The Supreme Court of Canada will allow the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation the chance to appeal a plan by Enbridge Pipelines to use a line through southern Ontario to Quebec to move diluted oilsands crude from Western Canada.

Chief Leslee White-Eye applauded the decision, saying in a statement that members of the First Nation were "distressed" when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal and "failed to acknowledge our aboriginal and treaty rights."

"The court did not consider previous decisions, which establish the Crown's duty to meaningfully consult with and accommodate us on projects that may potentially impact those rights, such as Line 9," she said.

Enbridge reaction

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Enbridge spokesman Graham White said there would be "no impact" on the line's operation, which has been in active service since late 2015.

"Irrespective of this outcome, Enbridge is absolutely committed to fostering a strengthened relationship with the COTTFN [Chippewas of the Thames First Nation] built upon openness, respect and mutual trust, and to working through outstanding issues to find mutually agreeable solutions," White said in the email.

"We will continue our efforts to engage with indigenous communities above and beyond what is required by regulators to build trust and address any concerns or input they may have with our projects or operations."

Line back online in November

Line 9B is a 639-kilometre section of Line 9. It runs parallel to Highway 401 from North Westover, Ont., southeast of Cambridge, to Montreal.

In 1976, Line 9 was used to carry oilsands crude to refineries in Quebec. In 1998, Enbridge reversed the line to carry cheaper, foreign crude oil to the west.

In 2012, Enbridge started the process to reverse the flow of Line 9 once again because Canadian crude oil was once again priced significantly lower than foreign sources.

The National Energy Board (NEB) approved the application on March 6, 2014, but placed 30 conditions on that approval.

In November, Enbridge told CBC News the line had returned to service, and is capable of moving 300,000 barrels a day, according to Enbridge's website.

Reversal protested

Several groups have protested the reversal and expansion of Line 9B. Enbridge has reported a few cases where equipment on the line has been tampered with and protests were held in Toronto, Montreal and Cambridge.

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation appealed the NEB decision to the Federal Court of Appeals, which dismissed it. Justice Donald Rennie was the lone dissenter, saying he would have allowed the appeal because the NEB was required to do a consultation analysis as a precondition to approving Enbridge's application.

Thursday's ruling by the Supreme Court will now allow the First Nation to appeal that ruling.

"The path before us is still long as we continue to seek protection of our Aboriginal and Treaty rights. We need to bring home that we are not acting alone in the action, nor that it is for our sole benefit, but an attempt to seek protection of our water –these energy developments are one of many across the nation impacting our rights," White-Eye said.


  • An initial version of this story misinterpreted the Supreme Court's documentation and attributed a dismissal to the court, when, in fact it was the Federal Court that had ruled against the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal in the matter.
    Mar 10, 2016 12:00 PM ET