Chief plans toll to access natural resources
By Black Powder | RPM Staff, March 14, 2017
Bigstone Cree Nation Chief Gordon Auger is taking action against off-reserve industrial operators in the Wabasca area.
On March 10, the First Nation in Northern Alberta, posted a list of multinational companies on its website that would not be allowed access to the territory as of Monday, March 13th.
Companies on the no-entry list include:
- Alberta Pacific Ltd.
- West Fraser
- All Logging Trucks
- All Star Contracting
- Exact Oilfield
According to CBC News, Bigstone Cree Nation issued a letter to Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan on Feb. 20. The letter cited six reasons roads would be blocked, including “the abandonment of the local economy and local companies,” along with a lack of meaningful consultation between the band and oil and gas companies and concerns around water protection.
The letter said the community was planning on installing gates to control all traffic going through the reserve — and all oil and gas traffic heading to work.
Wind Speaker reports, at about noon on Monday, some vehicles belonging to multinational oil, gas and forestry companies were being denied access at turn-around points established on Highways 813 and 754 on Bigstone Cree Nation land.
However, on Sunday, Chief Auger told Windspeaker.com it was never his intention to turn around vehicles belonging to multi-national corporations as of Monday.
Auger says he didn’t plan this action and steps may have been taken due to misinterpretation of his directive by the management team.
Auger said the direction he gave to council was to determine where toll booths should be located. Then, he said, signs will be put up indicating toll booth locations and when toll-taking would begin. Augers says this will be the item on the agenda when he meets with council Tuesday morning.
He also contends that band members have the right to take action.
“They’re just practicing right now,” he said. “It’s a good exercise, but I don’t think they should be sending people back, just maybe let them know … maybe a public awareness.”
A Public Notice on the band’s website states, on March 14, 2017, Bigstone Cree Nation maintains their “STAND” that originates from the Treaty signed in 1899. This is not a blockade but rather to have toll stations set up on highway 754 and 813 to monitor who is accessing and removing resources from Bigstone Cree Traditional Land.
All traffic will be allowed through for the time being, but the monitors will remain at the sites until further notice.
Auger has said he’s not worried about companies pulling out of the area.
“We’re tired of living in a third-world situation,” he said. “Nobody should have control of our land. It’s our land.”
The border security manned toll stations not only allow the band to control who comes in and out of the territory but could also generate revenue for the community.
Travis Gladue says Chief Auger is shutting out off-reserve industry without having gone to the membership first.
“He never even consulted with the membership. He never even held a band meeting. The last band meeting he had was Nov. 30 and there was a motion to have him removed,” said Gladue.
Minutes from the Calling Lake general membership meeting, provided by Gladue, indicate that a motion was made to remove Auger as “the lead negotiator for industry for Bigstone Cree Nation effective immediately. The motion was passed by a majority vote.
Gladue says the chief’s latest stand with industry will only hurt band members.
“CNRL already said they’ll issue a statement that they provide lots of jobs, lots of work to a lot of local companies that are First Nations and Metis and now they’re very, very upset and these are Bigstone members and they don’t understand why Gordon is doing what he’s doing,” said Gladue. “Because now they can’t go to work.”
Gladue alleges that Auger is wanting to charge industry 15 per cent royalty to access natural resources from the First Nation’s land. Gladue says industry is refusing to pay.
Kyle Ferguson, a spokesperson for the ministry of Indigenous relations, said the government will “make every effort to prevent the establishment of toll gates.”
“The Alberta government is aware of the potential construction of highway toll gates near Bigstone Cree Nation and is working diligently with Bigstone Chief and Council to resolve the issue promptly,” he said
“Our intent is to resolve this issue peacefully and expeditiously. Industry in the area has been notified and RCMP officers have been dispatched to monitor the situation and to alert drivers to ensure the safety of motorists and members of the First Nations,” said Ferguson in an email.
Bigstone Cree Nation is 300 km north of Edmonton Alberta.