Protecting Our Land, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6
Crystal feels it is her obligation as a mother to protect her land, water and culture for her children and future generations. Currently, Crystal is the Climate and Energy Campaigner for Sierra Club Canada and is a fellow of the Indigenous Environmental Network. She utilizes her formal academia – Two University Degrees; but above all her Indigenous ways of knowing and being to articulate the impacts of the direct exploitation of the tar sands. Whilst addressing the environmental racism the Government of Canada imposes on First Nations people in the name of resource extraction.
“We have come to a point where we have no choice left but to lift up our inherent treaty rights – our birthrights. The Crown and this Government do not get to pick the pieces of their law it likes and which one’s it does not, they made their laws thus they have to abide by them. As First Nations people, we abide by natural law, and there is nothing natural about a people dying from cancer and suffering from respiratory illnesses” she exclaims.
Although the Beaver Lake Cree’s rights to hunt and fish for all time are enshrined in Treaty 6, their land is being usurped by the tar sands industry, which destroys the very habitat of the animals and fish they depend on and when those ecosystems are being affected, the inherent right to sustain themselves is affected, which means their Constitutionally protected rights are violated, giving Treaty title holders grounds to sue. Which the Beaver Lake Cree did in 2008. Alberta and Canada have far exceeded the land’s capacity for development. They have recklessly authorized tar sands projects, military facilities and other development without any real regard for the rights of Beaver Lake and other Treaty Nations. While any one of these projects by themselves might be tolerable taken together they threaten to destroy the First Nations people’s way of life and the land that has sustained them for centuries. The case is currently being carried forward by the Beaver Lake Cree’s current leadership and Crystal uses this as one example of how First Nations people can assert their rights whilst offering a solution