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First Nations vow to continue fight against Trans Mountain despite Supreme Court ruling

Last Updated Jul 2, 2020 at 10:02 am PST

Summary

First Nations members say they won't stop in their legal battle to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Supreme Court of Canada dismissed request for an appeal brought forward by several First Nations on Thursday

'We’re not deterred and are exploring all legal options,' Tsleil-Waututh First Nation's Chief Leah George-Wilson says

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Members of the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band say they won’t stop fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite their appeal being thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed the request for an appeal brought forward by the Coldwater Indian Band, Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and the Ts’elxweyeqw Tribes, effectively bringing a years-long battle over the pipeline expansion to an end.

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada,” Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Chief Leah George-Wilson said following the ruling. “This case is about more than a risky pipeline and tanker project; it is a major setback for reconciliation. It reduces consultation to a purely procedural requirement that will be a serious barrier to reconciliation.”

The Trans Mountain expansion would nearly triple the amount of bitumen carried by the pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to a tank farm in Burnaby.

In 2016, the federal government gave its first approval of the project, but it was challenged by Indigenous and environmental groups and the courts overturned it in 2018, saying Ottawa had not properly consulted First Nations or done enough to gauge the effects on marine mammals.

Related article: Supreme Court won’t allow First Nations’ appeal of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

After taking it back to the table, the project was approved again in June of last year, after which opponents again appealed the decision, losing in federal court earlier this year.

“To say we are disappointed in this decision is an understatement,” said Syeta’ xtn (Chris Lewis), Squamish Nation spokesperson and councillor. “Indigenous peoples have a constitutional right to meaningful consultation and accommodation, and the courts must scrutinize that process. The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to let the federal government be the judge and jury of its own consultation efforts was flawed in so many ways, and we are shocked to learn that the Supreme Court of Canada has failed to recognize that. Though this particular challenge is now over, we will continue to exercise all available options to hold the government to a higher standard, both for this project and for future projects in our territories.”

The First Nations say they will explore all legal options and aren’t deterred by the decision.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was first approved in 2016 after the Canada Energy Regulated — then called the National Energy Board — concluded it was in the public interest. Cabinet approved the expansion in November 2016.

The federal government announced a deal to buy the pipeline and expansion from Kinder Morgan Canada in May 2018, for $4.5 billion, to ensure it would proceed. The purchase was officially made in August 2018.

-With files from The Canadian Press

More to come.