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Alberta is stronger together

Fort McKay First Nation lives by the words “inspired by our past, invested in our future.” As a long-standing partner and contributor to the energy sector in Alberta, the Fort McKay Group of Companies was formed in 1986 and Fort McKay-owned companies generate annual revenues of $500M. Over 1,400 employees earn more than $200M in wages and Fort McKay pays over $70M in federal remittances to Canada, including taxes, CPP and EI.

Along with being an industry powerhouse, Fort McKay First Nation also embraces the culture and traditions of our past. The traditions of hunting, trapping, fishing and spiritual connection to the land. That’s why Fort McKay believes in responsible growth that protects Treaty rights and traditional land uses. And that’s why the Moose Lake Plan is so important.

The Moose Lake Plan was developed by Albertans for Albertans. It’s a plan developed with government and industry that respects the 10km zone around Moose Lake. It’s a plan that honours our millennia-old traditions even as it permits managed development. It’s a plan that combines Alberta’s economic interests and its commitment to First Nations culture.

Alberta is stronger together. We’ve come this far. Let’s cross the finish line.

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Community Update

July 30, 2020

Dear Moose Lake supporters,

We hope you are staying well, safe, and healthy. We wanted to share Fort McKay’s progress and continuing work to protect Moose Lake following our April 23 update.

THE LAST 90 DAYS

Activities and developments over the past three months include:

  • Meetings and discussions between the Sustainability Department and Chief Mel Grandjamb and Alberta’s Environment and Parks Minister and Deputy Minister, Jason Nixon and other government staff, oil sands and forestry companies, and other Indigenous in the Athabasca region on many aspects of the draft Moose Lake Plan
  • A decision by Alberta’s Court of Appeal to overturn the Alberta Energy Regulator's approval of Prosper's Rigel Project in April 2020. This decision directed that AER must reconsider the project, including obligations to consider ongoing negotiations to complete the Moose Lake Plan, the “honour of the Crown” and the impact of cumulative effects on Treaty rights
  • Numerous consultation sessions -- socially-distanced in-person and virtual led by the Sustainability Department with Fort McKay community members on the draft Moose Lake Plan from Alberta

Following COVID-19 public health directives to ensure the health and safety of community members, we were only able to engage a small portion of Fort McKay’s 800-member community, well below Council’s target. Those who were able to attend the sessions unanimously and unequivocally expressed their desire for a ban of central processing facilities (CPF) inside the 10 km special management zone proposed for Moose Lake. Members want a comprehensive and meaningful Moose Lake Plan that respects Treaty rights and protects the ecological and cultural integrity of the area to support the exercise of Treaty rights and the preservation of our Cree and Dene cultures. This requires a CPF ban.

NEXT STEPS

Given COVID implications have reduced the number of members to date able to participate in community consultation, Fort McKay and Alberta agreed to extend the 90-Day Roadmap announced January 31 through the summer months into the autumn. The Sustainability Department will continue to engage community members, continue and expects to provide a formal submission to Alberta to improve the Moose Lake Plan in the fall. More details will be provided to community members on additional consultation sessions scheduled for August.

While considerable work has been completed on the current draft Moose Lake Plan since the previous government’s 2018 version, we have yet to resolve important issues, including the CPF ban and the allocation of disturbance limits. Fort McKay is encouraged by the progress made with Alberta and anticipates the final Moose Lake Plan will address these key protection measures.

OUR THANKS

We wish to thank all of you for your ongoing support of Moose Lake. Despite new obstacles, we remain confident we will cross the finish line soon and secure protection for this special area that is essential for the preservation and passing down of our culture and way of life to future generations. We remain committed to using every tool at our disposal to do so.

We will share more updates in the coming months on www.mooselaketogether.ca.

Stay well,
Chief and Council

Let's cross the finish line.

April 23, 2020

Dear Fort McKay:

We hope this message reaches you at home, safe and well. We have some important updates to share with you about our ongoing efforts to protect Moose Lake.

The Last 90 Days

Following the Moose Lake Together Summit in January, Fort McKay agreed with the Government of Alberta to a 90 Day Roadmap to finalize the Moose Lake Plan for submission to Cabinet for approval in June.

In the past three months, the Sustainability Department has participated in over 100 meetings with government staff, oil sands and forestry companies, and other Indigenous groups from the area. The team has been able to secure even more protection for air, water, groundwater and fish and wildlife than existed in the 2018 draft. We have resolved many though not yet all outstanding issues. We hope Alberta will approve a plan that supports the exercise of Treaty rights, sustains ecological and cultural integrity, and permits responsible development.

Chief Grandjamb has met with Alberta Environment and Parks Minister and Deputy Premier, Jason Nixon every month to discuss progress and ensure the Government of Alberta does not lose sight of its obligation to protect our Treaty rights and deliver a plan that will support the exercise of those rights in the Moose Lake area.

Next Steps

The new draft of the Moose Lake Plan will be completed in early May and will be distributed to stakeholders with no more than two weeks to review. Chief and Council are examining how best to have the Sustainability Department consult with the community on this draft at the same time during this challenging shelter-in-place period. More information on these sessions will come soon, and be announced on Facebook, at MooseLakeTogether.ca and Fort McKay radio.

Once the department has gathered community feedback, Chief and Council will formally submit any changes to Environment and Parks for consideration as it works to create the final draft of the Moose Lake Plan for submission to Cabinet for approval. Minister Nixon has committed to sharing with Fort McKay that final draft. Minister Nixon has also said he expects the final Moose Lake Plan to be approved in late May or early June, concluding Fort McKay’s 20-year struggle to protect a sacred landscape, our ancestral home.

Legal Proceedings

As Sustainability Department staff work to complete the new Moose Lake Plan consistent with the promise between Chief Grandjamb and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, there are still several important legal actions before the courts that are also part of Fort McKay’s strategy to protect Moose Lake.

  • Members will recall the Alberta Energy Regulator approved the Prosper Rigel Project inside the 10-kilometre management zone in 2018. Fort McKay immediately appealed that decision on the grounds it betrayed the Honour of the Crown, and the appeal was heard October 29, 2019. The Court of Appeal still has not delivered its decision, though it is anticipated soon.
  • In January 2020, Prosper asked the Court of Queen’s Bench to force the Province to issue the final approval of its Rigel Project within 10 days and was successful. Alberta immediately appealed the court’s order, and the hearing is scheduled for April 27, 2020. Fort McKay is an intervenor in that hearing and will argue, with Alberta, that Prosper has no right to force government to make a decision.
  • Fort McKay has filed an infringement suit against Alberta that the Prosper Rigel project infringes Fort McKay’s constitutionally protected rights under Treaty 8. This is a major lawsuit, but it is currently on the back burner as the appeals proceed.
  • There are several judicial reviews of technical matters all on hold while these appeals proceed. They will likely disappear but remain available to revive if needed.

How these fit together

  1. If Fort McKay wins the Honour of the Crown appeal, Prosper Rigel’s AER approval will be withdrawn, the company will have to wait until MLAMP negotiations are over. If McKay loses, we will take the case to the Supreme Court.
  2. Alberta’s appeal of the Queen’s Bench order forcing a government decision will be heard April 27 but it is unlikely a decision will be delivered that day and more likely it will take days or weeks. But that is uncertain. If Alberta wins, Fort McKay wins. If Alberta loses, it will probably appeal to the Supreme Court.

All questions should be directed to the Sustainable Development department:

Alvaro Pinto
Executive Director
apinto@fortmckay.com
(780) 828-2480

We look forward to the next time we are able to gather in person to share Moose Lake updates with you. Until then, we will continue to share progress through Facebook, www.mooselaketogether.ca and Fort McKay CKMU radio. Stay well Fort McKay.

Sincerely,
Chief and Council

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FAQs

What is Moose Lake?

“Moose Lake” is Fort McKay’s reserves 174A and B and the surrounding area where our ancestors lived for millennia past and is now our last refuge from surrounding oil sands development. It is located 65 km north of Fort McKay’s hamlet reserve. For our members, Moose Lake is essential for the preservation of our culture and way of life and its transmission from older to younger generations. Traditional land uses here include trapping, hunting, fishing and the harvesting of food and medicinal plants.

What is the Moose Lake Plan?

The Moose Lake Plan is a solution for responsible industry growth in the vicinity of the Moose Lake reserves. Since 2002, we have been working with the Government of Alberta to manage industrial impacts and ensure the integrity of the Moose Lake reserves and the surrounding 10 km management zone (10KMZ). The 10KMZ is needed to protect an area in which we can exercise our Treaty rights and traditional land uses. The Moose Lake Plan is designed to manage access and development in the Moose Lake area, by ensuring development occurs in an orderly, responsible and phased manner that protects the area’s ecological and cultural integrity.

Learn more about the evolution of the Moose Lake plan and Fort McKay’s ask of the Government of Alberta.

What is responsible growth?

For Fort McKay, responsible growth means continued opportunities for managed economic development that also protects Treaty rights and the ecosystem to support the preservation of our culture and traditional land uses.

What is a treaty?

A treaty is an agreement, an important tool to ensure that two or more governing bodies maintain a mutually respectful relationship with shared responsibilities. Treaties between Canada’s First Nations and the federal government have been negotiated since before Confederation, and associated right recognized and affirmed in Canada’s Constitution Act (1982).

Just as we respect international treaties between countries, it’s important to respect the treaties established between Canada’s First Nations and the government.

Why is industrial development an issue?

In principle, it’s not. As one of the biggest and earliest First Nations contributors to the energy sector, Fort McKay has been a partner in growing Alberta’s oil sands industry for 30 years. We’re proud of that and are committed to the industry’s future success, which translates into our success, too. The issue is actually responsible development and the requirement that Alberta must uphold the Honour of the Crown and protect the Treaty rights of its long-time partners.

What’s happening in the court system?

We have appeared before the Court of Appeal to overturn the Alberta Energy Regulator’s approval of Prosper’s Rigel project in the Moose Lake area. AER issued its approval despite the fact we were still developing the Moose Lake Plan with the Government of Alberta -- an initiative first discussed in 2002. Nearly two decades later, this court action is essential to protect our Treaty rights and way of life. But the new Alberta government gives us fresh hope that there’s another way forward.

Why should the Alberta government support the Moose Lake Plan?

Together with government, we have come very far to address industry’s concerns to create a vision of responsible growth that is win-win-win for Fort McKay, the oil sands industry and Alberta. The current working draft, the result of four years of sustained effort, addresses the concerns raised by energy, forestry and other stakeholders during extensive consultation. Approval of the Moose Lake Plan will provide regulators with management requirements to guide land use decisions within the 10KMZ, and provide industry with clarity on how to responsibly develop bitumen and forestry resources in this sacred area.

How can I support Moose Lake?

The Moose Lake Plan proves it is possible to grow the oil sands industry, bring prosperity to our communities, and honour Treaty rights at the same time. The Moose Lake Plan is an opportunity for Alberta to show the world that energy development can be a tool for reconciliation. Let’s cross the finish line. Please show your support by sharing our video and signing up for email updates. We all want to grow Alberta’s energy sector; together, we can do it responsibly.