Under the First Nation’s land situated in Alberta lies the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen oil in the world, estimated to be larger than England. Commercial oil production in the area began in 1967 and in 2012 the reservoir produced 1.8 million barrels of oil per day.
BCFN claims that the Canadian government has not honored their part of a treaty signed in 1876 (but reviewed and ratified a number of times since). The court case rests on a few key points within the treaty including a commitment that any industry ‘cannot impact First Nation’s right to hunt, fish, trap and gather plant medicine’ (source)
The area in question has been heavily impacted by the oil industry, including oil spills into local waterways in 2013. This is the first court case to argue the the cumulative effects of industry violates the treaty with BCFN (rather than a single incident).
If courts rule in favour of BCFN it could set a precedence for other oil rich areas which sit on traditional lands. It would make it practically impossible for oil companies to continue to expand their production within Beaver Lake Cree lands.