Good news: Advance Costs Granted to Beaver Lake Cree Nation to Proceed with Tar Sands Trial

3 October 2019: First published by RAVEN Trust here; reprinted with permission

This week, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted advance costs to Beaver Lake Cree Nation to allow it to proceed with its “Tar Sands Trial” treaty case against Canada and Alberta.

It’s a huge breakthrough for a case that’s been called ‘a gamechanger’ for Indigenous rights in Canada. Now, after years of fundraising and pulling funds from critical community development initiatives to fund the case, Beaver Lake Cree will have the majority of the resources they need to mount a vigorous, well-researched case. 

Why? Because the Court ruled that a case that aims to determine just what treaties are worth in the face of rapid industrialization is of “national importance”. 

We knew that: and you knew that too. That’s why you donated, fundraised, organized events and spread the word to raise nearly $300K in 2018 for the Beaver Lake Cree to pursue this bold strategy to bring their historic case to trial. 

With this advance cost award, Beaver Lake Cree Nation will have the financial resources  to pursue a case which could transform “business as usual” in the oil sands, slowing expansion and forcing every project to be evaluated according to impacts on treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

The Tar Sands Trial would force regulators to consider cumulative effects of industrial development, including fracking and in-situ oil sands extraction. At its core, the case is about upholding the treaties – which enshrine powerful Indigenous rights – ahead of approving projects, such as tar sands extraction, that could render those rights meaningless. 

Supporters outside Court during hearing Feb. 2019

Today, we are one giant leap closer to setting a legal precedent that will uphold the treaties that this country is founded upon. 

The RAVEN community stood strong behind Beaver Lake Cree: you should be incredibly proud of the role you played in lifting up the voices of a frontline Indigenous community.  Thank you for taking a stand, and drawing a line.

To run a national campaign in support of Beaver Lake Cree RAVEN has teamed up with some amazing partners! The Leap, Cadboro Bay United Church, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Justice Climatique Montréal et Climate Justice Edmonton: we couldn’t have done it without you! A big thank-you also to Greenpeace Ontario and the Climate Action Network.

Onwards, 

RAVEN Trust Team

Call to Action:

We crowdfund for this case in Europe! As you can tell, environmental human rights litigation is making progress. Any financial help is always appreciated — especially when you donate on a monthly basis. This makes it easier for lawyers to plan ahead. Litigation, even with all the legal help from people who donate their time, remains expensive. Thank you.

The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing 19,000 permits for mineral developments (mostly tar sands mining) on their territory. For more information, check here.

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South African Appeal Case Challenges Business-as-Usual Attitude of Coal Mine Company

Originally published by SaveOurWilderness.org on 18 September 2019; re-published with permission.

On Tuesday, 17 September 2019 at 9h30, Judge Seegobin granted the Global Environmental Trust (GET) and the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) the right to take their matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

The attendance at the Application for Leave to Appeal in the Pietermaritzburg High Court the previous week on Wednesday, 11 September, indicated that the case is gaining recognition as significant in bringing clarity to an area of law that no court has ruled on yet.

The involvement of the Cape Town based Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) as amicus curiae (friend of the court), with both representative attorneys Catherine Horsfield and Max du Plessis being present in the court, was valuable in assisting Judge Seegobin with aspects of the case that had been less clear during the initial court appearance a year ago. Having Adv. Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to represent GET & MCEJO, who also represented the Amadiba Crisis Committee in their #Right2SayNo campaign against the mining of the Xolobeni dunes, also elevated the status of the Tendele mining case. 

The main issue concerns disagreement about the role, before 2014, of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) under the then Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) under the Department of Mineral Resources.

Ngcukaitobi and du Preez argued that both pieces of legislation needed to be complied with, which required Tendele mine to have an environmental authorisation based on an environmental impact assessment, required by NEMA, and the Environmental Management Plan required by MPRDA.

Tendele’s lawyers argued that the MPRDA trumped NEMA and that, given Tendele had an approved environmental management plan report (EMPr) required by MPRDA, then this was sufficient, and the mine was compliant.

If there are reasonable prospects that the Supreme Court of Appeal would come to a different conclusion or if the matter is of sufficient public importance, which raises novel issues worthy of attention of the Supreme Court, then Judge Seegobin was obliged to grant leave to appeal. The cases cited by Ngcukaitobi and du Preez provided support that another judge would support their view. 

Further to the appeal, Ngcukaitobi and du Preez presented very strong grounds that another judge would likely come to a different decision about awarding costs against civil society organisations (in this case, GET and MCEJO) that had brought a matter of public interest to court. Based on the Biowatch ConCourt judgement, as well as several other cases, it became clear that this alone opened the way for the right to appeal to be granted.

Tendele’s legal team and even Judge Seegobin played down the importance of the costs order by saying that the mine had agreed not to pursue this and so, in a sense, the costs order no longer existed. Attorney du Preez was particularly vocal about the judgement being on SAFLII, the legal register of reported cases that judges and magistrates rely on when coming to a decision based on precedent. He argued that it is critically important that this judgement, with its potentially chilling effect on civil society to approach the courts with constitutional matters, has to be contested and overturned.

Kirsten Youens, lead attorney for GET and MCEJO, sees the tide turning for her 4 000 clients who constitute the MCEJO organisation in Somkhele, South Africa.

“It has been a long road. They have suffered since 2007, when Tendele started mining without environmental authorisation or meaningful compensation to land rights holders. Finally, my clients can see that the legal system serves them too and the law applies to all. I and the incredible team of public interest lawyers that support me, will continue to fight together with GET for the rights of MCEJO, the environment and for justice to be done.”

Attorney Kirsten Youens
Mr Gednezar Dladla, center, addressing the community

Sabelo Dladla, the second applicant in this matter, was delighted to receive the news of the appeal on the same day he turned 24 years old. “This judgement is the best birthday present I could ask for. Thank you, Kirsten and our legal team.”

Dladla, an ecotourism graduate, grew up next to Tendele mine and helplessly watched while his parents lost their wealth, after their grazing land was taken away from them by Tendele mine — without compensation. At the funeral of his father, the well-known activist Mr Gednezar Dladla in 2015, Sabelo promised to all those present that he would take over the struggle against Tendele mine, in the name of justice for the residents of Somkhele for whom his father had so valiantly fought. This Sabelo Dladla has done. 

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The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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Leave to Appeal Granted in Zululand Case

17 September 2019, also published today at saveourwilderness.org.

The application by the Global Environmental Trust and the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, has been granted by Judge Rishi Seegobin . The Centre for Environmental Rights was granted the right to intervene as amicus curiae and was also granted the right to appeal.

Below is a facsimile of the order granted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court at 9:30am this morning, 17 September.

 The Centre for Environmental Rights is granted leave to intervene in these proceedings as amicus curiae.

The applicants and the Centre for Environmental Rights are granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The costs of the application for leave to appeal will be costs in the appeal.

We at The Crowd Versus are very happy and congratulate the people at Centre for Environmental Rights, the Global Environmental Trust and the Mfolozi Environmental Justice Organisation, and their lawyers.

From L/R : Catherine Horsfield and Tatenda Muponde of Centre for Environmental Rights. Kirsten Youens representing Global Environmental Trust and Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation.

Call to action

Do you want to help out with court costs? Copies of all necessary documents will still have to be made and forwarded to all parties to this litigation, plus the judge and the court itself. Donating is helping!

The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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Critical High Court Application Pushes for Mining Sector Compliance

On Wednesday, 11 September 2019, in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, South Africa, a strong legal team is determined to ensure the right to appeal the dismissal of GET & MCEJO’s application exposing Tendele coal mine’s lack of compliance with environmental laws and the Constitution, and to ensure the mining sector complies with the law.

MEDIA RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Originally published 10 September, 2019, by SaveOurWilderness.org

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – On Wednesday, 11 September 2019, at 9h00, the Application for Leave to Appeal last year’s ruling in favour of Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) is set to be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

On 20 November 2018, Judge Rishi Seegobin dismissed the application by the Global Environmental Trust (GET), Sabelo Dladla, a 24-year old activist who grew up next to the Tendele mine, and the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) that challenged Tendele’s non-compliance with environmental, planning, waste management authorisations, and cultural heritage legislation.

The judge ordered GET and MCEJO to pay the legal costs of the mine.

Setting

Tendele mine is situated 6 km away from the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, part of the historic Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP) and a sanctuary for rhinos for 110 years, drawing thousands of local and foreign visitors every year. The mine has been operating since 2007 without any environmental authorisations or a waste management licence.

At the time of the judgment last year, attorney Catherine Horsfield, who represents the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), expressed concern that the ruling has broad national implications. Specifically she stated that it “may open the door” for companies to disregard environmental laws and safeguards in the Constitution of South Africa. Ms. Horsfield also considered the judge’s punitive costs ordered against two community-based environmental groups to have a “chilling” legal effect. She feared it might negatively impact other vulnerable peoples from instituting public-interest litigation against powerful mining companies. CER has applied to be amicus curiae (or friends of the court for MCEJO and GET) in the Application for Leave to Appeal. Ms. Horsfield and advocate Max du Preez will attend the hearing to provide additional information to the court.

The legal team that will represent Mr. Dladla, GET and MCEJO on 11 September include lead attorney, Kirsten Youens, assisted by Janice Tooley Attorneys, EIA specialists; Johan Lorenzen of Richard Spoor Attorneys; and advocates Mawande Mazibuko and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. The team is determined to obtain leave to appeal Judge Seegobin’s ruling in the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein.

Two independent publications, one by the South African Human Rights Commission and the other by Human Rights Watch, cited Tendele as one of the mines disregarding the human rights of mining affected communities in SA, with the Somkhele/ Mpukunyoni residents being one of them.

This will open the way to achieving support from the South African courts into greater compliance by the mining sector. And, this court case gives an opportunity to South Africa’s judicial system to the coal mining sector that companies in breach of the country’s laws and regulations.

With the Global Climate Strike taking place on 20 September 2019, there is strong evidence of increasing momentum to hold companies and governments to account and to put pressure on them to reduce fossil fuel expansion and dependence in order to prevent the increasing threat of devastating climate impacts.

Wednesday 11 September 2019 offers an opportunity for South Africa to demonstrate alignment with this international trend for sustainability.

CONTACT:  Kirsten Youens, youens@youensattorneys.co.za or Sabelo Dladla, sabelodladla1@gmail.com.

Want to help? You may donate below — with our deep appreciation!

The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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The Crowd vs. GM Corn in Mexico

87% funded
We've raised €15,267.33 of the €17,500.00 we are trying to raise for this case!

The Crowd vs. GM Corn in Mexico

Stop Monsanto and other multinationals from growing genetically modified (GM) corn that will force all farmers to grow GM corn, will harm biodiversity, and ultimately puts Mexican cultural heritage and way of life at risk. Read more…

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The Crowd claims

Stop Monsanto and other multinationals from growing genetically modified (GM) corn that will force all farmers to grow GM corn, will harm biodiversity, and ultimately puts Mexican cultural heritage and way of life at risk.

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The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

49% funded
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The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing 19,000 permits for mineral developments (mostly tar sands mining) on their territory. For more information, check here.

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The Crowd claims

Stop tarsands mining, protect the world’s most important carbon sinks, and hold Canada accountable for breaking their constitutional promise to the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation.

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The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador

The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador

Amazon people want access to justice in the Supreme Court of Canada for the reparation of their lands. Read more…

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93% funded
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The Crowd Claims

The lawsuit against Chevron by the Amazon people raises two fundamental questions for the Canadian court to decide:

(1) Should justice prioritize human rights over the interests of transnational corporations?

(2) Should justice require the polluter to pay for damage to the environment and the people?

If your answer is positive, then please support the struggle of these Ecuadorian communities by helping them achieve access to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Their victory will be your victory.

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The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

85% funded
We've raised €10,618.09 of the €12,500.00 we are trying to raise for this case!

The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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Donation Total: $11.03 One Time

{amount} donation plus {fee_amount} to help cover fees.

The Crowd Claims

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.

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