Alberta Court Grants Order Under Public Lands Act Halting Lubicon Blockade

more+
less-

On December 16, 2013, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted a long-term Order to Penn West Petroleum Ltd. prohibiting several members of the Lubicon Lake Cree from continuing to blockade a permitted access road in the Sawn and Haig Lake areas of Northern Alberta.  The blockade had been erected on November 26, 2013, by members of the Lubicon Lake Cree who claim to be affiliated with the former Chief of the Lubicon Lake Nation, Bernard Ominayak.

The Court relied on its authority under the Public Lands Act, RSA 2000, c P-40 to make the Order.  The Act grants the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench with broad discretionary power to make a short-term (seven days) or long-term (exceeding seven days but less than one year) order to prohibit any activity that constitutes a contravention of the Act and to authorize the police to remove or seize any material, barrier, equipment, vehicle, structure or obstruction used in the contravention.

The Court was satisfied that Penn West had established that several members of the Lubicon Lake Cree had been blockading the access road contrary to the Act, and granted a long-term Order prohibiting the blockade and authorizing the police to remove the blockade and to arrest any person acting in contravention of the Order.  While initially Penn West’s application sought a short-term Order, Hall J. was satisfied that sufficient notice had been provided to the respondents for the purposes of making a long-term Order.

In reasons delivered in relation to the Order, the Court referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Behn v Moulton Contracting Ltd., 2013 SCC 26 (summarized in an earlier update here), and cited the passage where the Court indicated that condoning self-help remedies may be seen as bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

The Order is in force until June 14, 2014.  On January 3, 2014, the defendants appealed the Order to the Court of Appeal.  The appeal has yet to be heard.