Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation opposes proposed wolf cull
On July 28, 2011, The Honourable Mr. Justice Crampton of the Federal Court of Canada, ruled in favour of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Beaver Lake Cree First Nation and the Enoch Cree Nation when they brought forward a case to protect the Woodland Caribou that are essential for their cultural survival. The court concluded that the Minister of Environment erred in his decision to refuse to recommend an emergency order for boreal caribou in northeastern Alberta and sent the decision back for reconsideration. Justice Crampton pointed out that the Minister must consider constitutionally protected Treaty Rights when making decisions under the Species at Risk Act. .
The ACFN considered the decision to be an important victory. Chief Adam notes that “the caribou have and will always be the traditional food of our people. Working to sustain the caribou is critical for our culture and way of life. Government decision makers need to start listening to us. It is terrible that we had to go to court to confirm the importance of our Treaty, but we had no choice, they refused to listen.”
Chief Adam was surprised that Canada would consider killing thousands of wolves to assist caribou. “Canada asked us to share our traditional environmental knowledge about caribou to inform the Draft Recovery Strategy. We shared our knowledge with the expectation that it would be listened to. Our traditional knowledge holders did not identify predators as the major threat to the survival of caribou: they identified oil sands expansion.”
Chief Adam is also perplexed by the comment made by Minister Kent when he stated that First Nations will be able to salvage something from killing the wolves by selling the fur. “This shows misunderstanding and disrespect for our Treaty and the Constitutional protections that our Treaty has” stated Chief Adam. “Our Treaty Rights are not supposed to be compromised or exchanged like this. The caribou has always been important to our culture, killing thousands of wolves and selling their fur will never replace that. The proposed massive wolf kill is not honourable. Once again, our Treaty Rights have taken a back seat to economics.| The ACFN is not opposed to economic development, but we, like others across Canada firmly believe that economic development can have a better balance with the environment, which sustains our Treaty Rights.”
Pat Marcell, elder and member of the ACFN points out “the duty to uphold the Treaty is the responsibility of the government. The onus is on them to make sure that we can continue to practice our rights and that means to protect the environment, including the caribou and their habitat, not to kill wolves and hope that will fix everything. That just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve been telling the government for a long time to slow down development, to come up with some base line data to support the eco-system, to protect the environment in the face of development. It seems that they are not listening. It seems like the government would rather see
thousands of animals die, both caribou and wolves instead of creating good, sound environmental policies and law and putting them into practice. I want my grandchildren and theirs to be able to understand our culture, our existence. With these types of policy, that will not be able to happen”.
Chief Adam stated: “it was our hope from Justice Crampton’s decision that the government had some direction with regard to their duties and responsibilities. The court was clear when it wrote ‘the Minister clearly erred in reaching his decision by failing to take into account the First Nations Applicants’ Treaty Rights and the honour of the Crown in interpreting his mandate. . . ’ We thought that they would have no choice but to consider our rights in this Recovery Plan since the court clearly required that when the Minister was making decisions. To me, the decisions regarding industrial development that have been made in the ACFN territory to date have not considered Aboriginal and Treaty Rights; they are based on financial interests. Decisions to approve applications for development have not considered the resources that First Nations require to sustain our rights which put us at risk of losing our culture. Relying on a wolf cull and hoping it will protect caribou seems like more of the same. It would be prudent to look at land protection which is what we’ve been saying for some time.”
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation traditional lands and treaty rights extend throughout the Lower Athabasca oil sands region. The ACFN signed Treaty 8 in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. Today, the majority of members reside in Fort Chipewyan and Fort McMurray.
ACFN is currently conducting a detailed review of the Draft Recovery Plan and will be sharing its comments on the plan with Environment Canada before the end of October.
For more information contact:
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation