August 24, 2012 Fort McMurray, AB – The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) for northeast Alberta was released this week laying out plans for managing cumulative development and conservation but failed to address the staggering number of concerns
raised by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). Although the plan identifies six new conservation areas and minor restrictions for development in the province the first nation argues its does not adequately protect treaty rights or address how first nation guaranteed rights to continue their cultural livelihood will be included in the plan.
The ACFN have been in dialogue with the province discussing co-management, implementation of first nation traditional ecological knowledge into western science methodologies, development of partnerships and concrete commitments to address their unique rights and land base. However, LARP leaves first nation co-management, rights, title and knowledge out of the equation. Instead, it sets weak provincial environmental standards that don’t address cumulative effects, the destruction of traditional territories and ecosystems critical to the first nation while setting the stage for unabated increase in tar sands operations.
“Your plan, your land, your future? This is not our plan it’s the governments plan to annihilate our lands and our future. There are no commitments to our people and no protection of our lands and rights. We thought we were working towards a partnership with the government, but this plan doesn’t reflect that,” states Chief Allan Adam of ACFN. “Instead, they want more discussion. We should be equals sitting at the table from start to finish not just called on when they need to give the optics that we've been consulted, particularly the day before a new plan is launched. Our people and our rights are constantly being undermined by policies and plans like LARP that are created without meaningful participation in the development and implementation.”
The plan states, “the Alberta government will look for opportunities to engage these communities and invite them to share their traditional ecological knowledge to inform land and natural resource planning in this region,” but stops short of making any real commitments to allow first nations to be full contributors to the plan or assist with its implementation ensuring treaty rights now and into the future. The ACFN asserts this is nothing more then a demonstration of how the federal government is downloading it’s responsibilities of cumulative environmental management to the province and the province is creating weak systems that do nothing more then impede treaty and aboriginal rights and the environment.
The First Nation also criticizes the current protection zones created in LARP stating their own stewardship plan, Nih Boghodi, created by elders, indigenous knowledge holders and western scientist, identified much larger protection zones for culturally significant wildlife, such as caribou and bison herds, and a need for co-management. The first nation states the lands set for protection in the plan are minimal at best and not adequate for survival of species and treaty rights and completely forgo protection of any of their treaty territory, something the first nation has been requesting for many years. Chief Adam indicated the first nation will be putting the plan before legal council to explore potential litigation if need be.
“If we don’t stand up for our rights now and work to protect the land and animals, what are we leaving for future generations?” said Elder Pat Marcel Elder of the ACFN. “The current plan is paving the way for full environmental and economic destruction of our lands, people and treaties. We can no longer accept the status quo if this plan is implemented as is. We are the stewards of this land and we will do what needs to be done to ensure our lands and rights are protected now and into the future.”
For More information contact:
Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
Chief Allan Adam, 780-713-1220