British Columbia

First Nations begin court challenge against Trans Mountain pipeline

Similar court challenge derailed Enbridge's Northern gateway pipeline

October 02, 2017

Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton. Opponents of the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline appeared in a Vancouver federal courtroom Monday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

First Nations, environmental groups and local governments appeared in the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver Monday continuing their fight against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation says the federal government failed to consult or gain consent of First Nations for the expansion of the oil pipeline, so they have little choice but to try to protect their land and water in the courts.


"Sixty years ago when this project was established, we had no legal recourse. That era has come and gone in this country," he said.

"We're going to demand a higher bar of engagement that leads to true environmental assessments that look to First Nations consent."

Seven First Nations, the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver, and two environmental groups are asking the court to overturn the federal government's decision to approve the expansion of the $7.4-billion pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

Both the B.C. and Alberta governments are interveners in the court action, on opposing sides of the argument.

A decision against the project would send it back for assessment, a move that would cause lengthy delays.

It is rare for Canada's judiciary to review pipeline approvals.

The last such review, heard in 2015, led to the rejection of  Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline by the federal government.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

First Nations leaders and environmentalists spoke at a news conference emceed by Rueben George, manager of Sacred Trust for Tsleil-Waututh Nation (standing behind podium). Speakers were (left to right, seated): Chief Lee Spahan, Coldwater Indian Band; Chief Harvey McLeod, Upper Nicola Band; Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation; Misty MacDuffee, Raincoast Conservation; Karen Wristen, Living Oceans Society; and Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish Nation. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Consultation, environmental concerns

Ahead of Monday's hearing, First Nations and other groups outlined their reasons for opposing the project at a news conference.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief Maureen Thomas called Burrard Inlet the "heart and soul" of the Nation's food supply and way of life.

She said the risks of environmental damage due to the pipeline expansion were too great.

"The majority of the people probably see us as 'those nuisance Indians' again, getting in the way … trying to stop different projects from moving forward," she said.

"Without this territory within this little small part of the world, we won't survive as the Tsleil-Waututh people, and that's what I'm fighting for."

Campbell, Chief Harvey McLeod of Upper Nicola Band and Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band added their concerns that consultations were inadequate and approval of the project was premature.

"We feel that we have been totally, totally not heard," McLeod said.

Misty MacDuffee with Raincoast Conservation and Karen Wristen with Living Oceans Society said the increased tanker traffic and noise from the project could mean extinction for southern resident killer whales.

"This disturbance will happen regardless of oil spills and ship strikes and cannot be mitigated," MacDuffee said.

She said the NEB erred when approving the project by not giving enough weight to its impacts on whales.

With files from The Canadian Press, Megan Batchelor and Reuters

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