AFN Regional Chief for NWT and First Nation Leaders in Washington, D.C. to Meet with Obama Administration Officials on Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Project

OTTAWA, May 26, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for the Northwest Territories Bill Erasmus, who is also the Dene Nation National Chief, is in Washington, D.C. today with Chief Roxanne Marcel of Mikisew Cree First Nation and Canadian environmental leaders to meet with senior officials in the Obama administration regarding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. A Republican bill in Congress could force the Obama administration to approve the project before the end of 2011.

"We are here to ensure the Obama administration and U.S. officials fully understand the views and concerns of First Nations regarding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project and other major projects," stated Regional Chief Erasmus.  "First Nations are often the first to feel the impacts of projects in our territories and we have a right to be heard and involved in the planning of any such projects.  There are First Nations along all points of the proposed pipeline and Dene people and communities downstream of the Mackenzie River Basin who will be affected by any pipeline problems that occur upstream of the Basin. There should be no approval or decision on the pipeline until the U.S. government has considered all of the issues including upstream impacts. Canadian and U.S. governments must respect the standard of free, prior and informed consent of First Nations in any projects, consistent with standards established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

First Nation leaders and Canadian environmental leaders will provide a media briefing, sponsored by Congressman Steve Cohen, to discuss the U.S. proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline and the new reality of Canada's majority government.

The briefing will take place today, May 26, from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. EST at Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC, Room B339.

The briefing will follow meetings with senior officials in the Obama administration and comes just days after a House subcommittee hearing on a controversial Republican bill that would force the administration to make an early decision on permitting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated he fully supports the delegation and its objectives: "Just last week, I spoke at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York and stated that it is time for all governments - including the Canadian and United States governments - to respect, protect and fulfill Indigenous peoples' human rights as indicated in the provisions of the UN Declaration. In any projects that affect our people or traditional territories, we must engage early and engage often.  First Nations are not opposed to all development but it must be responsible, sustainable and we must have a say.  I fully support the delegation in its work of ensuring the U.S. government is fully aware of First Nation concerns and the First Nations position."

The National Chief noted that the AFN is holding the first-ever International Indigenous Summit on Energy and Mining in Niagara Falls, Ontario from June 27-29. The Summit is an opportunity to bring together First Nations, governments and industry to discuss key issues related to resource development, planning and partnerships.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline is proposing to construct and operate a crude oil pipeline and related facilities to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) crude oil from an oil supply in Alberta, Canada to south central United States. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline Project would cross Indigenous land between Saskatchewan, Canada, and the United States.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo.


For further information:

Don Kelly, AFN A/Communications Director 613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613- 241-6789, ext 382 or

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