Athabasca Chipewyan file lawsuit against Shells Jackpine oil sands expansion

EDMONTON — A northern Alberta aboriginal band has filed documents asking the Federal Court to overturn the approval of Shell’s mammoth Jackpine oil sands mine expansion.It’s another in a growing list of legal actions from First Nations opposing how the rapidly growing industry is managed.“The current relationship in Alberta’s oilsands with First Nations and government is deteriorating incredibly fast and the reason why is First Nations are asserting themselves as not merely the Indians out on the rez any more,” said Eriel Deranger, spokeswoman for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which filed the application Jan. 3.“We want to be looked at as equals.”The papers were filed just before musicians Neil Young and Diana Krall began a concert tour in support of the First Nation’s legal fund. Deranger said the lawsuit would have gone ahead anyway.“ACFN has multiple legal actions we’ve filed over the years. Even being part of the regulatory hearing process requires lawyers and legal costs and that’s what Neil wanted to stand behind.”This action, however, is different, Deranger said.“This is definitely more significant than the rest. For us, this filing is once again bringing to light the various deficiencies that (the governments) admitted to by saying, ’It’s in the public interest,’ which we feel is unlawful.“You can’t just simply state it’s in the public interest and absolve yourself of any responsibility of upholding the law.”The band’s application says the approval process for the Jackpine expansion broke at least three federal statutes — the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Species At Risk Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act — as well as several international agreements Canada has signed.The band also argues the process broke the First Nation’s constitutional right to be consulted.It says final approval from the federal cabinet ignored almost all the band’s recommendations. It points out that although Ottawa granted a 35-day extension before making its decision so as to consult with the band, it released its approval before that period was over.“The Crown’s departure from many central recommendations of the (environmental review) panel and failure to provide concrete and equivalent alternative accommodation constitutes bad faith,” says the application.The review panel concluded Jackpine would create irreversible environmental damage. It said the project would mean the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands. It predicted the expansion would harm migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife and wipe out traditional plants used for generations.It also said Shell’s plans for mitigation are unproven and warned that some impacts would probably approach levels that the environment couldn’t support.Shell has said the expansion will double its production and create 750 jobs.At least four other major lawsuits have been filed by aboriginal bands to challenge laws central to how the Alberta and federal government review oilsands projects and manage the industry. They criticize the federal government’s rewriting of environmental legislation and the province’s revamp of the regulatory system.Bands are also fighting provincial proposals to centralize and standardize consultation and Alberta’s land-use plans for the oil sands region. read more

Trudeau announces twoway investment deal with India worth 1 billion

MUMBAI, India — Some of India’s biggest companies say they will invest more than $250 million in Canada, in everything from pulp mills to pharmaceuticals and the IT sector.Canadian companies, meanwhile, plan to invest $750 million in India.The news came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent his third morning in India meeting six of the country’s most influential business tycoons, making deals that he says will create more than 5,800 new jobs in Canada.“This was really a win-win morning, a win-win day for all of us and I’m excited for the opportunities in the Canada-India friendship,” Trudeau said during an armchair conversation with Chanda Kochhar, CEO of the Industrial Credit and Investment Corp. of India, in front of 550 Indian business people.Trudeau initially said the entire $1 billion was money coming into Canada but his officials later corrected that it was a two-way trade number, with one-quarter coming from India into Canada, and the rest going the other way.More than half the $750 million Canadian investment in India comes from Toronto’s Brookfield Asset Management, which is spending $480 million to buy a 1.25 million-square foot office complex in Mumbai.Another $200 million comes from Fairfax India Holdings Corp. of Canada, which acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Catholic Syrian Bank in Kerala, India.The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a number of economic reforms in the last few years that have helped open the Indian economy to international investment opportunities. Kochhar said these “huge” structural reforms — including a new goods and services tax to simply the tax system, a bankruptcy court and more transparency — have had a big impact on making it easier to do business in India.The investments from India include a new operation in Canada from telecom equipment manufacturer Valiant Communications, a Canadian manufacturing facility to produce natural health products by Clarion Pharmaceutical and an Ontario operation for Vision Controls, which works on automation.As well, Jubilant Life Sciences will spend $100 million to expand its existing facility in Kirkland, Que., which manufactures medical devices.Later this week, digital transformation company Tech Mahindra, will announce a new partnership with Canada’s superclusters initiative.Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, said he had recently joined the Asia Business Leaders Advisory Council but he said he can’t find anything to “advise” Trudeau about other than “do more of the same.”“I think the rest of the world is learning about leadership from you,” Mahindra told Trudeau in a brief, public portion of their meeting Tuesday.“So, please continue to do what you’re doing. With good leadership, business follows and as you learn from my team we have big plans for Canada.”Kumar Birla, chairman of the Indian conglomerate Aditya Birla Group and, according to Forbes, the country’s eighth-wealthiest person, told Trudeau he finds both the federal and provincial governments in Canada to be very friendly for business.“We are very happy investors,” he said at the start of his meeting with Trudeau. “I think just the ease of doing business, the business friendliness of the Canadian government across the country I think is something that is a true delight for an investor. Someone who’s tasted that will always want to come back for more.”The Birla Group — which already owns pulp mills in Ontario and New Brunswick– has plans to expand in three areas in Canada, in fibre, carbon black and aluminum products.The investment deals are the first tangible delivery from Trudeau’s trip and come despite the fact Canada and India trade is not growing as quickly as some had hoped. In 2012, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Indian government set a goal to reach $15 billion in trade between the two countries by 2015.In 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, it was at $8.4 billion. While that was double what it was in 2010, it was far shy of the $15 billion goal.Kasi Rao, chair of the Canada-India Business Council, which hosted the Trudeau armchair chat Tuesday, said the slow growth between Canada and India comes from a lethargy on Canada’s part and a lack of knowledge of Canada within India.However, he said Canadians seem increasingly aware of the rise of Asia and India’s importance and the Canada brand in India is growing. Rao said to prove that one need only look at the fact more than 550 people signed up to attend the Tuesday discussion with Trudeau and Kochhar.“That would have been a hard sell a few years ago,” said Rao.Trudeau is also trying to push some of his domestic political priorities in India, including women’s empowerment and human rights. To that end he hosted a round table with women business leaders on Tuesday, saying he wanted hear about their experiences and challenges.— follow @mrabson on Twitter. read more

Environmental group files lawsuit over expired Shell Arctic oil permits

by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 12, 2016 6:47 am MDT Last Updated Apr 12, 2016 at 8:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Environmental group files lawsuit over ‘expired’ Shell Arctic oil permits Environmentalists have asked a court to declare invalid a group of Arctic offshore energy exploration permits that are delaying the creation of Canada’s third national marine protected area.On Monday, the World Wildlife Fund filed a lawsuit in Federal Court alleging that 30 permits held by Shell Canada at the eastern gate of the Northwest Passage lapsed decades ago.“There’s no indication they’ve ever been renewed,” said Ian Miron, the group’s lawyer.The federal government and regional Inuit groups have been trying for a generation to protect the waters of Lancaster Sound, the eastern gate of the Northwest Passage and home to a wealth of Arctic seabirds and mammals. But talks on drawing the boundaries of the area, off the north coast of Nunavut’s Baffin Island, have been complicated by 30 exploration permits issued in 1971 to Shell.Ottawa, under the previous Conservative administration, argued to keep the permits outside the area, but Inuit and environmental groups wanted the protected area to include them. Most of the area covered by the Shell permits is considered to have “high” or “very high” conservation value.However, researchers for a number of environmental groups found the permits expired in 1979 with no record of renewal. The federal government couldn’t find such records either.As well, Canada’s offshore regulatory regime has changed twice since the permits were issued. There is no record of those permits being brought into compliance.Miron said exploration rights are meant to encourage companies to get out and do some work. They are never intended to last indefinitely.“You can’t just sit on them,” said Miron.In a series of emails, a government spokesman told an environmental researcher that the permits would be considered valid because both the company and the government have acted as if they were. Legal scholars familiar with the issue have suggested that may not be enough.David Miller, president of World Wildlife Fund Canada, said the group felt it had to go to court.“We have an obligation to act,” he said.Miller said the permits have been major reason why Lancaster Sound still isn’t a national marine conservation area. Local Inuit have been fighting for its establishment since the 1980s.“They were certainly pretty significant under the previous government. They seemed to stall any discussions.”In an email on Monday, Shell spokeswoman Tara Lemay said the company wouldn’t comment yet on the lawsuit.“We are aware of a court application filed by World Wildlife Fund Canada and are currently assessing next steps,” she said.In minutes of a May 2014 meeting held to consider the protected area, Shell said it wouldn’t discuss relinquishing the lease.It said it would expect to be compensated for losing the leases. It also insisted on conducting seismic testing on the area before entering into negotiations on the fate of the leases.Keeping seismic testing out of those waters is one of the reasons Inuit want the area protected. Inuit communities have twice gone to court to block seismic testing around Baffin Island.In the same meeting, a Shell representative played down the likely value of those leases and said they wouldn’t be a high priority for the company for at least 15 years.— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960 read more