The Oldman River Dam is located near the town of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Its construction pitted the indigenous First Nations Piikani peoples against the provincial government of Alberta, the national Minister of Public Works, Supply and Services, and the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Alberta’s government began to consider the dam in 1974 in order to aid the white settler farmers, irrigate their lands, and alleviate damage from uncontrolled floods during the spring and harsh droughts during the summer. The Piikanis believed that their concerns were to be heeded by the government. But they were not. Then, in the late 1980s, an environmental group, Friends of the Oldman River Society, sued Alberta, seeking to block the dam’s continued construction because no environmental impact review was conducted. At that point, the dam was almost completed. The case made its way to Canada’s Supreme Court, which converted the dispute from one over a dam to one over constitutional rights of governmental actions.
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