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EDMONTON (CP) - A native land claim that might have blocked plans for a coal mine near the boundary of Jasper National Park has been rejected by the federal Native Claims Commission. "The commission has refused to investigate. They've closed that door on us," said Julie Lloyd, the lawyer acting for Smallboy Camp chief Wayne Roan.
The commission, an independent body established to accelerate the usually lengthy claim process, told Roan it can only hear land claims from legally recognized Indian bands. Lloyd has not met with Roan since the camp leader was severely beaten a week ago in what police described as a family dispute, and said she has no instructions to seek band status for the camp.
Lack of band status won't affect Roan's $50 million claim for damages from the federal government if Cardinal River Coals Ltd. is allowed to open the Cheviot Mine in the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Jasper National Park, she said. Nor have they given up hope of stopping the project. "Our next move, if we can get the Federal Court to hear us, is to apply for an injunction to stop the federal government from approving the project," Lloyd said.
Fred Munn, a spokesperson for Cardinal River Coals, said the decision by the Indian Claims Commission did not change anything. "Our objective was to maintain a good neighbourly relationship with the camp and that remains." In the statement filed in Federal Court last summer, Roan staked out the Smallboy's claim to their campsite, 20 kilometres south of the proposed mine. Included in the claim is an area known as the Redcap Creek refugium, which covers about 40% of the Cheviot project.
Smallboy Camp was established by Robert Smallboy, a former chief of the Ermineskin band at Hobbema. In 1968 Smallboy led about 160 followers into the mountains to escape the corrupting influences of modern life.
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