Tribe's Protest Passes Deadline at Alberta Campground

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June 8, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Cold Lake blockade site

A court-ordered deadline for members of the Dene Suline people to leave a Cold Lake, Alberta, protest camp has passed with no eviction action, according to the Alberta government.

Since May 6, about 20 members of the community have been camped at the English Bay Provincial Recreation Area to stop the expansion of a provincial campground they say infringes on traditional land, the Edmonton Journal reported.

Construction has been on hold for weeks because of an interim injunction from the Court of Queen’s Bench. The protesters have been living in tents. They have not blocked roads or access to the area.

A court order approved Friday and filed Monday specified that the protesters must vacate by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (June 7).

An hour before the deadline, an Alberta Aboriginal Relations spokeswoman said there was no government plan to evict the group.

“We’re wait and see what they do at 4:30, but we’re still hoping things can be decided through meetings and negotiation rather than enforcement,” Lisanne Lewis said.

After the deadline, protesters could not be reached to confirm their status.

Earlier in the day, protester Carrie Lawrence said there has been no police enforcement, though they visit the site daily.

“All we’re doing right now is making sure peace is maintained out there,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Rob Cunningham. “There hasn’t been a need for anything more.”

While protesters don’t want to leave, Lawrence said, they don’t know what they will do if ordered to move. “We’ll have to reach a consensus and move on from there.”

The contested campground has existed since the 1950s, but the provincial government began work on expanding and redeveloping the area in 2006. The original redevelopment was stopped soon after it began, when historical artifacts were found.

The redevelopment was on hold until earlier this year, when Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation got the go-ahead to continue.

“This is the area where we hold ceremony, where we gather berries and traditional medicines, it holds the gravesites of my ancestors.” Lawrence said. “We have erected this peace camp to ensure we can continue to practise our spiritual, cultural and treaty rights. Rights are more important than RVs.”

Greenpeace and the Sierra Club support the Dene Suline people.

The campground is about 25 miles north of Cold Lake.

A court hearing on the issue is expected in late July.

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