Canada's First Nations Score Victory as Court Rejects Pipeline Expansion

Canada's First Nations Score Victory as Court Rejects Pipeline Expansion

Kenneth Drake
September 1, 2018

The move is seen as retaliation to today's decision by the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn a previous approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has dominated Alberta politics in the past year and it, along with everything it represents - including Alberta's carbon tax - is expected to overshadow all other issues in the spring election.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says a court decision striking down the approval of the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a national crisis - and she's pulling her province out of the federal climate plan until Ottawa fixes it.

"But the court has said clearly that listening to Indigenous groups is not enough, there needs to be a meaningful, two-way dialogue where the government addresses their concerns".

The expansion, which has sparked anti-pipeline protests, pro-pipeline rallies and an Alberta-B.C. standoff in recent months, will almost triple the line's capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

Also on Thursday, the shareholders of Kinder Morgan, the company responsible for Trans Mountain, voted overwhelming in favour of selling the pipeline to the Canadian government. "There's a whole host of issues that the federal government and our government agree on".

The 2018 provincial budget forecasted a debt load that would balloon to $96 billion by 2023 from $54 billion this year.

The decision also triggered dismay from business groups and supporters of the pipeline expansion, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calling it "devastating news for energy workers across Canada and for Canadian taxpayers".

Lee Spahan, chief of the Coldwater First Nation in the Nicola Valley - which he said is known as the people of the creek - said the ruling helps save water.

"This decision is a monumental win for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and all of us who stand with them in firm opposition to a project that would massively increase climate pollution and put our coast at huge risk of oil spills", Robertson said in a statement. And he sharply criticized the court, asserting that the judiciary did not understand the impact of its ruling on jobs, businesses and First Nations' opportunities.

The NEB will have to restart its review of the expansion project.

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The court decision does not affect Canada's purchase of the project from Kinder Morgan, Anderson said in his statement.

The decision was a major victory for Canadian First Nations, environmental groups and US tribes that opposed the pipeline expansion.

The court decision cited the Trudeau government's failure to consult with Canada's First Nations, specifically the government's insufficient treatment of oral traditional evidence, lack of sufficient time given in the consultation process for affected groups to inform themselves well enough to participate, and failure to consult about the environmental assessment.

"We will analyze this decision and respond promptly", he said.

Canada's finance minister, Bill Morneau, echoed Trudeau's sentiments at a press conference on Thursday, saying that "we are absolutely committed to moving forward with this project", but adding that the government had yet to decide whether it would appeal.

Further delays will harm Canada's economy by limiting access to global markets, said Al Reid, executive vice-president of oil producer Cenovus Energy Inc, whose shares dropped 4.4 percent.

The Squamish Nation called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to abandon the proposed expansion. They were supported by the province of British Columbia, which acted as an intervener.

In its initial study of the project, the NEB found that the pipeline would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts.

"I was expecting a more mixed ruling", said Gene McGuckin of Burnaby Residents Against Kinder Morgan Expansion.

"Without question today is a day of celebration", said Grand Chief Stewart Philip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in an interview posted on Facebook.

"The current state of affairs in Canada is such that building a pipeline to tidewater is practically impossible", she continued.