By Tim Kalinowski on May 18, 2021.
The Mountain Child Valley Society represents the true opinion of the people of Piikani First Nation on the issue of the Grassy Mountain Coalmine, and not the elected leadership which decided to make a deal with mining giant Benga and its Canadian partner Riversdale Resources, says Adam North Peigan, chair of the society.
“What had happened at Piikani First Nation is there was some consultation that was done, but it was on a government to government relationship,” he says. “So they came in and met with our leadership, and there was very little consultation with the grassroots community members. At the end of the day, the grassroots community members were left out in the dark as far as any kind of decision-making that had happened.
“Our leadership, they unequivocally supported the coal exploration of Grassy Mountain; however, a vast majority of (Piikani) members are opposed to it.”
The group has been actively lobbying all levels of government over the past four months in the hopes they will realize that most people on Piikani First Nation are opposed to Grassy Mountain despite the letter of support written by tribal leadership and its endorsement of the project submitted to the Joint Review Panel last year.
“I think our leadership is looking at those carrots being dangled in front of them,” North Peigan states, “such as employment opportunities for the Nation, and annual payments to the Nation over the next 25 years, but the thing is they are not looking on the flipside and the effects this is going to cause for our community now, and moreso in future generations going 50 years down the road.”
North Peigan says before any official endorsement was given to Grassy Mountain, Piikani leadership should have submitted the question to a referendum amongst the people.
“I am quite positive had this gone through a referendum within the Piikani First Nation, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” he says. “Because the Grassy Mountain coal mining project would not have been supported by the Piikani First Nation.”
North Peigan said his group has “aggressively lobbied” the federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his federal cabinet colleagues so that when the Government of Canada receives the final Joint Review Panel report next month any official statement of support from the Piikani First Nation leadership will be excluded from its considerations.
“I hope they hear from Piikani First Nation is we are adamantly opposed to any coal exploration in the province of Alberta; period,” he says. “Because that is how the vast majority of community members in Piikani Nation feel. We do have concerns with environmental (impacting) projects in our ancestral lands, and the Grassy Mountain coal mining project is within our ancestral lands. It is our responsibility to be good stewards.”
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