Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s Remarkable Legal Win #180

Analysis with Bill Gallagher, Lawyer / Strategist
Author of Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources

After 5 years of legal sparring during which the oil patch used every option available to prevent this oil sands ‘cumulative impacts’ case from advancing to trial, that’s now going to happen, and it’s interesting to note the tone of the highest court in the province finally putting an end to the procedural wrangling:

[59]    The appeals are therefore dismissed in their entirety. The parties will be well-served by returning to their case management judge for the imposition of a litigation plan to advance this litigation through trial. (Lameman v Alberta, 2013 ABCA 148)

Up until now, this case was poorly covered by legal commentators: one bulletin by a national law firm even managed to miss the main event in its one-page marketing update; that being that the trial judge had invoked the new legal term of  – ‘core traditional territory’ – in referencing the potential impact of cumulative effects on treaty lands. It boggles the mind that a breakthrough term like this could be missed by expert commentators given the intensity of the regulatory challenges / litigation encircling the oil sands (earth to experts: what if projects / core lands overlapped)!

We’ll find out, since the Court of Appeal endorses this new term in no uncertain terms – truncating it to ‘the core lands’  – referencing it multiple times:

[4]    The Treaty is alleged to impose obligations on Alberta and Canada to manage certain lands (“the core lands”) within the Province of Alberta to ensure that the members of the BLCN are able to exercise their right to hunt, fish and trap. BLCN alleges that Alberta and Canada failed to discharge their responsibilities and, as such, its members can no longer exercise these rights in the manner anticipated by the Treaty.

Just six weeks after this high-level procedural legal victory issued, the Chief of Beaver Lake Cree Nation explained his community’s strategy behind the lawsuit in a letter read out at StatOil’s AGM in Stavanger Norway.  The entire letter is here reproduced as it shows how some few companies can make progress outside of using litigation. In my world as a strategist, this letter is ‘treasure’ and kudos to the real experts in this line of work!

Download (PDF, Unknown)


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