Revealed: Canadian Government Trying to Buy First Nations Support for Tar Sands

In a bid to win approval for dirty tar sands development, the government of Alberta, Canada is attempting to buy the goodwill of local First Nations, asking that they sway others to drop their opposition to the projects. (Photo: Eugenio/flickr/cc)

Revealed: Canadian Government Trying to Buy First Nations Support for Tar Sands

A draft proposal seen the Guardian shows Alberta officials are trying to bribe tribal leaders into convincing others to drop their suits

The government of Alberta, Canada is trying to buy the approval of First Nations opposed to tar sands development by offering them royalties or possible investor-shares in the fossil fuel project profits.

According to a draft proposal of an agreement seen by Canada-based Guardian reporter Martin Lukacs, the provincial government is seeking to create a task force that includes representatives from First Nations who would meet regularly with energy companies TransCanada, Enbridge, and Kinder Morgan, charged with the task of persuading other First Nations groups to support pipelines such as the Energy East project in exchange for oil royalties and "opportunities to become investors or owners of oil enterprises or projects."

Lukacs reports:

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that under a proposed agreement the province would have funded a task force of Alberta First Nations and government officials to "work jointly on removing bottlenecks and enabling the construction of pipelines to tide-water in the east and west coasts."

The push was part of a broader diplomatic offensive launched by Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice after he came to power in late 2014, making approval of pipelines his highest priority. Prentice is currently struggling to win re-election.

Alberta First Nations have largely led the opposition to the development of tar sands and, as Lukacs notes, several tribes have launched legal challenges against the government for violating treaty rights in their "management and rapid development" of what environmentalists consider the world's dirtiest form of fossil fuels.

According to the draft, the tribes that signed onto the endeavor would be committed to "urge others engaged in litigation against Alberta to withdraw their legal challenges."

Lukacs reports that a draft agreement was first presented to unnamed First Nations leaders "in the fall of 2014, and in March Alberta's Associate Minister of Aboriginal Relations met with them to finalize the task force that would work on the pact."

However, sources say that a number of Chiefs have voiced opposition, derailing the agreement--though insider Joe Dion, an Indigenous oil businessman who is reportedly "close" to Prentice's Progressive Conservative party, told Lukacs that he is "hopeful" the deal will get signed this summer.

Read the rest of Lukac's reporting at The Guardian.

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