Dene Band Erects Blockade Over Oil Sands Drilling

Friday, June 22, 2007 at 15:42



The Clearwater River Dene Nation has set up a blockade to deny an oil sands exploration company access to drilling sites on the band’s traditional territory.


The band established the roadblock on a highway on its reserve yesterday.


Chief Roy Cheecham says all other traffic is being let through, and the demonstration has been peaceful.


Cheecham says there are differences of opinion between his band and Oilsands Quest on a number of issues — including employment, contracts, the recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights, and the duty of government and industry to consult and accommodate First Nations.


He says his band has spent a great deal of its time and resources over the last 18 months in talks with the company.


But Cheecham says the two sides can’t seem to agree when it comes to putting things down on paper.


Band lawyer Jim Jodouin says the provincial government is largely to blame for this situation by letting the company drill on the land in question without consulting and accommodating the First Nation.


Cheecham says the government and the company are welcome to come back to the negotiating table, but until that happens, Oilsands Quest will be denied access to the exploration area.


A spokeswoman for the provincial Justice Department says the government is monitoring the situation.


However, Deb McEwen says the government won’t discuss anything until the roadblock comes down:


She says the government will engage in talks once that happens.


Meanwhile, Oilsands Quest President and CEO Christopher Hopkins takes issue with the band’s assertion that his company’s proposed exploration benefits agreement falls short of industry standards.


Hopkins says there is no industry standard.


He also says the band’s proposal wasn’t fair to all stakeholders. According to Hopkins, it demanded that the band have priority over all other First Nations people, Métis and other residents of neighbouring communities.


Oilsands Quest is exploring the feasibility of extending oil sands production into northern Saskatchewan.