Two aboriginal bands in Alberta say their treaty rights have been violated by industrial overuse of the Athabasca River and they want veto power over some new oilsands projects.

“When it comes to those concerns, that's pretty much what we're seeking — veto power in regards to development,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, located downstream of the oilsands in Fort Chipewyan.

“We want to have say in development in our region in regards to being sustainable.”

The Athabasca Chipewyan and the Mikisew Cree made the claim Thursday after releasing a study documenting how low river levels restrict their ability to use their land, most of which can only be reached by boat.

Researcher Craig Candler interviewed a total of 27 members from both bands. He asked them a set of standard questions on how water levels and water quality have affected them. He heard that water levels have been declining for decades to the point that boats can longer get into many lakes and tributaries that used to be productive hunting and fishing grounds.

“If people can’t move around their territories, they cannot practise their traditions or their rights,” he said.

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