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Taking the demonstration to Shell in London
Shell shareholders were “really shocked” when numerous activists “bombarded” Royal Dutch Shell executives with questions during Shell’s annual general meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, which was also broadcast live via satellite to shareholders in London.
“Going to the AGM, it magnified the fact that these multi-billion dollar, multi-national companies have a very pivotal place in changing the way the world works and in changing the way corporations work in treating a land-based people,” said Eriel Deranger, who spoke on behalf of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam at The Hague on May 22.
Deranger said that during the four-hour question and answer session she asked Royal Dutch executives how they felt about their subsidiary Shell Canada doing work on ACFN traditional land and not abiding by agreements that were signed with the First Nation.
“They just said, ‘We’re aware of your case,’ and then they turned to shareholders and said, ‘I want to inform you that we have really great relationships with Indigenous people downstream and this is nothing more than an anomaly,’” she said.
But Deranger doesn’t believe that all shareholders bought into that explanation.
“There were a lot of (shareholders) who came up to me afterwards and said they were really shocked at what was happening,” said Deranger. She noted that global warming and climate change are concerns voiced by shareholders, who said they didn’t want to make money at “the expense of the planet.”
She also noted that Royal Dutch officials said they were willing to meet with the community and address the issues.
“But our Chief has numerous times tried to sit down at the table to address these issues, but it has just been talking in circles,” said Deranger.
Shell Canada presently owns over 50 per cent of the Albion oil sands project in the Athabasca oil sands in ACFN traditional territory and has two projects in operation, Muskeg River and Jackpine. The company is proposing the expansion of the Jackpine project and the start-up of a third. The new Pierre River project is in an area untouched by development, which is critical caribou and bison habitat and still used for fishing by the community. Deranger said ACFN will challenge the expansion and new project.
Deranger said when Shell undertook the Jackpine and Muskeg projects, the company signed benefit agreements with ACFN that would allow ACFN to have a voice in the project development, with Shell providing ACFN funding to allow for mitigation, reclamation, and monitoring. As well, Shell was to build an Elder centre and youth community centre. Those agreements have not been fulfilled by Shell and are presently the subject of litigation undertaken by ACFN against Royal Dutch Shell. That litigation is in its early stages.
Deranger was one of four Indigenous people from North America to make the trip to London and The Hague. The action was coordinated by the Indigenous Environmental Network and UK Tar Sands Network. Also in attendance were representatives from Alaska and Nigeria.
“We worked in partnership with the fact that there are numerous communities fighting Shell. So we wanted to go as a unified force. It was a point in working in unification with those opposing multinational corporations and specifically Shell,” she said. Between London and The Hague, 50 protestors gathered during the AGM.
We’re not just trying to point fingers at one corporation. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed on multiple levels, on provincial, federal government levels and with corporations themselves. Our rights need to be protected and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that happens,” said Deranger.
Photo caption: From the steps of the Alberta Legislature all the way to Shell’s boardroom in The Hague, Netherlands: Eriel Deranger (extreme right, second row) is part of the movement pushing for First Nations’ rights to control their lands.
Photo: Shari Narine
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