On Monday, June 27th, an Alberta judge turned down an application for a team of UK lawyers to work for free to assist the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in its massive and /costly /fight to prevent the tar sands industries from destroying their traditional lands and decimating the animals and fish that sustain them.
In issuing his judgment,
Michael Mansfield said he is deeply disappointed in Canada's justice system. "It’s hugely disappointing when a court cannot see its way to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to permit lawyers from the UK willing to act pro bono rights of audience. The case raises enormous issues of local, national and international importance. The environment and the way of life of First Nations living in Alberta is being dramatically affected by the activities of multinational oil companies, banking institutions and government agencies. They have already lost hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land, had water resources depleted and contaminated, air polluted, and wildlife decimated. *
"This project which has been escalating since 1967 is the largest of its kind in the world and has repercussions for all of us with regard to climate change and global warming. The Cree nation in particular has taken a stand against a vast array of vested interests, who wish to continue this exploitation in the name of dirty oil. They are entitled to all the help they can garner particularly as they are a vulnerable community with limited resources.
"It is peculiarly ironic that this decision should occur in the very week that Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge arrive in Canada, because it is the Prince’s forbears who pledged to ensure that there would be “no forced interference with the First Nation's mode of life” (treaties 1876 and 1899 between the Queen and the First Nations). The Royal Family has been repeatedly requested to address this promise which has been seriously violated and this is another opportunity for this matter to be raised."