By Shari Narine
BIGSTONE CREE NATION, Alta.
Derek Keller, vice president of production with Laricina Energy Ltd., is hoping the beginning of next week won’t see border security established at the intersection of highways 754 and 813 within Bigstone Cree Treaty entitlement lands.
Because if that happens, his company won’t be allowed to go on to the First Nation’s land and the company still maintains the main industry road, which connects to Bigstone Cree’s community of Chipewyan Lake.
“We keep that road maintained for the industry players and we also keep it maintained, at our costs, of course, for the community and that’s one of the things that concerns me. We hadn’t talked to chief and council about that, but we certainly want to be able to keep that road open to the community as well,” said Keller.
On March 13, Bigstone Cree Nation will deny access to its land to Laricina, as well as CNRL, Husky, Cenovus, Exact Oilfield, Alstar Oilfield, ALPAC and all log haulers. The action is being taken for political, environmental and economic reasons.
Among those reasons is unfulfilled impact benefit agreements and lack of contract opportunities for local companies.
Laricina never had an impact benefit agreement with the band, says Keller, nor is it operating any wells as this point. Laricina’s two producing wells north of Wabasca have been shut in. The downturn in the economy not only forced Laricina to shut in its two northern producing facilities, but also close its office in Wabasca, which it had run from 2008 to 2015.
The office was staffed with local people, says Keller, and Laricina provided training initiatives and supported local contracts.
“Where chief and council have struggled with some of the other industry players … I just can’t speak to that first hand,” said Keller. “We had a great, I feel, I hope we still have a great relationship with the Bigstone.”
“We have many friends with Bigstone. It’s a fantastic community and I hope there’s a resolution found without blockades, I really do,” said Keller.
In a Feb. 20 letter to Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan, Chief Gordon Auger outlined his concern, which included lack of meaningful consultation by both the multinational companies and the province’s Aboriginal Consultation Office; protection of surface and ground water; delayed transfer of treaty entitlement lands; and neglect of a referendum in the transfer of administration and control of highways.
While Keller became aware early last week about the border security action, he says Auger had not contacted him directly.
Cenovus Energy and CNRL both say they are presently in contact with Bigstone Cree Nation council. Husky Energy said the company would "be respectful" of whatever decision was made.
See our story on Bigstone Cree Nation's planned Border Security initiative here: http://www.windspeaker.com/news/windspeaker-news/banned-from-bigstone-cree-nation-multi-national-companies/