willow Lake Local # 780

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 





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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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