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