Treaty 8 joins Woodland Cree dispute with Obsidian

Chris Clegg and Susan Thompson
For the Lakeside Leader

Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) has received support from the Sovereign Nations of Treaty 8 in its dispute with Obsidian Energy.

Sovereign Nations held a news conference in Peace River May 16 to state their unequivocal support for Woodland Cree.

“It is not only an issue with this company but with the Government of Alberta’s consultation process and offices of the Alberta Energy Regulator and Aboriginal Consultation office,” reads a news release May 16 issued before the news conference by CAO Margo Auger.

“This has been a long-standing issue with regards to the continual failure to properly administer the duty to consult with First Nations on industry development within the Treaty 8 territory.”

Sovereign Nations also alleges that the Alberta Energy Regulator and Aboriginal Consultation office have issued permits to industry and delegated their obligation to consult with First Nations to industry proponents for far too long.

Woodland Cree set up a camp on the South Harmon Valley Road May 5 to block an Obsidian Energy oil site. The move was supported by local oilfield contractors.

A court injunction filed and served against Woodland Cree May 7 to leave the site was ignored.

Obsidian Energy plans to expand drilling in the area by 12 per cent. But Woodland Cree has formally notified Obsidian Energy Ltd. and their shareholders that they reject the proposed expansion of drilling operations on their traditional territory.

Obsidian is currently appealing an Alberta Energy Regulator ruling that the energy company caused several large earthquakes in the area by injecting their wastewater into the ground.

Woodland Cree says they want reassurances expanding drilling will not cause more earthquakes.

Woodland Cree adds they have not been properly consulted on upcoming work. 

“If they want to work in our territory, they’re going to have to do that work with respect for the people and the land in which they want to work,” says Woodland Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom.

In a written statement from Obsidian’s investor relations, a spokesperson referred to a previous release from February.

“We are open to meeting with WCFN senior leadership to further discuss the potential for an agreement,” Obsidian writes.

“Regardless, Obsidian Energy has the ability to pursue existing regulatory processes to obtain the required permits and licenses to execute on our three-year growth plan. Additionally, we have the flexibility to accelerate other Peace River locations within our extensive portfolio to achieve our growth objectives.”

On May 7, a bailiff attended the camp to serve a court injunction obtained by Obsidian to Chief Laboucan-Avirom and members of council, ordering them to clear the camp up and leave.

Chief Laboucan-Avirom and council members burned the paperwork in the campfire, saying they were filing the papers “with the Great Spirit.”

A bailiff, left, serves a court injunction obtained by Obsidian Energy to Woodland Cree First Nation Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom May 7. The injunction ordered Chief Laboucan-Avirom and members of council to clear the camp up and leave. They have refused.

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