First Nations sue Canadian government for $3B over mismanaged natural resources
Feb 10, 2016 11:45 PM EST
Oil producing Saskatchewan First Nations have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Government of Canada, claiming it mismanaged on developing the resources on First Nations.
The lawsuit filed on Monday in Saskatoon was represented by Onion Lake Cree Nation and Poundmaker Cree Nation on behalf of the roughly 70 First Nations that have had their oil and gas reserves managed by Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC). The class-action lawsuit claims that the federal government owes the First Nations an estimated $3 billion because the government agency that is responsible for protecting their oil and gas resources has allowed the natural resources to be drained away without demanding that indigenous communities be compensated for decades, The Globe and Mail reports.
Many First Nations including Poundmaker and Onion Lake have signed agreements with the IOGC, an agency of the government's Department of Indigenous Affairs, giving it right to manage natural resources on their behalf. The functions of the IOGC including identifying the oil and gas deposits, promoting the natural resources to oil and gas companies, negotiating drilling deals, and collecting the revenues for First Nations.
A lawyer on the case, Heather Rumble Peterson, said the government hasn't done enough to support resource development on reserves, CBC News reports.
"Reserves often find themselves to be in dire needs of funding for social programs and other unfunded programs that exist," she said. Peterson added that First Nations have resources that lie under their lands, but the government hasn't taken active steps to ensure that those are freed up and the monies become available.
The lawsuit alleges that the government agency failed in its duty to monitor the wells being drilled around reserves and to require compensations in cases where oil and gas are being drained.
A former chief of the Poundmaker Cree Nation Blaine Favel, who is also chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan and a former CEO of One Earth Oil and Gas Inc., said it is a finite resource that has been drained, and it has been drained from the poorest people in Canada.
According to GlobalNews, the statement filed in court said that Poundmaker has 41 wells drilled with 10 producing. But the claim alleges that 242 wells have been drilled next to the reserve and 86 of which are producing.
The class action lawsuit is represented by Harvey Strosberg of Sutts, Strosberg LLP. The lawfirm is hoping the case can be settled, rather than litigated in court.
The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs spokesperson said the Department acknowledged the claim and its currently being reviewed.