A decision by Canada’s top court rejecting an appeal by three B.C First Nations challenging the second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a failure to uphold Indigenous title and rights, according to the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
In a statement, UBCIC said it shares its ‘deep’ disappointment with the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band on the Supreme Court decision issued Thursday, July 2, 2020.
“The court’s decision to dismiss this application for appeal is a continuation of Canada’s adversarial approach to Indigenous peoples and our rights. It is disheartening that the federal government has fought Indigenous nations in court at every turn in order to build an oil pipeline during a global climate emergency,” said UBCIC vice-president Chief Don Thomas.
“Cabinet’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples rings hollow when they force Indigenous Nations to defend their lands and their rights in a courtroom year after year.”
The three First Nations were seeking for leave to appeal a February 4, 2020 decision by the Federal Court of Appeal upholding the second approval of the $12.6-billion project.
Subject to 156 conditions, the twinning of the pipeline will result in nearly a billion barrels of heavy oils such as diluted bitumen being transported daily from Alberta to B.C’s coast where it will be shipped via tankers to markets around the world. It is a project the federal government maintains that Canada needs.
Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, said construction of Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) is underway and has already created more than 4,900 well-paying jobs. He noted the pipeline will help Canada gain access to new markets for its resources and generate revenue to help fund clean energy and climate change solutions.
Also hailing the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada as welcome news was the Trans Mountain Corporation and Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Chief Leah George-Wilson said the decision is a major setback for reconciliation.
Squamish Nation spokesperson and Councillor Syeta’ xtn (Chris Lewis) said as Indigenous people they have the constitutional right for meaningful consultation and accommodation.
“The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to let federal government basically be the judge and jury of its own consultation efforts was in our view was very flawed in many ways…”
Syeta’ xtn maintains Canada isn’t prepared to mitigate potential environmental impacts from the project.
“We continue to hear we’ll study this into the future, we’ll have a study on the cumulative impacts or any of the impacts the Squamish Nation has stated but yet again they just went ahead after a very abbreviated short consultation period with the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nation in round two and approved it without having those studies done prior to that.”
Syeta’ xtn said the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations are participating in a joint study with Canada on modelling and studying the behavior of diluted bitumen in their waters if such a spill would occur.
The Nations have vowed to explore all legal options moving forward.
“The government still has a constitutional duty to consult us on the regulatory and permitting process so we’ll continue to voice our concerns throughout those aspects.”
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