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November 24, 2021
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, BC – In the wake of the news that two Métis groups received funding from the Alberta Government to legally challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, Coastal First Nations (CFN) will continue to fight to protect our waters, lands and resources from potential oil spills.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our Territories,” said CFN executive director Christine Smith-Martin, adding that the decision to fund two groups, who claim to represent the Métis people, to challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act has nothing to do with reconciliation. “It shows how desperate the Alberta government is to challenge the Act that they would attempt to create division between First Nations and Métis groups.”
In a statement on November 15, Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras called the Fort McKay and Willow Lake groups “unaccountable, undemocratic and illegitimate organizations.”
President Poitras further stated: “These organizations are not elected or accountable to anyone and are made up of non-Métis individuals. These organizations do not speak for the Métis Nation, the Métis people or Métis communities in Alberta.”
The Fort McKay group was recognized by the Alberta government as an autonomous Indigenous community in 2020. “If this group, which has been around for two short years thinks our communities will stand idly by, they are mistaken,” says Smith-Martin. “We fought too long to get the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in place.”
CFN communities have protected our Territories for at least 14,000 years, she said. “We know first-hand what an oil spill will do to our waters. The Heiltsuk Nation is still feeling the impacts of the Nathan E. Stewart spill.”
“Our communities and many other Nations and allies have stood together in making choices that will safeguard our air, lands, rivers, salmon and communities for the future. We will continue to do so,” Smith-Martin. “We take very seriously any threat or political maneuvering to challenge the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act by organizations that are not the title holders of the coastal communities in which these tankers would have traveled,” she adds.
The Act protects our lands and waters for future generations. “Pipelines and oil tankers will exacerbate climate change and move us away from creating a sustainable economy. We respect the rights of legitimate groups to their economic aspirations but not at our expense. These two groups do not hold any rights in the Great Bear Rainforest and certainly have no say in what happens in our coastal Territories.”
CFN supports responsible resource development that provides meaningful work for community members and puts decision-making in the hands of the people who care deeply for the ecological health of our Territories.
For more information:
Coastal First Nations