Tar sand extraction impacting First Nation rights

A new study concluded that tar sands operations on the Athabasca River had impacted the environment and two aboriginal nations living downstream from those industries.

The withdrawals have impacted those living downstream by creating shallow waters that are impassable in summer months, and restricting access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds for the First Nations communities, whose activities are protected under Treaty 8.

The water is also being contaminated from the oil sands operations.

The Athabasca River is extremely important for the communities of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation. The leaders of both communities welcomed the study, which draws on Indigenous knowledge to flesh out a framework of the impacts.

Dr. Craig Candler, President of Firelight Research Group and main author of the report said “The results and the recommendations are clear. The communities have been saying these things for years. This report just brings what the community already knows together with credible social science.”

Treaty 8 was signed on July 13, 1899, and protects hunting, fishing, and trapping rights. The rights are also guaranteed by Canada’s Constitution, and were affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

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