In a landscape that is increasingly devastated by oil pollution from tar sands excavation, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is suing Shell Canada, the province of Alberta, and the Government of Canada for colluding in violating their treaty rights to an unpolluted environment. Having already ruined parts of their territory, Shell Canada now wants to expand the devastation, threatening the Muskeg River, which is at the heart of the Athabasca Chipewyan traditional culture and economy.
Speaking in Vancouver, Athabasca Chipewyan spokesperson Eriel Deranger remarked, “Coercion does not encompass the idea of free, prior and informed consent.” While Shell Canada denies the accusations, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine a workable compromise given the degree of devastation.
As Deranger said,
Some people think the tar sands and First Nations people can coexist, [but] I don’t know how you could possible rip up thousands of kilometers of boreal forest and traditional territories, de-water, poison and contaminate river systems, and consider that a plausible way for coexistence?
While Shell Canada says it can mitigate the toxic tailings ponds, open pit mines and polluted rivers, Deranger replies, “We’re not going to make any deals with you anymore. We’re going to fight your projects tooth and nail.”