Four B.C. First Nations Seek Supreme Court Appeal on Trans Mountain
Four British Columbia First Nations are seeking permission for a Supreme Court appeal of a lower court’s unanimous decision supporting the federal government’s re-approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.
“The Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes, and Coldwater Indian Band have each filed applications to the country’s highest court, looking to challenge the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss their appeals in February,” CBC reports.
“Each applicant has its own distinct concerns about the impacts of the pipeline expansion, which if built would carry nearly a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta to B.C.’s coast,” the national broadcaster explains. “For Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish, protecting the Burrard Inlet and the southern resident killer whales from increased tanker traffic and potential oil spills have been at the heart of their opposition to the project.” Coldwater is looking to protect the aquifer that supplies its drinking water, while the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes “are concerned about their established fishing rights on the Fraser River.”
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Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson called the Federal Court of Appeal decision a “major setback in reconciliation,” adding that “if unchallenged it could change the way consultation and consultation cases happen in Canada, making it less meaningful for protecting our inherent, constitutionally-protected Aboriginal rights.”
“It is integral that we challenge that appeal decision,” agreed Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson Khelsilem. “It must be scrutinized by a higher level of courts.”
Natural Resources Canada said it was aware of the applications, and that the federal government would be responding. “We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure this project moves forward in the right way, every step of the way, including by working with Indigenous peoples,” the department told CBC in an emailed statement.
“In its unanimous decision to dismiss the appeals, the Federal Court of Appeal summarized the First Nations’ positions as trying to ‘impose a standard of perfection’ on the consultation process,” CBC recalls. “Now, the First Nations appellants want the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in. As a court of leave, the Supreme Court will make the decision to hear the case or not.”