Action needed to protect First Nations from oil spill in N Saskatchewan River System

WINNIPEG, July 28, 2016 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart and Saskatchewan Regional Chief Bobby Cameron today expressed concerns about the Husky Energy oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River system impacting First Nations territories. The spill was discovered on July 20 and is estimated at 1,572 barrels of emulsion.

“My thoughts are first and foremost with all those impacted by this spill,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Hart. “We must ensure they have full support during this time. I support my colleague, Saskatchewan Regional Chief Bobby Cameron, in his call for the direct involvement of First Nations with the Regional Response centre. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde recently told Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale that First Nations and their regional organizations must have a greater role in Emergency Response and Preparedness in these kinds of events. The cumulative impacts of oil and gas development, particularly pipeline spills, must be addressed.  Right now, I’m very concerned that this spill will impact my home region. I will be following closely the evolution of this situation and make sure that First Nations communities in Manitoba are well informed.”

AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief Bobby Cameron stated: “We will get assurances that First Nation’s interests with respect to our Inherent and Treaty Rights to hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering will be taken into account during the environmental assessment, clean up and rehabilitation of the North Saskatchewan River, consistent with international law and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. As stewards of the land it is our role to protect the environment including the waterways. We will get an accurate assessment of the amount of oil spilled into the river to fully understand the amount of time and resources that will be needed to deal with this environmental catastrophe that will affect not only the waters in our territories, but the waters in Manitoba.”

On July 27, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs, the Battlefords Tribal Council and the Prince Albert Grand Council spoke to media about the Husky Energy oil spill and indicated that disasters like this could be avoided if industry engaged in meaningful consultation with First Nations about the construction of pipelines.

On Wednesday July 20th, 2016, a Husky Energy oil spill leaked into the North Saskatchewan River system and created an immediate emergency situation forcing two cities in western Canada to stop drawing drinking water from the river. Husky Energy has set up a command centre to respond to the oil spill and has provided First Nations leaders in North Saskatchewan with updates regarding the situation.

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