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Tribe Challenges Alberta Government/Park Plan

June 7, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Aboriginals in northeastern Alberta are trying to stop what they consider sacred land on the banks of a pristine lake from being turned into an RV park by the provincial government.

Members of the Cold Lake First Nation say the land within the English Bay Provincial Recreation Area contains 4,000-year-old artifacts, burial grounds and ceremonial sites, the Toronto Globe & Mail reported.

Band member Carrie Lawrence says several band members set up teepees and a few tents last month on the western shore of the lake in protest and are determined not to leave. They fear the project, which is intended to expand tourism and recreation, will ruin the area.

“We want them to leave it as is. No development. They have already come in and torn out a lot of trees and medicine spots, a lot of berry patches,” she said Monday (June 6).

“It is very sad. It is very heart-wrenching to see that people would do this.”

Alberta’s Parks Department plans to transform the area northeast of Edmonton into a 185-site RV campground with power hookups, a boat launch, a parking lot and a playground.

The province acknowledges the site has strong cultural significance to the aboriginal community and closed the recreation area to the public in 2006 to do archeological work. The department says it found artifacts dating back several thousand years, which it says it has preserved.

Parks officials were not available to answer questions about what kind of artifacts were found.

The department’s website says the development has been approved to proceed.

The first nation went to court in Edmonton last month seeking a judicial review and an injunction to stop work on the RV park.

The province and band reached a deal in which the government put the project on hold pending a July court hearing. Band members were to take down their protest camp, but some of them have refused to leave.

Last Friday, the province went to court seeking an order to force the remaining protesters out.

Lisanne Lewis, a spokeswoman for Alberta Aboriginal Relations, said the government is now waiting for that court ruling to be issued.

“We are disappointed that some members of the First Nation are opposing the campsite development,” she said.

“Our position is that adequate consultation did indeed take place and is now complete.”

Lewis deferred questions about the government’s decision to develop the RV park to Parks Department officials, who were not available for comment.

A report commissioned by Alberta Parks in 2009 said increasing the number of RV campsites should be the government’s top recreational camping priority. It also said such sites should be near lakes or rivers.

The report suggested that RV camping continues to be popular despite the economic downturn and that most owners plan to buy larger vehicles in the future.

The protesting band members are getting some support from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada.

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