Little Buffalo, AB/ On June 5, 2015, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta released Justice Simpson’s decision rejecting in part the Application to Strike brought by the defendant, oil giant PennWest Petroleum Ltd.(NYSE: PWE, TSE:PWT), who is being sued by the Lubicon Lake Nation, as represented by Chief Bernard Ominayak and the Lubicon Council in Ominayak v Penn West Petroleum Ltd.
In March 2015, the parties had appeared before Justice Simpson in Peace River, AB, where PennWest argued that the entire action should be struck because it amounted to an abuse of process, pleading that the action was duplicative of a proceeding brought against Alberta and Canada and that the action constituted a collateral attack on the oil company’s authorizations.
Justice Simpson concluded that this action was neither a duplicative action, nor an abuse of process. Consequently, Justice Simpson held that the action based on alleged breaches by PennWest to the asserted aboriginal rights and title of the Lubicon can continue. Furthermore, the Court reaffirmed that private parties such as oil companies can be held liable for offences which have taken place prior to formal declarations of Aboriginal title by the Crown or the Courts.
“This affirmation supports the position the Lubicon Lake Nation that recognition or non-recognition of Chief Ominayak and the Council by Canada’s department of Indian Affairs has no effect on the reality of their authority and amounts to a communications plan designed to avoid meaningful consultation and engagement with the rightful Lubicon government and its citizens,” said Councillor Dwight Gladue.
While Justice Simpson ordered amendments be made to the Lubicon pleadings to avoid a collateral attack of the lease authorizations issued by Alberta, these minor changes won’t change the nature of the action nor the outcomes sought by the Lubicon, which revolve around damages to their lands and way of life, especially in relation to fracking and subsurface effects.
“We are very pleased with this decision as it means that we can continue our action in the Courts against PennWest and one day see justice for the damages this company has caused to our lands, our people and our way of life,” said Chief Bernard Ominayak.