First Nations renew court battle to stop Trudeau and Trans Mountain


Members of Tsleil-Waututh Nation gather around, with lawyer Merle Alexander, Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson and Skeetchestn Indian Band Kukpi7 Ron Ignace at centre front row in Vancouver, B.C., on July 9, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

First Nations have taken their first step to bring the federal government back to court over its approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.

Six First Nations, including Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band, announced today they have officially petitioned the Federal Court of Appeal to review Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s second approval of the pipeline.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of Tsleil-Waututh Nation said Canada was “not responsive” to concerns that came up during the consultation process, including those relating to the risks and costs of an oil spill, the impacts on southern resident killer whales and encroaching on Indigenous rights and title.

“Tsleil-Waututh participated in the consultation in good faith, again. But it was clear that Canada had already made up their mind as the owners of the project,” she said. “We have no choice but to appeal again, and we expect the same result: that the approval will be overturned.”

The nation will also argue that the government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the west coast pipeline system created a conflict of interest.

“Canada is biased. The federal government is in a conflict of interest as the owner, the regulator and enforcer, as well as the fiduciary for First Nations,” George-Wilson said.

Under Canada’s Constitution, federal government has a legal duty to consult First Nations on decisions that could affect their rights or way of life. But the Trudeau government failed to do this the last time it tried to approve the pipeline in November 2016.

As National Observer reported in April 2018, government insiders say senior public servants privately ordered them to find a way to approve the project before Trudeau announced his decision, despite telling Indigenous leaders the government was still consulting them. MORE

Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent

The federal government’s skewed view of Indigenous consent, and its apparent conflict of interest on the pipeline, could pose a legal problem.

Image result for policy options: Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent
Photo: Indigenous drummers perform a drum circle prior to a demonstration against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on June 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

he latest cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline came less than a day after the federal government declared a climate emergency. While the irony was a dream for satirists, it wasn’t the biggest contradiction of the day. Instead, it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre definition of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) with regard to projects that will impact Indigenous land and rights: “[FPIC] is what we engaged in doing with Indigenous communities over the past number of months. It is engaging, looking with them, listening to the issues they have and responding meaningfully to the concerns they have wherever possible.”

By Trudeau’s definition, consent is: listening to issues, responding to concerns wherever possible, and then forging ahead. As Indigenous lawyer and scholar Pam Palmater pointed out, imagine if that definition of consent was applied in the context of sexual relations?

The prime minister’s comments largely went unnoticed in the mainstream media, but his government’s skewed understanding of FPIC and half-hearted attempts at consultations with Indigenous communities remain the core reason it will be unable to move the project forward. Moreover, Ottawa’s purchase of the pipeline created an inherent conflict of interest as it purported to sit down for meaningful consultations.

“Listening to the issues”

So, what exactly was the government “engaged in doing” with Indigenous communities since last August, when the Federal Court of Appeal found that “Canada did not fulfil its duty to consult” on the pipeline and quashed the National Energy Board’s approval of it?

Many of the First Nations that had appealed to the court expressed their dissatisfaction with the renewed Stage III consultation process that the court had mandated.

The Squamish First Nation said it had been assured there were no time limits for the consultations, only to discover that cabinet did have an end date in mind. Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation spokesperson, told a news conference that they had been sent documents for feedback after May 22, the federal government’s self-imposed deadline for comments.

“What we experienced was a shallow attempt at consultation that resulted in a failure to address our concerns,” said Khelsilem. “The failure to meaningfully engage with rights holders means this government is either not serious about building this pipeline or not serious about respecting Indigenous rights.”

Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band said, “The meaningful dialogue that was supposed to happen never happened.” A study of the community’s aquifer had not yet occurred, and an existing pipeline spill has yet to be remediated.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said that consultation once again fell well below the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada in a number of key decisions, including Tsilhqot’in. This constitutional obligation of the Crown’s was re-emphasized in the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. George-Wilson also noted that the federal government was in a conflict of interest – that its multiple hats as proponent, decision-maker, enforcer of laws and fiduciary to First Nations and all Canadians made it impossible to make an open-minded, unbiased decision.

Indigenous leaders warn of protests, halting developments over shale gas exemption

‘It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations’: Chief Ross Perley


Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine says ‘the blueprint’ for government to consult Indigenous groups is there. (Radio-Canada)

Top Indigenous leaders are warning that the Higgs government has made “a serious mistake” on shale gas that may reignite protests like those seen in the Rexton area in 2013.

They say the province’s duty to consult Indigenous people is clearly defined, and the government should have known how to proceed as it tries to restart the industry in one part of the province.

“It’s not as if this is all new,” said Roger Augustine, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “The blueprint is there.”

“There’s a lot of case law,” said Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation. “There are actual court cases. … If he needs clarity, we’ll certainly provide clarity if that’s what he needs.”

‘Reckless voice’

Augustine said the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in the Sussex area risks alarming members of First Nations communities.

“When a reckless voice speaks out, be it the premier or the prime minister, they should realize what could happen, what it causes in communities,” he said. “Once we’ve got outrage out there, and we’ve got roadblocks, we’ve got cars burned.”

He was referring to anti-shale gas protests near Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013 that saw violent confrontations between protestors and police. MORE

RELATED:

Minister says First Nations consultation only required after shale gas exemption approved
AFN Fully Supports Natoaganeg First Nation in Exercising Their Treaty Right to Fish in their Territory

 

Federal Court quashes federal policy allowing transfer of salmon into fish farms without testing for contagious virus or consulting with Indigenous peoples

Image result for salmon smolts

On Feb. 4, 2019, the Federal Court issued its reasons for judgment regarding certain decisions made by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard. The Court’s reasons were extensive, spanning roughly 200 pages.

At issue in Morton 2015 was a condition DFO had included in fish farms’ licenses to operate. This condition allowed the operator to itself authorize transfers if it deemed certain criteria were satisfied. The Court in Morton 2015 held that (i) this approach constituted an impermissible delegation of the Minister’s regulatory authority to fish farm operators, and (ii) s. 56(b) requires the Minister to take an approach consistent with the precautionary principle when considering transfer requests.

…Further, the Court considered that the health of wild Pacific salmon was (i) a relevant factor required to be taken into account but was not, and (ii) that not accounting for this was additionally contrary to the precautionary principle, which further rendered the Policy unreasonable. MORE