Two Cree Nations have filed paperwork to get the ball rolling on a legal battle with the energy company responsible for the 2016 North Saskatchewan River oil spill.
The James Smith Cree Nation, represented by Chief Wally Burns, and the Cumberland House Cree Nation, represented by Chief Rene Chaboyer, are taking Husky Energy to court, citing damages caused by the oil spill, and allege a lack of willingness to work with them on behalf of Husky in making things right.
In a prepared statement of facts obtained by paNOW, the James Smith Cree Nation alleged Husky was advised to take remediation steps after roughly 250,000 litres of oil mixture was leaked into the North Saskatchewan River on July 21, 2016.
Despite these requests, Husky allegedly “failed or refused to perform remediation steps to mitigate, limit or remove the adverse impact” of the spill according to the statement of facts.
Two months after the spill Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Techniques (SCAT) teams were employed on the Cree Nation’s lands. The teams confirmed the presence of oil from the spill on portions of the riverbank in the reserve.
James Smith’s statement of facts alleges Husky repeatedly failed to provide the community with updates regarding the clean-up progress, didn’t provide updated technical data like studies or reports or other information related to their oil spill.
The statement of facts also alleges Husky failed to inform the community as to when they would be entering reserve lands to preform sampling, remediation efforts or other activities related to their spill response.
As the oil spill impacted band members’ ability and rights to hunt, fish, trap, gather and otherwise enjoy the river, the band is seeking roughly $2,500,000 in damages.
The statement of facts states the James Smith Cree Nation is asking for an order requiring Husky to cover the remediation costs of the water, riverbanks and vegetation along the North Saskatchewan River. The documents state those costs to be roughly $10,000,000.
The band is also asking for out-of-pocket expenses accrued during the oil spill clean-up efforts to be covered, a cost estimated to be roughly $500,000.
Along with covering legal costs, the James Smith Cree Nation is also seeking $2,500,000 in punitive damages and asking for pre and post-judgment interest on damages and compensation.
Cumberland House Cree Nation also seeks damages
The Cumberland House Cree Nation, located roughly 305 kilometres east of Prince Albert, is also filing legal paperwork against Husky Energy.
Many of the allegations in Cumberland House’s statement of facts mirror those in the document submitted by the James Smith Cree Nation.
Members of the Cree Nation feel their rights, as spelled out in Treaty 5 in relation to hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering, were violated by the 2016 oil spill.
Cumberland House’s statement of facts does not spell out any financial reparations beyond asking for $2,500,000 in punitive damages. The Cree Nation, like James Smith, is asking for pre and post-judgement interest in respect to any damage or compensation monies.
The Cumberland House Cree Nation is also seeking a judge’s order requiring Husky Energy to “immediately and fully, and at their own expense, remove or remediate oil in the water, soil, vegetation, and debris on the reserve lands.”
None of the allegations in the statement of facts submitted by the James Smith Cree Nation or the Cumberland House Cree Nation have been proven in a court of law.
— Byran Eneas, paNOW