Top Canada court will not hear oil sands case

Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:42pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada's Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear an Alberta aboriginal group's application to block an upcoming regulatory decision for a Royal Dutch Shell oil sands development.

The aboriginal group sought the block because it was not adequately consulted.

The country's top court did not give reasons for refusing to hear the case, which was also dismissed by the Alberta Court of Appeal in November.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation argued that the regulatory panel weighing Shell's application for its Jackpine mine expansion in northern Alberta should consider whether the government met its constitutional duty to consult the native group.

However, the Joint Review Panel said it did not have the jurisdiction to consider the question and added that, even if it did, it would be premature to rule whether the government fulfilled its duty at that stage of the proceedings.

Athabasca First Nation Chief Allan Adam said he was "truly disappointed" with the Supreme Court decision.

"We understand that this Joint Review Panel was supposed to uphold everyone's constitutional rights; why has there been an exception with regards to First Nations' consultation rights? Government must be held accountable to their treaty obligations," Adam said in a statement.

Native issues are taking on increasing profile as energy development in Canada expands rapidly close to aboriginal communities.

The regulatory hearing for Shell's 100,000 barrel a day expansion project was completed in November and Shell is awaiting a decision.   Continued...