Poundmaker, OLCN suing Canada over mismanagement of oil and gas rights
- EFN Staff | February 09, 2016
The Poundmaker Cree Nation and the Onion Lake Cree Nation, on behalf of certain oil and gas producing First Nations, have sued the Government of Canada over its mismanagement of oil and gas rights on designated Reserve lands.
In this class action, the Poundmaker and Onion Lake Cree Nations allege a continuing breach of fiduciary duty and negligence on the part of the federal government and also request an accounting. They estimate the damages suffered by the class to be $3 billion.
“For many years the federal government has controlled the exploitation of oil and gas rights on First Nation Reserves. The federal government has botched this important responsibility,” said Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation. “The federal government has failed in its fiduciary responsibility.”
“It’s disappointing that the federal government didn’t protect our non-renewable oil and gas resources from drainage by wells on the lands bordering our Reserve lands. We are a poor people and the revenue from those resources could have done much good for our community,” said Chief Duane Antoine from the Poundmaker Cree Nation.
The 72 bands named in the class action also have the Assembly of First Nations on their side. "One of the biggest reasons why there is such a gap between First Nations and other Canadians is the historic mismanagement of First Nations resources,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde, “This has drained billions of dollars from First Nations economies. We call on the federal government to move beyond the injustices of the past and seize the opportunity to ensure First Nations benefit fairly from the wealth of their territories."
Harvey T. Strosberg QC, Heather Rumble Peterson, Patricia Speight and Jay Strosberg of Sutts, Strosberg LLP are acting for the Poundmaker and Onion Lake Cree Nations and the other members of the class. Blaine Favel is an advisor to the Strosberg firm.
Harvey T. Strosberg stated that “given that the new federal government has been clear about its desire to re-build its relationship with First Nations, we hope, in this spirit, that the federal government would talk rather than immediately fight in court.”
Blaine Favel agrees and believes this issue is best to be negotiated instead of litigated. The government is supposed to take every step possible to protect our interests and they didn’t lift a finger in this case,” said Favel. “This loss of revenue for the First Nations was not deliberate by the oil companies or by the government. We are not against this government and in fact they were quite amenable when we discussed this with them. We would much rather negotiate this than litigate.”