Alberta, First Nations Trade Barbs over Oilsands

Before meeting with Indigenous chiefs on Wednesday, the Kenney government in Alberta has fired back at a First Nations chief who has been critical of how the province handled Indigenous consultations on Teck Resources Ltd.’s (T.TECK.B) $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mining project.

Earlier this week, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam sent off two letters, one to Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal Environment and Climate Change Minister, and another to other Indigenous groups — both criticizing Alberta’s consultation process.

The letter to Wilkinson outlined 13 areas where Adam believes the province needs to offer more support to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, including water monitoring, protection of back country areas, and implementation of conservation plans.

A second letter, sent to a number of Indigenous chiefs, noted that Alberta’s "refusal to work with us respectfully jeopardizes this project’s federal approval, putting jobs and benefits of our Nation (and all Albertans) at risk."

In that letter, Adams also calls for direct royalty payments from the government to First Nations in exchange for their support for the oilsands mine and other industrial projects.

Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson pushed back against Adam’s letter to the chiefs, which he said contained "false and misleading information" about the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp. — a $100-million fund created by the province last year to help Indigenous groups launch businesses.

Wilson told the there is no requirement that First Nations put up $20 million upfront to participate in the Crown corporation’s funding, refuting another claim. He also denied that the funds must only be used for oil and gas projects, saying that groups can use the funds for renewable energy projects as well.