Consultation or consent?

What is adequate consultation? When has consent been given?

You may have heard the news that the Federal Court of Appeal will soon hear six legal challenges to the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project. The challenges will once again focus on the “consultation” with Indigenous peoples directly impacted by this project.

Before taking power in 2015, Justin Trudeau promised his government would not only consult First Nations, but would obtain consent from communities before projects like this one could proceed.

There has never been clear consent for the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Federal Court has already ruled once that public consultation for this 1,150 km pipeline expansion, which would take bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta to British Columbia for export, was inadequate, and it overturned the original approval for the project.

The federal government, now owner of the pipeline thanks to the use of more than $4.5 billion of public money (with another $9.3 billion expected to be spent on construction costs), started a second consultation process in June. But when the government announced it was approving the pipeline project again, Indigenous peoples argued that the outcome of that consultation was predetermined. They say the government, as owner of the pipeline, has a financial interest that overshadows the public interest.

We should all ask: what is adequate consultation? When has consent been given? Should consultation that simply gathers the feedback people provide be accepted, or does the government have a responsibility to act on when impacted Indigenous nations say no?

These legal appeals are examples of the lengths Indigenous peoples need to go to prove their rights are being trampled and how difficult it is to hold the government and corporations accountable to the law. On the flip side, land and water defenders are being unjustly jailed and fined for simply voicing their dissent. This is a double standard of law enforcement that is difficult to reconcile.

The court ordered the legal challenges be heard quickly and rulings are expected within months.

Thanks to the generous support of people like you, the Council of Canadians is working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and concerned people and communities to stop this pipeline.


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