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Fort McKay First Nation chief wants to meet with premier about land approved for oilsands mine

Click to play video 'Fort McKay First Nation asks appeal court to turn down oilsands project' Fort McKay First Nation asks appeal court to turn down oilsands project
Oct. 29: An Alberta First Nation says it's battling for its Treaty rights, asking the court of appeal to turn down an oilsands project but it's hopeful the provincial government will step in. Kendra Slugoski explains – Oct 29, 2019

The chief of a First Nation that has taken Alberta to court to protect its “last wilderness” wants to meet with Premier Jason Kenney to get him to honour the government’s promises.

“We’re confident that the new government is going to do right,” said Grand Chief Mel Grandjamb of the Fort McKay First Nation. “There were commitments to the community.”

READ MORE: Fort McKay First Nation chief calls for treaty rights to be upheld as legal battle over oilsands project continues

The First Nation is surrounded on three sides by oilsands development. Mines come as close as four kilometres to the community.

The band has been negotiating for two decades with the province to protect Moose Lake, west of the townsite.

“We want to be able to smell the good air,” said Grandjamb.

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“The water is good enough to drink right from the lake. We send hunting camps out there every year. We supply cabins to all our elders who want to go out there.

“This is our last wilderness.”

READ MORE: Fort McKay First Nation sues Alberta government, says oilsands project threatens sacred site

In 2018, the band thought it had a deal putting a 10-kilometre buffer around the lake. The deal was never ratified and, in June 2018, Alberta’s energy regulator approved a $440-million, 10,000-barrel-a-day oilsands mine that would come within two kilometres of the shore.

The First Nation is fighting that approval and arguments were heard this week in the Alberta Court of Appeal.

READ MORE: Alberta oilsands project wins regulator approval despite Indigenous objections

Grandjamb said the band has a five-year-old letter from former premier Jim Prentice endorsing the Moose Lake plan. The chief said it’s time Kenney lived up to the government’s promises — and his own.

“I’m very confident that he will get to the table,” said Grandjamb.

“(That’s) based on his public statements, based on his consultations with the chiefs of Alberta, based on my open discussion with him, based on his analysis that we have to work together to move Alberta forward.”

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Click to play video 'Land purchase from Alberta meaningful step for Fort McKay' Land purchase from Alberta meaningful step for Fort McKay
Land purchase from Alberta meaningful step for Fort McKay – Mar 28, 2018