Thursday, September 9, 2010

Environmental Groups and First Nations take Legal Action Against the Federal Government to Protect Caribou

Yesterday, lawyers representing First Nations (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Enoch Cree First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree Nation) and environmental groups (Alberta Wilderness Society and the Pembina Institute) filed two separate applications for a judicial review to require the immediate protection of woodland caribou in the tar sands producing regions of Alberta.

They are going to argue that the federal government, Environment Canada in particular, failed to protect the caribou herds of northern Alberta and that the Minister of Environment failed to issue an emergency order to protect caribou from further development in the area. In addition to this, a recovery plan for caribou under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is long overdue – it should have been done in 2007.

First Nations, represented by lawyer Jack Woodward of BC law firm Woodward and Company, decided to take legal action after the government failed to address their concerns. In a letter they sent to Minister Prentice on July 15, they wrote that if the government had not ceased to give out development permits and developed an emergency plan for caribou by August 27 they would take legal action. Their letter had also included findings from a study carried out by Stan Boutin from the University of Alberta suggesting that caribou herds were facing extinction.

This is the second time First Nations have intervened this year with respect to lack of caribou protection. Earlier in March the West Moberly First Nations won a case against the BC Government to protect the Burnt Pine caribou herd from a proposed coal mine.