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A damning, unreleased report says Alberta is failing aboriginals in the oilsands region

Onion Lake First Nation Chief Wallace Fox in 2014. An unreleased report upheld the Onion Lake Cree's contention that the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan has no measures to manage traditional land use.

EDMONTON — The Alberta government’s attempt to balance competing interests in the oilsands region has failed to protect aboriginal rights, lands and health from industrial development, says an unreleased report.

Instead, the document concludes the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, which came into force in 2012, has been used by both industry and government to erode traditional land use in favour of economic interests.

“What Alberta said it would do and what it actually did are very different things,” says the review panel report, obtained by The Canadian Press.

A government-appointed panel was struck in 2014 under a provision in provincial law after six area First Nations complained that the land use plan violated their treaty rights.

The inquiry report has been complete since July, but has never been released. Its findings are damning.

The panel agrees with the Athabasca Chipewyan that the plan doesn’t protect aboriginal culture. It concurred with the Mikisew Cree that business was given priority over their constitutional rights.

The report says the Cold Lake First Nation is right that the plan creates new conservation areas without reference to traditional use. It finds justified Fort McKay’s concerns that the plan has few protection measures and no thresholds for action.

It upheld the Onion Lake Cree’s contention that the plan has no measures to manage traditional land use.

And it agrees with Chipewyan Prairie Dene that the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan has been turned against the groups it was meant to protect, eroding existing traditional use rights and blocking the creation of new areas for such use.

The panel discarded government arguments — made by the previous Progressive Conservative administration — that such issues were beyond the review’s jurisdiction.

“The review panel found that the Alberta argument … reduced the review panel’s role to a point approaching absurdity,” it said.

The panel made several recommendations.

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