Saskatchewan court upholds ruling against Dene bid to halt oilsands exploration

REGINA – The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling against a First Nation that wants to halt oilsands exploration on what it calls its traditional territory.

Last year a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled against the Buffalo River Dene Nation’s challenge of exploration permits issued to Scott Land and Lease.

The First Nation had argued the permits were a violation of treaty rights and the policy of duty to consult was ignored.

At the time, the judge in the case ruled there is no duty to consult for exploration permits.

The Buffalo River Dene then filed an appeal.

In a ruling released Thursday Justice J. A. Caldwell dismissed the court action.

“Buffalo River Dene Nation’s assertion that the Crown’s duty to consult has been triggered here, chiefly because of the possibility of impact on the rights of its members under Treaty 10, amounts to no more than speculation at this juncture,” he wrote.

“I would find the Crown’s duty to consult has not been triggered in this case at this time.”

The province has said the permits grant the company exclusive rights for exploration, but do not permit access to land or excavation.

The First Nation is in a remote area of boreal forest in northwestern Saskatchewan.