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Court rejects appeal of Canada Trans Mountain pipeline

Native leaders vow to fight contentious oil project

Barry Ellsworth  | 03.07.2020 - Update : 03.07.2020
Court rejects appeal of Canada Trans Mountain pipeline

TRENTON, Canada 

British Columbia Indian bands have vowed to vigorously oppose expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline despite Canada’s high court rejection to halt the project.

Following the dismissal by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, and Coldwater Indian Band leaders said while disappointed, they anticipated the decision and the fight against the pipeline will go on.

“This decision doesn’t alter our Tsleil-Waututh Nation law. It doesn’t change who we are. It doesn’t change what we do. It doesn’t change the fact that that’s our inlet (coast harbour) and it’s our responsibility to protect our land and water that never changes,” Chief Leah George-Wilson told APTN News (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) following the court ruling, Thursday.

The decision marks the second time the bands have appealed to the courts to stop the project, which will expand the pipeline’s capacity to carry crude and refined oil from the oil sands in the province of Alberta, to the coast of British Columbia at the port of Burnaby.

The expansion of the 1,150-km pipeline – the project will add about 980 km of new pipeline – will increase barrel per day capacity to 890,000 from 300,000. The oil is sent to refineries in Washington State, several refineries in B.C. as well as being exported by way of Pacific Ocean tankers.

The expansion project has a troubled history.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes argued that they had not been adequately consulted by the government on the project and in 2016, and the Federal Court of Appeal agreed.

An American company, Kinder Morgan, was originally going to do the expansion but pulled out because it was delayed by legal and political protests, including B.C. Premier John Horgan who said he had a duty to protect the province’s Pacific coast from oil spills.

In May 2018, the Trudeau government paid Kinder Morgan $4.5 billion to acquire it, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying the project was “vital” to Canada’s economy.

That did not stop opposition and in fact seemed to intensify it.

After a second round of consultations, the government once again approved the project. The First Nations went to court again but in February 2020 the court agreed with Ottawa and paving the way for the go ahead.

The court said the bands were trying to “impose a standard of perfection” on the consultation process.

The bands appealed to challenge that decision based on what they said was again a flawed consultation but on Thursday, the court denied the application.


Chief says Indigenous people must protect the land

Chief George-Wilson said the bands will continue to oppose the pipeline and will explore unspecified legal options. She said the project threatens to halt a push for Canada to reconcile with the native bands over the country’s historical abuse of its Indigenous peoples.

“What is happening is about more than just a risky pipeline and tanker project,” she said. “We see this as a setback for reconciliation.”

And she added opposition “will not be altered by a decision from the Canadian courts. Our own Indigenous law is what brings us to where we are today.”

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Reagan was pleased with court ruling but added discussions with the Indian bands will be ongoing.

“We’ll continue to engage them,” he said. “You know the federal government had the duty to regulate here, to monitor and to make sure of engagement to communities. We understand that this is a contentious project.”

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