Energy Bulletin: Cumulative Impacts on Treaty Rights: Update on the Beaver Lake Cree Nation Litigation


In May, 2008, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (“BLCN”) filed a lawsuit in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench against the governments of Canada and Alberta (Lameman v. Alberta) claiming that the cumulative impacts of development within their core traditional territory had left them with no meaningful way to exercise their treaty rights. BLCN is a Treaty 6 First Nation whose asserted traditional territory stretches across east central Alberta through the in situ oil sands area and the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.

In a recent interim decision, the Court narrowed the BLCN litigation to focus on the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate and how it applies to alleged cumulative effects on BLCN’s treaty rights. Significantly, over 19,000 tenures and approvals (authorizations) alleged to have contributed to the cumulative effects are, as a result of the decision, no longer subject to possible revocation.

The BLCN Lawsuit

The BLCN lawsuit seeks several orders regarding the duty of the Governments of Alberta and Canada to consult and accommodate BLCN about the cumulative effects of development on the BLCN’s treaty rights. The BLCN claim also seeks damages (compensation) from the two governments for the resulting infringement of their rights. More significantly for private resource developers, the lawsuit also asks the Court to order Alberta and Canada to revoke the 19,000 authorizations held by over 300 companies, tied to projects BLCN claims have caused the cumulative impacts on their treaty rights.

The case is proceeding slowly through the courts. Four preliminary procedural applications have been heard by the Court so far, and, four years since the filing of the statement of claim by BLCN, the governments of Alberta and Canada have not yet filed their statements of defence.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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