Environment: Current Problems

Environmental Impacts

September 28, 2020


Attawapiskat First Nation opposes DeBeers Land Fill site

Attawapiskat First Nation – DeBeers Canada (DBC) is seeking Ontario Government approval for a third landfill waste site to be built and filled up at the Victor Mine Site, located in a vulnerable James Bay wetlands area, and in a place of critical importance to Attawapiskat. The Victor Mine is now in the closure phase, where decommissioning and remediation are supposed to leave the landscape in a clean and safe state. Much of the diamond mine waste that DBC would deposit into such landfill, is reusable and salvageable.

“DeBeers could and should be transporting that waste through the winter road it has maintained for the last many years, to markets and facilities south of us, where it can be treated and reused,” says Attawapiskat Chief David Nakogee. “We’re talking about 100,000 cubic metres of material that could be reused or recycled. DeBeers unilaterally cancelled the contract for the winter road project because they said they don’t need it. Of course, they don’t need it when they have the alternative of turning our lands into their garbage dump instead of building a winter road.”

DBC has applied for 97,000 cubic metres of landfill volume, which is just shy of the 100,000 cubic metres threshold which would trigger a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment. DBC very recently got approval for a demolition landfill of exactly the same size, and now they are asking Ontario to approve a second demolition landfill bringing the total diamond mine project demolition waste volume to almost 200,000 cubic metres. A landfill that big requires a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment,” says environmental consultant to Attawapiskat, Don Richardson. “But if Ontario agrees that DeBeers can split the demolition landfilling into two pieces of about 100,000 cubic metres each, DeBeers can side-step the time and costs involved in planning a big landfill project through a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment.

“DeBeers has profited a lot from the Victor Diamond Mine and will profit even more,” says Chief Nakogee. “These expensive diamonds come from my Nation’s homeland, in our backyard, and yet we continue to live in horrendous conditions where we can’t even drink the water here from the taps. We keep watching the wealth of our Traditional Territory, from the waters and lands to the wildlife, get industrialized. We keep watching others walk off with the profits of that industrialization, leaving us to bear the burden and the waste. When DeBeers has the money to transport, recycle and re-use materials, and to properly monitor the effects of the mine on the lakes and rivers, they must be required to do so.

November 22, 2021

Canadian Banks invest in oil and gas exploration in Arctic Wildlife Refuge

US Congress passed “Build Back Better Act”, which restores protections to Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins), also known as the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. When more than 400,000 acres of the Coastal Plain were leased by the Trump Administration, not a single acre was leased by a major oil and gas company.

April 28, 2020

Canadian Banks invest in oil and gas exploration in Arctic Wildlife Refuge

Vuntut Gwitchin Government (VGG) and Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) – Despite movement by the majority of major U.S. banks – five of the top 6 – there has yet to be similar action from their Canadian peers to rule out financing new oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge). In December, 2019, representatives of Vuntut Gwitchin Government (VGG) and Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) were joined by representatives of the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society on a trip to Toronto to meet with representatives of major Canadian banks to discuss the importance of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge and the role that banks can play in ensuring its protection.

VGG and GTC continue to regularly correspond with representatives from each of these banks and provide updates as it relates to the U.S. administration’s progression towards a lease sale, the continued unfavourable financial and social outlook of such a lease sale and the actions of their U.S. peers. Through these meetings and continued correspondence, Canadian banks have been provided a clear understanding of the immense human and environmental impacts and financial risks associated with oil and gas exploration or development in the Arctic Refuge.

VGG and GTC remain hopeful that Canadian banks will step up and acknowledge that the sacred land of the Gwich’in Nation is no place for drilling by updating their policies to refuse financing oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic Refuge. Such an action would be greatly celebrated by the Gwich’in Nation and millions of supporters across Canada and the United States.

October 22, 2020

Canadian Banks invest in oil and gas exploration in Arctic Wildlife Refuge: BMO, RBC

Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Gwich’in Tribal Council – are celebrating news that the Bank of Montreal (BMO) has prohibited financing for oil and gas exploration and development activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. BMO has confirmed this new policy in an update to their Responsible Lending webpage. The move from BMO follows a similar action from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) earlier this month. BMO and RBC have joined more than two dozen global financial institutions that have rejected drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge including five of six major U.S. banks which include Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

December 16, 2020

Canadian Banks invest in oil and gas exploration in Arctic Wildlife Refuge: Scotiabank, CIBC, TDBFG

Yukon News – Scotiabank is the latest of five Canadian banks to reject drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Scotiabank will not provide direct financing or project-specific financial and advisory services for activities that are directly related to the exploration, development or production of oil and gas within the Arctic Circle, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” A similar policy was issued by the Canadian Imperial Commerce Bank (CIBC) in October, joining the Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank (Nov. 10, 2020) in rejecting drilling in the area.

“Dozens of banks from around the world have also refused to fund oil and gas development there, meaning that oil companies may be unable to finance drilling in the Arctic Refuge, even if they are successful in acquiring leases before the new administration takes over,” said the CPAWS statement (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society).

July 24, 2020


Coastal GasLink ignores Environmental Assessment Act

Unist’ot’en – BC’s Environmental Assessment Office (BCEAO) has issued a non-compliance after Coastal GasLink clears pipeline Right of Way through hundreds of wetlands without environmental fieldwork. There are nearly 300 of these protected wetlands along the pipeline route, and Coastal GasLink’s “Qualified Professionals” have neglected to develop site-specific mitigation for any of them. Nearly 80% of the pipeline right-of-way has been cleared already, affecting most of these protected wetlands.

Unfortunately, It will be CGL’s same Qualified Professionals who failed to properly assess these wetlands in the first place who will now assess how badly the wetlands have been damaged. Wet’suwet’en leadership has repeatedly requested that Coastal GasLink provide specific plans for how they plan to cross watercourses and wetlands in the territory, which are used heavily by Unist’ot’en Healing Center clients and Wet’suwet’en members for hunting, trapping, and medicine gathering. Coastal GasLink has been unable to provide these site-specific plans. This recent EAO determination shows Wet’suwet’en leadership that this lack of planning was actually illegal under the Environmental Assessment Act, as it violates Condition 6 of the project’s Environmental Assessment Certificate.

CGL cannot continue to ignore the Environmental Assessment Act in order to meet its construction targets. The BC EAO’s priority should be to protect the public interest, not to ensure that CGL’s construction timelines are met. It is unacceptable that hundreds of wetlands would be damaged before any enforcement action is taken.

February 13, 2020

Fed. Govt.

Criticisms of Federal Impact Assessment Act

FACETS – “Indigenous knowledge and federal environmental assessments in Canada: applying past lessons to the 2019 impact assessment act”. Even the most contemporary federal Environmental Assessment framework in Canada ultimately fails to ensure the engagement of the critically important knowledge of Indigenous peoples in environmental decision-making. While we identify that Impact Assessment Act fails to substantially improve the relationship between Indigenous Knowledge and Environmental Assessment (EA), it has faced severe and continuing backlash from industry proponents and many non-Indigenous Canadians for the few improvements it does make. Canadian EA thus misses opportunities to inform environmental decisions with the best available knowledge and to support Indigenous rights, sovereignty, and well-being.

We suggest widespread recognition of Indigenous-led EA as a way forward, alongside cooperative assessments designed by Crown and Indigenous authorities. Indigenous-led EA, which is fortified by millennia of experience in natural resource management and environmental decision-making practices is on-going in Canada and represents a reassertion of Indigenous management rights that may respond comprehensively to legal, historical, epistemological, and political obstacles. This process, developed specifically by and for Indigenous Nations, has the potential to improve relationships between governments, project proponents, and practitioners while upholding human rights.

Recommendations from these panels were similar to the suggestions that emerged from our literature review and called for:

  • Indigenous power in the decision-making process
  • explicit recognition of land and treaty rights
  • legally binding adherence to UNDRIP
  • increased funding programs and opportunities
  • oversight of IK by Indigenous peoples, and
  • recognition of fundamental differences in western and Indigenous Knowledge, culture, and worldview (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency 2017)

While the Impact Assessment Act does provide provisions for the protection of IK, and owing to amendments made by the House of Commons does invoke UNDRIP, many of the panels’ additional recommendations remain unaddressed.
https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/10.1139/facets-2019-0039 – ref23

November 18, 2020

DFO, Fed. Govt.

DFO cancels consultation with Mi’kmaw over fish passage in Avon River

Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO),– this week the Consultation Department received notice – without explanation – from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that a Ministerial Order (MO) that DFO developed to address concerns with the Avon River was no longer being issued. This MO was to be implemented weeks ago and instead is now being considered – not guaranteed – for next Spring. Despite multiple requests for additional information and the opportunity to discuss this decision further, requests to DFO are largely being ignored.

The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have been clear that free-flowing fish passage is required at the mouth of the Avon River and there is clear evidence that the current causeway structure is not allowing fish to complete their life cycle. In efforts to address this, last month DFO brought a draft MO to the Consultation table for discussion and all parties had agreed that the MO would make positive changes to the alarming situation on the Avon River. The draft MO directly spoke to the concerns on the protection of fish and the improvements necessary to fish passage for the critically endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. Mi’kmaq concerns of fish mortality, lack of free-flowing fish passage, and the need for restoration of critical salt marsh habitat continued to be voiced by the Assembly, Mi’kmaw environmental organizations, concerned community members, and the Water Protectors who have remained onsite.

The Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Consultation Process was established to meaningfully engage and adequately address the concerns and impacts on Mi’kmaw rights. Clearly that is not happening with the decisions being made on the Avon River. The Assembly is calling on Minister Jordan and DFO to come to the table with answers as it is imperative to yielding healthy results to fish passage in the Avon River.

June 29, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

Enforcement operation near Lake Cowichan

NationTalk: Since early June 2022, the BC RCMP, through the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) and Division Liaison Team (DLT), have been involved in ongoing discussions with the impacted First Nations communities – Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht – regarding their concerns over a protest camp that has been placed across Haddon Main and Carrmanah Mainline Forest Service Roads near Lake Cowichan. This same location had been previously occupied by a blockade, abandoned and then was reoccupied in June 2022. The protest group is opposing the forestry operations in the Fairy Creek Watershed area.

On June 23, 2022, the Indigenous leaders from the three Nations provided a final and formal request to the protesters to immediately dismantle their camp. According to their issued statement, the leaders had made several unsuccessful but peaceful attempts over the past several months to have the group vacate the area and allow the lawful forest operations to resume.

We have heard the concerns of the impacted First Nations leaders and the RCMP are working with all the stakeholders to determine a peaceful resolution, says Chief Superintendent John Brewer, Gold Commander of the C-IRG.

Interfering with the lawful use and enjoyment of property is a criminal offence and impeding access to the forestry roads is a clear violation of the court-ordered injunction granted to Teal-Cedar Products Ltd.

The RCMP has maintained a police presence in the area and in the corridor, with regular patrols to ensure that the forestry roads remain unobstructed and accessible. Contemnors have been given ample opportunity to leave the area by the Indigenous leaders from the territory, but have refused.

In our commitment to enforcing the law and civil injunction, the RCMP has deployed resources to the area as of today, June 29, 2022. Access to the area near Haddon Main and Carrmanah Mainline Forest Service Roads will be limited only for the period of time required by police to clear the road of obstructions and arrest anyone in violation of the injunction.

Any updates will be posted in the Lake Cowichan RCMP Detachment website as and when available. Contact details for media inquiries and requests are provided below.Released by:

BC RCMP Communication Services

December 1, 2018

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NT, NU, ON, QC, SK, YT

Failure to protect Woodland Cariboo

Government of Canada – “Progress Report on Steps Taken to Protect Critical Habitat for the Woodland Caribou” indicates little progress is being made toward conservation. Meanwhile, provinces continue to issue permits for energy and forestry developments that do not comply with Species At Risk Act (SARA) , placing caribou at even greater risk. (David Suzuki Foundation)

Canada’s Species at Risk Act requires provinces to create plans to ensure at least 65 per cent of caribou habitat is protected and restored to help them survive.

This report notes that there continue to be gaps in comprehensive protection for boreal caribou critical habitat throughout the boreal caribou range… Most importantly, the development of regionally-specific range plans through meaningful partnership with Indigenous Peoples and broad engagement with multi-stakeholder groups, and their implementation, including through effective laws, regulations and policies, are central to achieving this outcome.

March 6, 2020


Lack of Inuit consultation on Muskrat Falls

Release of the report on the Muskrat Falls Inquiry from the Honourable Justice Richard D. LeBlanc, Commissioner: “Muskrat Falls, A Misguided Project”. The Muskrat Falls project has had a profound impact on ratepayers and the financial situation in Newfoundland and Labrador. The report makes findings and recommendations related to the inquiry’s terms of reference, as announced by government in November 2017.

The Executive Summary stated:Key Finding # 13 stated: GNL failed to ensure that it and Nalcor acted fairly in its consultations related to Indigenous Peoples and environmental matters. While not speaking to GNL’s legal obligation regarding consultation with the Indigenous groups in Labrador, GNL did not act appropriately from a fairness perspective with the Nunatsiavut Government, the NunatuKavut Community Council and the Innu of Ekuanitshit. GNL and Nalcor created an environment of mistrust and suspicion by not allowing all of the Indigenous Peoples and other concerned citizens to engage in a meaningful and transparent consultation process. This mistrust and suspicion led to protests that caused Project delays and significant cost overruns.
The report’s six volumes are available at http://www.gov.nl.ca/nr/muskrat-falls-a-misguided-project/.

August 12, 2019


Lack of Inuit consultation on Muskrat Falls

The Nunatsiavut Government – The Nunatsiavut Government is extremely disappointed with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador with the way it has handled the whole Muskrat Falls fiasco. The Premier has repeatedly betrayed our trust by neglecting to respond, in writing or publicly, to our concerns and/or questions. (i.e. Ignoring 5 of 7 recommendations from the Independent Expert Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives of the Nunatsiavut Government, Innu Nation, NunatuKavut Community Council, and federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as an Independent Experts Committee that included ecosystem, health and Indigenous knowledge holders) See links below.

We have said all along that compensation is not a form of mitigation. We advised Mr. Marshall, as well as the Premier, that offering Labrador’s three Indigenous groups a share of this $30 million would be perceived as a form of compensation, or “hush money”. We remain adamant this money should have been used for what it was intended – to cap wetlands.

Established in August 2017, the IEAC’s mandate was to seek an independent, evidence-based approach to determine and recommend options for mitigating human-health concerns related to methylmercury throughout the reservoir as well as in the Lake Melville ecosystem. With reservoir impoundment under way, the time bomb is ticking on the future of those who depend on the Churchill River and Lake Melville for sustenance, and on the health, culture and way of life of many Labrador Inuit.

The Nunatsiavut Government will continue to advocate on behalf of Labrador Inuit affected by this terrible tragedy, while ensuring rigorous and appropriate independent monitoring continues in order to identify impacts of the Muskrat Falls project on the Lake Melville ecosystem.

July 14, 2016


Mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows

Toronto Star – Ontario’s former environment minister called for a clean-up of mercury contaminating Grassy Narrows First Nation, historical cabinet memos obtained by the Star show. But nothing was done by the government of the day to clean up the polluted river and lakes, and more than 30 years later the fish that feed the community are still contaminated.

The March 30, 1984, recommendation to cabinet from then-Environment Minister Andrew Brandt said the government should endorse a $2-3 million remediation plan to “cover the mercury sediments” in the nearby Clay Lake on the English-Wabigoon River, but hold off on the more disruptive and costly option of dredging the river system pending further study.

What had prompted the former environment minister’s advice was a scientific report by the 1983 Canada-Ontario Steering Committee on the English-Wabigoon River System. The report said the mercury had contaminated sediments in the surrounding rivers and lakes and that the fish would be contaminated for generations if the mercury wasn’t cleaned up. (Today, one meal of Walleye from Clay Lake contains up to 150 times the safe dose of mercury recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)

The committee recommended, among other things, to place clean sediment in the water so that it settles on the bottom of Clay Lake to stabilize the mercury-contaminated sediment — a method called resuspension — as well as some dredging of the river. A small pilot project done for the 1983 report tested the method of resuspension in Clay Lake and found it reduced mercury levels in fish “by ten times.”

“The provincial government should not appear reluctant to take action on the report’s recommendations,” wrote a senior environment ministry staffer in a briefing note circulated within the department in the spring of 1984”.

February 26, 2021


Milburn Review of Site C Dam

BC Government – The Province has released the Milburn review (Oct. 10, 2020), with 17 recommendations aimed at improving oversight and governance. Government and BC Hydro have accepted all the recommendations.

The review focused on four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Geotechnical issues
  • Risk
  • Construction Supervision and Claims Management


August 10, 2020


Mount Polley Mine Tailings disaster

“Safety First” a new report by Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada recommends that all new mine tailing ponds be constructed using filtered tailings storage, otherwise known as dry-stack tailings. When filtered tailings are not an option, at the very least better dam construction needs to be required by regulators, Safety First states. The reports notes the elephant in the room still remains: should the B.C. government allow the development of new tailings dams upstream of communities and should those that currently exist be closed down?”

August 1, 2019


Mount Polley Mine Tailings disaster

BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council – released “Reducing the Risks of Mining Disasters in BC: How Financial Assurance can Help”. Based on the analysis presented in this report, we make one overarching recommendation to British Columbia policy-makers and two supporting ones.

6.1 Main recommendation

Require hard financial assurance against the risk of mining disasters in British Columbia

6.2 Supporting recommendations

  1. Pursue a “tiered” financial assurance scheme for mining disaster risk in British Columbia
    • British Columbia should implement firm-level bonding requirements, insurance requirements or an industry fund, then later combine this assurance with coverage from an additional instrument,
  2. Broaden pooled risks in a tiered scheme’s highest tier
    • governance bodies for publicly-run risk pools should leverage the knowledge and expertise of First Nations by including Indigenous representation


August 14, 2014


Mount Polley Mine Tailings disaster

The Mount Polley mine tailings dam collapsed, releasing 25 million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste. The massive spill destroyed or affected over 2.6 million square meters of aquatic and riparian habitats over a 10-km distance. Imperial Metals did not even pay the full cost of the clean-up. British Columbians and Canadians picked up a huge part of the tab. This sets the wrong standards and sends the wrong signal to industry and other mines across Canada.

It further undermines public confidence in the mining sector and erodes people’s trust in the ability of our regulatory system to effectively protect the environment. Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. New government should undertake a complete review and ensure all of the recommendations of the 2015 Mount Polley review and the 2016 BC Auditor General reports are fully implemented.

April 18, 2022

Multiple Threats to Pacific Salmon Fishery

NationTalk: The First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance (“FNWSA”) is deeply troubled with the revelations set out in an article featured on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail which identifies that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (“DFO”), under the Harper administration, withheld critical science related to the existence of a highly transmissible PRV virus among open-net fish farms for over 10 years. The article also raises the issue that Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, a senior research scientist at the DFO, was unable to disclose the results of her study which gave rise to the final report in question.

As Dr. Miller-Saunders notes, “It is really a travesty that the study could not come to light 10 years ago, and that the findings associated with this virus have been so contentious in Canada, as the role that this virus plays in disease development in salmon in other countries is not disputed”.

The B.C. based organization, Wild First, filed an access-to-information request for information held by the DFO in relation to open-net pen fish farms back in 2014 and went on to bring this matter the attention of Canadas Privacy Commissioner who later ordered the release of the science paper. The FNWSA takes exception to the withholding of such critical information and deems it utterly unacceptable that the report was not released until March 18, 2022.

We understand that the scientific information withheld by the DFO clearly conveys information that does not support the DFO’s mandate to advance the open-net pen fish farm industry, leaving us with an open question about the integrity of decision-makers within the federal government system. The deliberate decision and intentional action of taking steps to withhold scientific information which may have changed the course of our collective understanding at an early stage about the impacts of the PRV virus on wild salmon are acts against science and an obvious disregard for the constitutionally-protected Aboriginal rights to wild salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes. From the perspective of the FNWSA, such decisions create and foster a climate of distrust and broken relationships.

“This latest development is an opportunity for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada to revisit its 2018 report on the Salmon Farming Aquaculture Industry, disease/pathogens and the role the DFO. Although these federal decisions and actions originated under the Harper regime, it also provides an opportunity for the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to take meaningful and positive steps to correct the suppression of science and to build a better path forward for all” says Robert Chamberlin, FNWSA Chair.

January 29, 2021


Multiple threats to Pacific salmon fishery

The Province – K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett — Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, President of Coastal First Nations and co-chair of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council to British Columbia — describes the urgency of the salmon crisis and the immediate need for collective action. The importance of healthy salmon populations for coastal First Nations cannot be overstated— especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which has driven home the need for food security in these Nations. Connecting land and marine ecosystems throughout the coast, salmon has been the lifeblood of coastal economies and First Nations’ culture for thousands of years.

Although the factors causing salmon declines are varied and complex, we know the main causes. Cumulative impacts from more than a century of mismanagement, industrial logging and overfishing, plus climate change, have led to these record low salmon returns. And just as the bottom has dropped out of salmon abundance along the Pacific Coast, we’ve also seen a drastic reduction in monitoring programs by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

First Nations along BC’s North Pacific Coast have made progress, through the Great Bear Rainforest agreements and others, toward ending destructive logging practices and reducing exploitation of fisheries through limiting catches and enforcing strategic closures. We have protected important salmon-bearing watersheds and implemented ecosystem-based management in others, while establishing new stock assessment and catch monitoring programs across our territories.

August 9, 2019


Multiple threats to Pacific salmon fishery

BC Assembly of First Nations – Failure to issue a closure to all marine and recreational Fraser River salmon fishing due to the Big Bar Landslide near Lillooet. On June 21, 2019 a large land slide was discovered in a remote part of the Fraser River, which is considered one of the most sacred rivers for First Nations in BC and is considered one of the most productive salmon rivers in the world.

First Nations in BC are extremely concerned about the landslide as it has blocked migrating salmon from returning to their spawning grounds. First Nations, including Tŝilhqot’in Nation and Nak’azdli Whut’en, located along the spawning route are declaring closures to the 2019 fishing season. Regional Chief Teegee is the Pacific lead for the AFN National Fisheries Committee, which is co-chaired by Regional Chief Roger Augustine (New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island). Even though this is a cause for conservation measures to help Fraser River salmon, many First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries are being restricted, at the same time the unregulated recreational and commercial fisheries are open – this contravenes the principle that conservation measures apply to all fishers.

First Nations cannot be restricted access to fish while commercial and recreational fishing is allowed to continue. We are very familiar with the collapse of the fishery on the east coast and all signs point to mismanagement by the federal government as well as their unwillingness to honour long standing treaties. The same appears to be happening with the west coast fishery.

August 10, 2020


Omnibus Bill 197 violates Environmental Bill of Rights

The Timmins Daily Press – Mushkegowuk Council is calling on the province to honour the treaty it signed 115 years ago. Treaty 9 was signed between First Nations leaders and Canadian political figures to establish guidelines around resources and projects on First Nations land. Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon called Bill 197 a “major step back” that “abolishes many of the environmental assessment rules that have been in place for decades.” Solomon explained that a treaty was signed because it recognized the Mushkegowuk/Ininiwuk peoples as a nation, which had its own governance, laws, language, culture, among others. Mushkegowuk’s grand chief said the agreement signed in 1905 was a “‘nation-to-nation sacred treaty,” noting that Canadian courts have deemed the oral promises made were “as much a part of the binding treaty as the words written on the treaty parchment.”

Solomon added that if the province is interested in receiving consent for resource, forestry, mining and other development projects on Indigenous land, it must be done in consultation with First Nations from the beginning. “You will need to show how these projects respect the integrity of our environment. Further, you will need to demonstrate how these projects will benefit the Omushkego/Ininiwuk. That has not changed, despite Bill 197.”

July 24, 2020


Omnibus Bill 197 violates Environmental Bill of Rights

NationTalk – Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2019), an omnibus bill introduced on July 8 and passed just 13 days later on July 23 with little legislative debate and no Standing Committee consideration, and without public consultation on the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) despite warnings from Ontario’s Auditor General that this violates the Environmental Bill of Rights. The Bill allows for major changes to the EAA while offering few concrete details, leaving important decisions to be implemented through regulations that are not yet known and which will not be subject to legislative approval. Major changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) could significantly weaken environmental protections and impact Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty rights, all under the guise of COVID-19 response.

On the same day that Ontario introduced Bill 197, it gave public notice of just 45 days to review and comment on a package of other proposed changes to the EAA and related regulations relating to mining, hydro transmission, municipal environmental assessments, flood and erosion control, waterpower projects, resource stewardship and facility development, transportation, public works, amendments to environmental assessments, land claim settlements, projects within provincial parks and conservation reserves, and two specific major transportation projects. These changes are part of an ongoing effort by this government to overhaul Ontario’s environmental protection regime, in support of its promise to “cut red tape” in support of economic interests.

As a community with a high poverty rate, Fort Albany understands the need for economic opportunity. However, development must be ecologically responsible and culturally sustainable. At a time when the whole world is facing unprecedented climate change and biodiversity loss, development must be supported with more and better environmental protections, not fewer. Any changes to environmental protections are important for us, because the exercise of our Inherent, Aboriginal, and Treaty rights is inherently connected to the wellbeing of the environment. However, the government is unilaterally introducing major changes with the knowledge that our community is under pressure and constraints due to COVID-19, and that we do not have the resources or capacity to meaningfully engage. This is not honourable, and it disrespects our relationship with our territory and our role as a Treaty No. 9 partner.

We call on the Government of Ontario to repeal Bill 197, and to design a more appropriate process for reform of the EAA in full partnership with Indigenous groups, with the principles of robust environmental protection, public participation, and respect for Indigenous rights at its heart.

January 13, 2021


Opposition to Imperial Metals Mining permit in the Skagit Watershed

NationTalk – An international coalition of more than 200 conservation, recreation and wildlife groups as well as local elected officials, businesses and Tribes and First Nations opposing a pending mining permit by Imperial Metals in the headwaters of the Skagit River continues to grow.

  • Letter to British Columbia Premier John Horgan signed by 108 U.S. stakeholders including conservation, recreation and wildlife groups as well as elected officials and local businesses
  • Letter to George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy signed by 9 Canadian conservation and recreation organizations and leaders
  • Letter to Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development signed by 9 Canadian conservation and recreation organizations and leaders.

“The potential impacts to two of the most beloved Canadian parks and to downstream values in Washington State are both unacceptable and unnecessary.”

The Skagit Watershed is also critical to the health and well-being of the region’s residents and local recreation-based economies. The current mining and logging threats are located in a “donut hole” shaped area sandwiched between Manning and Skagit Provincial Parks. Both parks and other recreational destinations are major outdoor recreation destinations just a day trip from the greater Vancouver metro area and draw more than a million visitors each year. The proposed mining activities include creating access roads, conducting surface exploration drilling with associated water supply and catchment sumps, and mechanical trenching over a five-year period of continued disturbance.

“After a century of blasting, drilling and tunneling to find a workable mine with no luck whatsoever- it’s time for British Columbia to extinguish Imperial Metals’ mineral tenure in the Skagit Headwaters Donut Hole and then, with First Nations, protect the place,” said Joe Foy, Protected Areas Campaigner, Wilderness Committee. “BC must also enforce an Imperial Metals cleanup of the site, which is strewn with a hundred years worth of garbage, waste rock and mine drainage left behind by years of fruitless exploration.” –

The company proposing to mine in an unprotected area of the Skagit Headwaters, Imperial Metals, was responsible for the infamous Mount Polley mine disaster of 2014, which spilled more than 24 million cubic meters of wastewater laden with arsenic, lead, selenium and copper into the Fraser River watershed, one of the biggest environmental disasters in Canadian history. More than five years later, no charges or fines have been filed against Imperial Metals.

The Skagit Watershed is a transboundary issue. Potential mining would impact recreational and economic benefits on the Canadian side of the border as well as fisheries and water quality benefits as the Skagit River flows through Washington State, winding through the scenic North Cascades National Park, the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest and through the renowned Skagit River Valley before reaching the Puget Sound. The Skagit River provides one third of the freshwater inputs to the Puget Sound and supports the largest populations of threatened steelhead and chinook salmon in the Puget Sound and the largest run of chum salmon in the conterminous U.S.

June 23, 2022

BC, Fed. Govt.

Protesters Ordered to Remove Illegal Camp and Respect Indigenous Sovereignty and Provincial Authorizations

Nitinaht, Traditional Ditidaht First Nation Territory, B.C. – Indigenous leaders from the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations met with protesters today to give final notice to immediately dismantle an illegal camp built across a main logging road on Ditidaht Traditional Territory in Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44 on Vancouver Island. The Nations’ elected and hereditary chiefs were supported by the Ditidaht Ts’aa7ukw and C̕awak ʔqin Witwak Guardians, and C̕awak ʔqin Forestry personnel, and accompanied by B.C. government representatives and the RCMP.

This formal request by the Ditidaht elected and hereditary Chiefs, fully supported by the elected and hereditary leadership of Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht Nations as well as C̕awak ʔqin Forestry, follows several unsuccessful but peaceful attempts by Ditidaht to have the illegal camp removed. The camp was built without the free, prior and informed consent of the Ditidaht Nation’s elected and hereditary leadership and violates both traditional Indigenous and provincial laws. It also infringes on the legal decision-making authority and sovereignty of the three Nations within their Ḥaḥahuułi (Traditional Territories) and TFL 44, and the rights granted to C̕awak ʔqin Forestry under provincial tenures and permits.

“As Indigenous governments, it is our responsibility to decide what is best for our lands, our waters, our resources, and the wellbeing of present and future generations,” said Ditidaht Chief Councillor Brian Tate. “The unauthorized encampment disrespects our right to walk with pride between the traditional and modern worlds, to protect our culture and to explore economic opportunities for the common good and benefit.”

“Over the past year, we have set a clear, inclusive path forward for sustainable forest management within our territories, from deferring old-growth harvesting to a new Indigenous-led integrated resource management planning (IRMP) approach, to sustainable development, to investing in a climate positive future,” said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “It is time to respect our constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title, Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights so that we can focus on these win-win stewardship solutions to heal our lands, our waters and our people for the benefit of our current and future generations. This work will take time and we ask that the protesters, their organizers and their funders give us the time and space to achieve these goals.”

The illegal camp impedes lawful forest operations managed by C̕awak ʔqin Forestry and permitted by the Province of B.C. under the Forest Act on TFL 44, which also covers portions of the Ḥahahuułi of the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations. C̕awak ʔqin Forestry is a limited partnership between Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership (wholly owned by Huu-ay-aht First Nations) and Western Forest Products Inc. Forestry operations in TFL 44 support employees, contractors, customers and local communities, and the company is committed to world-leading forestry initiatives, as detailed in the recently released fact sheet.

C̕awak ʔqin means ‘we are one’ in the traditional Nuu-chah-nulth language: we work and speak as one, and respect the interconnectedness between the people, the water, the salmon, and the animals.

“Too often we are the last to benefit from what is taken out and the last to be asked what must be put back in – that ends now,” said Pacheedaht Chief Councillor Jeff Jones. “Today we speak as one, and Ditidaht orders these activists to shut down the camp, set aside their self-interest and instead acknowledge that our Nations won’t be guided by the actions of a few but rather by our sacred principles ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is Connected) and by our responsibilities to our future generations.”

The three Nations also provided a Declaration Notice to the protestors today, putting all visitors to the Ḥaḥahuułi on notice that they must acknowledge and respect Indigenous sovereignty, governance and stewardship responsibilities, and not interfere with forest operations authorized by the B.C. Government under the Forest Act. Equally, all visitors must not interfere with peaceful, legal protests that do not disrupt legally authorized forest operations.

January 31, 2019


Redwater Energy avoids liability for orphaned wells

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) – Supreme Court of Canada decision 2019 SCC 5 ruled in favour of the AER and Orphan Well Association’s (OWA’s) appeal of the Redwater decision. From the May 2016 Redwater decision until January 30, 2019, receivers and trustees involved in 28 insolvencies renounced their interest in more than 10 000 AER-licensed sites (wells, facilities, and pipelines) with deemed liabilities of almost $335 million. In that same period, the OWA’s inventory of wells increased more than 300 per cent from 768 to 3100.

We recognize that funds are limited in many insolvency cases and that there may not be enough to fully address all end-of-life obligations, which reinforces the need for further changes. To address this, we are currently working on an improved liability management framework that we believe will strengthen our existing system.

December 30, 2018


Redwater Energy avoids liability for orphaned wells

Macleans -Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act: requires owners of contaminated land – including oil and gas sites – seeking remediation certificates to report “new information” as well as meet specific timelines and instructions to remediate land and prevent future adverse effects.

July 4, 2017


Redwater Energy avoids liability for orphaned wells

Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) – The May 19, 2016, decision by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in the matter of Redwater Energy Corp. allows receivers and trustees to disclaim Alberta Energy Regulator licensed assets and avoid their abandonment and reclamation obligations. Disclaiming unprofitable sites allows a company to reap the benefits of producing Alberta’s natural resources while avoiding the costs to repair the land, permanently impacting the environment, the economy, and the safety of Albertans.

The majority decision of the Court of Appeal of Alberta upheld this decision. In the 13 months since the decision, about 1 000 AER-licensed sites have been disclaimed with estimated liabilities of more than $56 million, and the Orphan Well Association’s inventory has more than doubled from almost 1 200 to more than 3 200. The decision has resulted in an unacceptable risk to Albertans, presents an environmental risk across Canada and all industry sectors, and undermines the foundation with which oil and gas licenses are issued.
The Court of Appeal decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court.

June 5, 2020


Suspension of Environmental Monitoring in Oil Sands

Three First Nations in northeast Alberta – Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation – have jointly filed an appeal related to recent Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) decisions to suspend key aspects of environmental monitoring in the oil sands. The First Nations were not consulted on decisions that clearly impact Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) ability to identify and mitigate these impacts in traditional territories.

These suspensions affect water, air, wildlife, and groundwater monitoring, including a joint air monitoring program with the Fort McKay First Nation, a community surrounded by oil sands and vulnerable to air quality impacts. Meanwhile, production continues with no clear oversight into the impacts on health and the environment or end date established for many suspensions.

“A significant part of our concern is the lack of due process. Industry should not be able to petition its own regulator to relax approval conditions with virtually no oversight. This industry needs to maintain its pursuit of ethical oil. This is not how you do it,” stated Archie Waquan, Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation “The decisions to suspend environmental monitoring were made unilaterally. We were not notified—in fact, we would have had no idea this had occurred if it had not been revealed in the press,” stated Mel Grandjamb, Chief of Fort McKay First Nation. Consultation would have enabled us to inform the regulator how its monitoring decisions impact our Nations. Both we and the industry would have been better served by the clarity that consultation would have contributed to these decisions.”

In the days leading up to these decisions, our representatives sat with AER, government and industry representatives to provide oversight to environmental monitoring programs under the Oil Sands Monitoring Program. The fact AER did not mention once it was considering suspending monitoring, some of which may overlap with program work, is very disappointing. This neglect does not encourage reconciliation.
In March, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers requested that the federal government relax several regulatory and policy activities, including an indefinite suspension of all consultation with industry to develop new environmental policies. At the same time, industry has lobbied the provincial government to resume consultation with Indigenous communities to advance projects despite the closure of our communities due to COVID-19 pandemic responses.

April 6, 2020


Suspension of Environmental Monitoring in Oil Sands

Canadian Manufacturing – The Alberta Government has suspended all environmental reporting requirements for industry under emergency powers the province has enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move effectively suspends environmental regulation in the province. Later, on May 6, 2020, the Alberta Energy Regulator suspended a wide array of environmental monitoring requirements for oil sands companies over public-health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imperial Oil, Suncor, Syncrude and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. don’t have to perform much of the testing and monitoring originally required in their licences.The regulator says some programs are to resume by the end of September, but most have no restart date.

The latest exemptions specifically relieve operators of the following:

  • Monitoring most ground and surface water, unless it enters the environment
  • almost all wildlife and bird monitoring is suspended
  • Air-quality programs, including one for the First Nations community of Fort McKay, have been reduced, along with many other conditions of the companies’ licences
  • Testing for leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has been suspended
  • Wetlands monitoring and research is gone until further notice
  • Water that escapes from storm ponds no longer must be tested

December 14, 2021


Tailings Pond release in Athabaska River

Fort McMurray Today – First Nation, Métis leaders raise concerns about plans to release treated tailings into Athabasca River. The federal government is developing protocols for when treated tailings water can be released into the Athabasca River. A first draft is scheduled to be finished by 2024 and a final draft will be published in 2025.

But the leaders of First Nation and Métis communities in Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan, which are along the Athabasca River, say consultation has been limited. Many questions are about what this monitoring and treatment process will look like and any community impacts. “In order for us to accept any of this we have to see what they’re doing. We have to be working together at it. We want to be part of it. We already raised our concerns,” said Chief Peter Powder of the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) near Fort Chipewyan.

“We have to be 100 per cent sure that it’s not going to be toxic. The decisions we make today is going to affect our future generations,” he said. “When the mines close and industry leaves, our kids and their kids will live in the consequences of the decisions made today.”

Tailings are leftovers from the process separating oil from sand and clay. More than 1.4 trillion litres of tailings are kept in ponds that cover a combined area of 220 square-kilometres. The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) requires oil companies to have a tailings management plan. Companies must explain how they will restore the land within 10 years of the mine closing.

A spokesperson with Environment and Climate Change Canada said in an email that any decisions on releasing treated tailings will be based on “the best available science and Indigenous knowledge.” Industry groups like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) insist any treated tailings water released into the Athabasca River “will meet release criteria set to protect the environment and human health.”
But First Nation and Métis leaders are skeptical about how this process is unfolding. Ron Quintal, president of Fort McKay Métis Nation, said impacted Indigenous communities must have a leadership role in developing and implementing any policies after thorough consultation.

“The Indigenous people of this region are the land-users, and you look at destruction of land and release of water back into the environment it’s obviously something of great concern to us,” he said. “The federal government, while they’re pushing this initiative forward, need to take a very long look at this in terms of not just Indigenous consultation, but Indigenous buy-in.

“We strongly support the cleaning of tailings ponds, but we don’t want the clean-up of tailings ponds to mean that we are creating environmental impacts in the Athabasca River and downstream,” said Bori Arrobo, director of sustainability with the Fort McKay First Nation. “We don’t want to swap one environmental liability with another one.”

March 4, 2021


The Narwhal – Response to the Milburn review

The Narwhal as flagged the following as major problems:

  • 50 per cent of the $5B increase to $16B in project costs are due to geotechnical issues relating to the unstable valley prone to large landslides and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • But the other 50 per cent of the cost increase was not revealed. Every single independent look has concluded that we don’t need the energy, even with the electrification of the province

Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president and a board member of Clean Energy BC, said clean energy projects led by First Nations would create far more long-term jobs than the Site C dam. “When Site C is up and running it’s 25 measly jobs and right now, those 4,000-odd workers that they’re talking about, a lot of them come from out of province. They just have work for a few years and then they’re gone.”

Sayers pointed to the B.C. Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative, which she said has created 1,089 jobs over the past six years with approximately $3 million in annual federal and provincial funding. That work involves installing heat pumps, solar, geothermal and other climate-friendly projects in First Nations communities.
In the process, 418,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been prevented and almost $2 million has been saved in annual energy bills, Sayers said. “This is only one small fund.”

Many First Nations communities had plans for larger clean energy projects, including wind and run of river hydro projects, that would produce energy for the grid. But those long-term projects, in every area of the province, have been mothballed due to the Site C dam, Sayers said.

Another wildcard is the landmark Treaty Rights case brought by West Moberly First Nations, alleging that the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River constitute an unjustifiable infringement of Treaty Rights. The trial begins in March 2022 and is expected to last about six months.