The Council of General Synod (CoGS) has consented to lease mineral rights on land near Lethbridge, Alta. that was once the site of a residential school.
All revenue from the lease and possible production of oil and gas will be devoted to indigenous ministries, CoGS agreed at its meeting Nov. 15 to 18.
The property is now a provincial historical resource, owned by The Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada (MSCC). The lease will be a joint venture between KaNai Resources, owned by the Blood Band, which also holds resource rights, and Murphy Oil.
Chancellor David Jones said that officers of General Synod consulted widely about the issue, including the chief of the Blood tribe whose reserve is located near the property, the Anglican Council on Indigenous Peoples, and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald.
Bishop Dennis Drainville, of the diocese of Quebec, was the lone opponent to the plan, citing environmental concerns. Drainville asked if fracking, which he called “a dangerous thing,” would be used. [Fracking is a process of extracting gas and oil from deep shale rock formations by injecting water and chemicals at high pressure.]
Jones said yes, but that advice had been sought from Dr. Robert Mummery, a University of Calgary geologist, who stated that there is “no technical, environmental or social reason not to enter into the lease.”
There will be “no danger of contamination to fresh water aquifers,” said Mummery in an email to Jones, copies of which were distributed to CoGS members. Mummery added that a spokesman for KaiNai Resources has said that testing of water supplies would take place before and after the drilling “to confirm that no contamination has occurred.” There are “a small number of vocal opponents” among the tribe’s population of over 100,000 people, but the tribal council and elders have endorsed it, added Mummery.
The Chief of the Blood Tribe, Charles Weaselhead, has informed the church that his tribe and his council have endorsed the lease. “It is necessary for the Blood tribe to participate fully in its own resource development as a continuation of the Blood Tribe’s goal towards self-determination,” said Weaselhead in a letter to Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada.
MacDonald told CoGS that although he had some concerns about environmental issues, he supported the concurrence of the local band to the lease as “part of their sovereignty.”
In a memorandum to the MSCC board of directors, Jones said it is not possible to estimate what revenues will come from the lease over time.