Canadian Fist Nations communities rejoiced Thursday after the expansion to the Trans Mountain oil pipeline was suspended by a unanimous vote from the Federal Court.
The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals ruled the review of the US$9.3 billion expansion plan submitted by the National Energy Board was inadequate and energy officials had also failed to consult with members of the First Nations.
"Canada fell well short of the minimum requirements imposed by the case law of the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Justice Eleanor R. Dawson. “Canada failed to meaningfully engage with Coldwater and to discuss and explore options to deal with the real concern about the sole source of drinking water for its reserve,” said Interior British Columbia First Nation of the court’s decision.
Canadian officials, instead, focused on commuting the concerns of the Indigenous groups to developers and decision makers. The court ruled that although the issues were valid, state officials failed to resolve them.
The Rainforest Action Network cheered the court’s decision, saying, “This is a great victory for Indigenous communities everywhere fighting against destructive projects being imposed upon their territories. It signals that governments, corporations, and funders must all respect Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent.”
Speaking for the Squamish Nation, Councillor Khelsilem wrote that though indigenous rights have triumphed, the prime minister must cut off all endeavors to expand the Trans Mountain project.
“We tell the prime minister to start listening and put an end to this type of relationship. It is time for the prime minister to do the right thing,” said Khelsilem.
In an interview with Vancouver Sun, Ecojustice lawyer Dyna Tuytel said, “Going forward, we urge politicians and other project proponents to shift their focus away from projects that lock us into dependence on fossil fuels.”
The Trans Mountain expansion would potentially triple capacity along the existing pipeline route pumping out 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. Canada’s oil industry says it needs the new pipeline to be able to export oil to Asia.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been heavily criticised since coming to power over contradictory stances on the environment and Indigenous rights as critics say he had promised to institutionalize protections for both, while in turn pushing forward with highly unpopular fossil duel projects and oil pipelines.