Supreme Court Dismisses Indigenous Appeal of Trans Mountain Re-Approval
The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a bid by three British Columbia First Nations to appeal the federal government’s re-approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Coldwater Indian Band “were seeking leave to appeal a February decision by the Federal Court of Appeal that found cabinet’s approval of the pipeline project in June 2019 was reasonable under the law,” CBC reports. Yesterday, “leaders with the Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation said they will keep exploring other avenues” to stop the project.
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“To let the federal government be its own judge and jury of its consultation process was flawed in so many ways,” said Squamish Nation spokesperson Syeta’xtn (Chris Lewis).
But “our decision to reject the project…will not be altered by a decision from the Canadian courts,” said Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson on Thursday. “We are not deterred.”
The Appeals Court decision “relied on a finding that cabinet’s determination of its own consultation process was adequate,” CBC explains. In submissions to the Supreme Court, “the First Nations argued the decision should have been made at arm’s length—considering cabinet is the owner of the project and is not an expert in consultation.”
Both Indigenous spokespeople said the decision was a “disappointing step back”, not only for the Trans Mountain fight, but for the relationship between First Nations and Canada. “This case is about more than a pipeline,” said George-Wilson. “It is a major setback for reconciliation.”
While the First Nations involved in the case said it was “premature” to get specific about next steps, CBC says West Coast Environmental Law attorney Eugene Kung stressed the need for speed as pipeline construction continues.
The federal and Alberta governments both declared themselves pleased with the decision, with Ottawa saying the ruling showed that it met the legal duty to consult Indigenous peoples on the project. “To those who are disappointed with today’s SCC decision—we see you and we hear you,” said federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan. “Canada will continue to engage with Indigenous groups at each step of the project in the months and years to come, and in the spirit of partnership, to make sure we get this right.”
“This is an affirmation that reconciliation also means ‘reconcili-action,’” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. “It means economic opportunity, it means saying yes to the vast majority of First Nations and Indigenous people who want to move their communities from poverty to prosperity by being full participants in responsible resource development.”