Court overturns Canada’s approval of Northern Gateway pipeline
In a decision that’s already being hailed as a major victory for First Nations and the planet, the Federal Court of Appeal recently overturned the Canadian government’s 2014 approval of Enbridge’s contested Northern Gateway pipeline project.
The court concluded that Canada failed to respect its constitutional duty to properly consult the various First Nations that would be adversely affected by the $7.9 billion pipeline before approving the project.
According to the court’s ruling (pdf), “Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity” for dialogue. Canada acted in a manner that “was not consistent with the duty to consult and the obligation of fair dealing.”
It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal Peoples. But this did not happen.
The seven First Nations identified in the court’s document are the Haida Nation, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Haisla, Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli Whut’en, Kitasoo Xai’Xais Band Council and Gitga-at.
The court’s decision is dated June 23rd but was only released Thursday by by JFK Law Corp.
Environmental law firm Ecojustice filed the case.
According to the organization, the Harper government’s consultation with First Nations also “failed to fill gaps required to assess the impacts on First Nations.”
“The court has confirmed that the federal government’s consultations with First Nations fell well short of the mark,” said Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson.“The court’s decision confirms that the environmental assessment of major pipeline projects was badly eroded by the previous government’s dismantling of environmental laws.”
Robinson added: “First Nations, local communities, and environmental interests said ‘no’ to Enbridge 12 years ago when it first proposed the project. And now that ‘no’ has the backing of the courts.”
The Northern Gateway pipeline would have moved 525,000 barrels of Alberta’s tar sands crude per day to Kitimat in British Columbia.
First Nations have repeatedly stated that no genuine reconciliation is possible as long as Canada continues to approve fossil fuel-based projects which threaten their communities and the planet.
Under the Harper regime, Canada’s national energy strategy created conditions that allowed oil profiteers to “dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation” while trampling on First Nation rights.
After the Harper government approved the Northern Gateway project in June 2014, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, declared: “It’s official. The war is on.”
In a joint letter release soon after the Liberals came to power, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador listed fixing the broken tar sands pipeline review process and consultation among prerequisites for genuine reconciliation.
“There are real opportunities now for the federal government to finally recognize First Nations’ rightful place at the core of Canada’s past and its future,” the letter stated. “First Nations and Canada have a lot of work to do regarding measures needed to finally put us all on the path of reconciliation and partnership.”
The court’s ruling offers the Trudeau government a unique opportunity to seriously re-think Canada’s discredited pipeline approval process while boosting its ongoing effort to achieve real reconciliation with First Nations.
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