Supreme Court dismisses Indigenous appeal of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Supreme Court dismisses Indigenous appeal of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

OTTAWA — Several B.C. First Nations vowed Thursday to keep their fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion going, despite losing what appears to be the last known legal option to overturn federal approval of the project.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal from Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band. The dismissal, which as usual came with no explanation for the decision, effectively upholds a decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in February that Ottawa’s June 2019 approval of the project was sound.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government had worked hard to hear and accommodate concerns the communities have with the project and welcomed the court’s decision.

“The government approved TMX because it is an important project for Canada,” he said in a statement.

“Construction of TMX is underway and has already created more than 4,900 good, well-paying jobs, will help us gain access to new markets for our resources and generate revenue to help fund clean energy and climate change solutions.”

The pipeline is currently expected to be in service in about two years.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the dismissal another “legal vindication” for the pipeline, which was first proposed eight years ago but has been delayed by numerous legal challenges.

It clears the way for construction to continue on the project, which will nearly triple the amount of diluted bitumen that can be carried from Alberta’s oilsands to a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

“This is yet another critical victory for pipelines, for our prosperity,” Kenney said at an event in Taber, Alta., Thursday morning. He said 120 of 129 First Nations affected by the pipeline either approve or do not object to it.

The First Nations behind the appeal, however, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the outcome, and vowed to fight on.

“What I can tell you today is that this is not the end of our story,” said Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Leah George-Wilson, at an online news conference.

George-Wilson said she will now consult with her community before deciding what to do next. She and other community leaders said there remain some legal options open to them but declined to say what they are.

Chris Lewis, a Squamish Nation councillor, said the next steps for his community will be “focused on protecting our territory to the full extent possible.” He said an ongoing study underway about diluted bitumen will be a key part of that.

Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan said his community will continue to push back about the planned route for the pipeline, which it says puts its aquifer at risk, the sole source of drinking water for the First Nation.

But Thursday’s decision is the end of the road to have the courts overturn the federal government’s approval of the project, and is the fourth court victory this year for pipeline proponents, including the February Appeal court decision at the centre of Thursday’s case.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled against the B.C. government’s attempt to regulate what can flow through the pipeline in January because as an interprovincial project it is entirely within federal jurisdiction. In March it also declined to hear an appeal over the federal approval from environment groups.

Ottawa has now approved the project twice, forced to do more Indigenous consultation and environmental review after the Federal Court of Appeal agreed with First Nations and environment groups that the first attempts were flawed. In February, however, that court said Ottawa had now lived up to its duty to consult.

The First Nations leaders speaking Thursday vowed the pipeline will never be finished, and questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s repeated assertion that there is no relationship more important to him than Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

“This case is about more than a risky pipeline and a tanker project,” George-Wilson said. ”It is a major setback for reconciliation. It reduces consultation to a purely procedural requirement that will be a serious barrier to reconciliation.”

She said the Federal Court of Appeal relied on Ottawa’s own assessment of its consultation process, which she argued was flawed since Ottawa now owns the pipeline and so had a conflict of interest.

Trudeau has repeatedly sold the project as a compromise between Canada’s need to develop and take advantage of its natural resources in order to fund a transition to a cleaner, greener future.

Most oil produced in Alberta is sold at a discount because Canada is so heavily reliant on the United States as its customer. The hope is that this pipeline will carry more Canadian oil to the Pacific, where it can make its way to Asia and raise the price companies can get for oil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2020.

— with files from Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly included the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes among the appellants. They withdrew from the case in April.

Trans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

College expects lower enrolment but president remains optimistic

International travel restrictions will have big impact on foreign students

Alberta’s active COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards

85 new cases Tuesday, active cases sit at 1,004

Overwhelming majority of Red Deer students could be back in classrooms this fall

Preliminary survey results show 94 per cent parental support

Some Red Deer County residents oppose a gravel pit proposed for a flood-prone area

Howell’s Excavation co-owner says the proposal meets or exceeds standards

Workers at Regina linen company contract COVID-19 but facility safe: officials

REGINA — Health officials say 18 employees at a linen facility in… Continue reading

Alberta reports 257 new cases of COVID-19

The Alberta government reported 257 new cases of COVID-19 in its latest… Continue reading

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez notches upset in first round of Top Seed Open

Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez notches upset in first round of Top Seed Open

Healthy ace Scherzer pitches Nats past Mets 2-1 for 1st win

Healthy ace Scherzer pitches Nats past Mets 2-1 for 1st win

Portland beats Orlando 2-1 to claim MLS is Back championship

Portland beats Orlando 2-1 to claim MLS is Back championship

First-round back-to-backs favour NHL teams with 2 top goalies

First-round back-to-backs favour NHL teams with 2 top goalies

NHL pushes game back a day after 4 overtimes in playoff opener

NHL pushes game back a day after 4 overtimes in playoff opener

Lightning outlast Blue Jackets 3-2 in 5 OT thriller

Lightning outlast Blue Jackets 3-2 in 5 OT thriller

Shaw, Blue Jays beat Marlins 5-4 in MLB’s return to Buffalo

Shaw, Blue Jays beat Marlins 5-4 in MLB’s return to Buffalo

Most Read