In Northern Alberta, the fight for First Nations rights to ancestral lands is moving towards another showdown between the Lubicon Lake First Nation and the federal and provincial governments. The Cree band is calling on the courts to block all further resource development on disputed territory until they gain the status as a reserve and to prevent millions of dollars in resources revenue from leaving the territory.

The claim is for ownership of 246 square kilometres of land, and for rights to trap, fish and hunt. The lawsuit also calls for the annulment of all oil and natural gas leases and permits granted to companies within the disputed area.

The lawsuit is being brought forward by Aboriginal rights lawyer James O’Reilly, who has fought for many decades on behalf of the First Nations of Canada. This is the second time that O’Reilly has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Lubicon Lake First Nation.

During the 1980s, the Cree band began negotiating with the provincial and federal governments over the establishment of a reserve around the community of Little Buffalo. The agreement fell apart in the 1990s due to a breakdown in the dialogue between the federal government and the Band.

After being brushed aside during past decades, the First Nation has decided to act in lieu of waiting for a government response. “This is just the beginning,” said Bryan Laboucan, a Lubicon council member. “If Canada and Alberta continue to be unreasonable and refuse to negotiate, we will exercise every option to force the issue forward for the betterment of Lubicon people.”