FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - The leader of an aboriginal community near the Alberta oilsands says the federal government is clearing the way for development on traditional land.
Chief Alan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says Ottawa's omnibus budget legislation weakens environmental protection in Canada.
He says oilsands projects have already sullied rivers and lakes in the area and the budget bill — quote — "gives the green light to destroy the rest."
Adam's comments came as he joined a highway blockade north of Fort McMurray that was part of the aboriginal Idle No More movement.
Protests and marches have been held country-wide in recent weeks to demand the Conservative government reverse the legislation that First Nations say will affect treaties and traditional land use.
A national protest is planned for Friday.
“The people are standing up and saying enough is enough," Adam said Thursday. "The Harper government is creating legislation that aims to weaken our rights and pave the way for industry on our lands.
"As a leader I plan to stand with my people and reject this bill and any other bill that does not have our consent and any such law will not apply on our reserve lands and traditional territories," he added.
The Athabasca Chipewyan band has been raising concerns for years about the impact of the oilsands on the environment and on the health of people living in the area.
"Our Nation has been fighting for better protection of rights and lands right here in Alberta for over a decade. Instead of listening to us, they have created laws to try and silence us," Adam said.
"We will not be silent any longer.”
Band member Les Cardinal said the issue goes beyond aboriginal people.
"This is not just for First Nations people, Metis people, indigenous people," he said. "This is all of Canada. The government is literally selling your democracy away to the corporations.
"And this is only the start. They're doing what they want to do."
— With files from CFVR
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