Court to hear First Nations’ challenge of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

VANCOUVER – Four British Columbia Indigenous groups are set to
argue in the Federal Court of Appeal that the Canadian government
failed to consult adequately with them before its latest approval of
the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

A three-day hearing is scheduled to begin today in Vancouver to
consider legal challenges launched by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation,
Squamish Nation, Coldwater **>Indian Band<** and a coalition of small
First Nations in the Fraser Valley.

Several First Nations, environmental groups and the City of
Vancouver had originally filed challenges making a range of
arguments including that the project threatens southern resident
killer whales off B.C.’s coast.

The court only allowed six First Nations to proceed and called
for an expedited hearing focused on the federal government’s
consultation with Indigenous communities between August 2018 and
June 2019.

Two First Nations have since dropped out of the appeal after
signing deals with Trans Mountain Corp., the Crown corporation that
operates the pipeline and is building the expansion.

The Tsleil-Waututh and environmental groups filed leave to appeal
to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that a broader hearing was
necessary, but the high court has not yet issued a decision.

Leaders of the four Indigenous groups that are still challenging
the project are expected to speak at a news conference before the
hearing begins this morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has twice approved a
plan to triple the capacity of the pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands
to a shipping terminal in Metro Vancouver.

The Federal Court of Appeal tore up the original approval in
August 2018, citing both an insufficient environmental review and
inadequate Indigenous consultation.

The Liberal government ordered the National Energy Board, now
known as the Canada Energy Regulator, to conduct a new review
focusing on marine impacts, which was completed in February.

The government also appointed retired Supreme Court justice Frank
Iacobucci to oversee a new phase of consultation with affected
Indigenous communities, before it approved the project a second time
in June.

However, the four Indigenous groups allege that the government
came into consultations having predetermined the outcome.

“Many of the Indigenous and First Nation applicants now allege
that the poor quality and hurried nature of this further
consultation rendered it inadequate,” Federal Court of Appeal
Justice David Stratas said in his decision allowing the legal
challenges to proceed.

The governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which support the
pipeline expansion, have joined the case as interveners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16,
2019. – CP-

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