Albertans need now – more than ever – to find solutions for responsible oil sands development: Fort McKay First Nation

FORT MCKAY – Fort McKay First Nation leaders want the Alberta government to endorse the Moose Lake Plan that allows managed development, combining Alberta’s economic interests and commitment to First Nations culture.

Stakeholders will review the final working draft of the Moose Lake Plan at the Edmonton Convention Centre on Jan. 31. The plan, developed with government and industry, respects a 10-kilometre zone around Moose Lake.

“Albertans need now, more than ever, to rally together to find solutions that support responsible oil sands development and tell the complete story of Alberta’s energy sector,”  said Chief Mel Grandjamb of the Fort McKay First Nation. 

“Partnerships among industry, government and First Nations are critical to our collective future success. Together, we can bring clarity and certainty to oil sands development while we respect Treaty rights and protect Fort McKay’s last sacred wilderness.”

Alberta released a draft plan in February 2018 and industry responded with concerns. The government and Fort McKay staff worked eight months to revise the plan to address those address concerns. The previous government ceased work on the project and the revisions weren’t shared with industry.

Rick Wilson, Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations, is attending. Representatives from PetroChina, Sunshine Oilsands, Athabasca Oil, Chevron Canada, Teck, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, and Northland Forest Products were invited. 

Fort McKay also invited representatives from Prosper Petroleum, as well as Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy, and Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta.

In October 2019, Fort McKay First Nation argued before the Alberta Court of Appeal to have the Alberta Energy Regulator’s 2018 approval of Prosper’s Rigel Project at Moose Lake overturned in order to protect the community’s Treaty rights. The court hasn’t released its decision yet.

“Our position remains the same,” said Chief Grandjamb.

“We hope the Alberta government will approve the Moose Lake Plan and support responsible development while protecting the place where our ancestors lived for thousands of years. This is the last place we can meaningfully pass down to our children and grandchildren the traditions of our culture.” 

n November 2019, the Chiefs of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta unanimously adopted a resolution to support the Fort McKay First Nation and its efforts to protect Moose Lake as an essential means of protecting and preserving their ways of life, their ways of being, and their inherent rights.

Fort McKay is hosting the Moose Lake Summit after 20 years of engagement, collaboration and consultation between the Fort McKay First Nation, the Government of Alberta, and industry stakeholders. 

The final draft of the Moose Lake Plan is the result of four rounds of government negotiations and five rounds of industry negotiations. Fort McKay has made a number of concessions to provide industry with additional flexibility to develop bitumen resources.

A detailed summary of the latest updates to the Plan will be shared with attendees in advance and reviewed at the Summit. If approved, the plan will permit managed resource development in the Moose Lake area with appropriate conditions. Key plan updates that industry hasn’t seen yet include a loosening of interior habitat disturbance limits and accelerated reclamation credits.

“Fort McKay has been a cornerstone of responsible growth in Alberta for three decades,” said Chief Grandjamb.

“Our economic track record shows we work with all responsible developers to support Alberta’s oil sands. We believe the strength and history of our partnerships can move this stalled decision forward. Let’s cross the finish line on Moose Lake together with a decision at the Summit.”

In 2016 Alberta accepted 43 of the plan’s recommendations but reserved its decision on two, the most important being the prohibition of large-scale infrastructure — central processing facilities, work camps, aerodromes, landfills — inside the 10-kilometre zone.