More than 18,000 people across the country signed a petition that is asking the federal government to intervene in Alberta’s plan to expand on the coal mining industry.
The petition, launched by Latasha Calf Robe with the Niitsitapi Water Protectors, was tabled in the House of Commons by Heather McPherson, the NDP MP for Edmonton-Strathcona in Alberta on Tuesday.
It focuses on Treaty Rights and the duty consult First Nations when it comes to coal mining.
“It’s Canada’s duty to ensure that resource exploration and development proposals meet the highest standards of consultation and involvement with Indigenous peoples in accordance with section 35 of the Constitution Act,” says the petition tabled in parliament. “Alberta failed its duty to consult.
“Coal exploration and development on land formerly protected under the Policy threatens the environment, species at risk, water quality and infringes upon Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations from Treaties 6, 7 & 8.”
According to McPherson, Ottawa needs to intervene because of the number of “active” cases in the area.
“These Canadians are urging the environment minister to ensure that there is a fulsome assessment of the impacts of all proposed coal developments and exploration activities in the Rocky Mountains,” McPherson said.
Calf Robe is from the Kainai Nation in Southern Alberta; one of many communities along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, that can see environmental impacts from proposed coal mining sites such as the Grassy Mountain Coal project.
The project being proposed by Australian owned Benga Mining is a steel making coal mine that will be developed on a previous mining area.
It’s projected to produce 93 million tonnes of coal over the mine’s 23-year lifespan.
While it’s estimated that the project will provide hundreds of jobs and bring in economic benefits, a number of groups have formed in an effort to stop the mine because of the potential economic impact.
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Calf Robe says Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the country have shown their support.
“The petition is definitely a tool to bring public awareness and to really show that there is a collective need to protect treaty rights, species at risk, water,” said Calf Robe.
“Seeing people stand in solidarity for the protection of First Nations rights, it really was a great experience to see that collectiveness and that solidarity. It wasn’t something I was expecting.”
McPherson has been working with the Niitsitapi Water Protectors to help voice their concerns.
“Until the federal government does such a study on behalf of the over 18,000 Canadians who have signed this petition, I urge the minister and this government to delay this decision regarding the proposed Grassy Mountain coal project until the cumulative impacts of all mining activity in the region have been adequately considered,” says McPherson.
A solidarity walk will be taking place in downtown Calgary on Saturday, March 27.
Calf Robe said she is “hopeful that people don’t let this go down lightly.”
“The mountains are sacred to many and many people make this place their home now. This is a good way of restoring those treaty relations.”