The Current

Indigenous leader calls on the government to accept Trans Mountain court decision

The Federal Court of Appeal has put an indefinite halt on the construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project. The decision is a major victory for Indigenous groups, but one First Nations leader argues the fight isn't over.

Government will have to accept that 'no' means 'no,' says Haida Nation president

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of Kinder Morgan Canada's Trans Mountain Expansion Project at a stockpile site in Kamloops, B.C., May 29, 2018. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)
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An Indigenous leader is calling on the Canadian government to accept Thursday's Federal Court of Appeal decision that quashed the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Council president of the Haida Nation Peter Lantin says the government has to recognize Indigenous rights and title in the consultation process to understand why First Nations oppose these types of projects.

"It's very difficult for them to want to consult with First Nations when they know what our answer is, but that's really what true consultation is — that's what recognition is  — is that 'no' means 'no', and the Canadian government will have to accept that," Lantin told The Current guest host Connie Walker.

Two years ago, the Federal Court of Appeal killed the Northern Gateway pipeline project in northern B.C. In a similar decision, the court found the government failed to conduct meaningful consultation with environmental and Indigenous groups, including Haida Nation.

Lantin said he doesn't want to be doing this work, that he should be focusing on the needs of his community instead.

"As First Nation leaders, we want to be building our economies, we want to be working for our people—but we spend so much time, so much resources on fighting back," he said.

'As First Nation leaders, we want to be building our economies,' says Haida Nation President Kil tlaats’gaa Peter Lantin (centre) on the time and resources focused on consultation over pipeline projects rather than community needs. (Haidanation.ca)

The Federal Court of Appeal decision has nullified the certificate approving construction and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline, leaving the 1,150-kilometre project in legal limbo until the energy regulator and the government reassess their approvals to satisfy the court's demands.

The victory is worthy of a celebration, but the fight isn't over for First Nations, Lantin said.

"Tomorrow, they're going to start focusing in on the next hurdle and then the next fight for them, because I think this government is very clear that they want that the project to continue regardless of this decision."

The Federal Court of Appeal decision comes as a major blow for people in the industry who are frustrated with the imposed delay on the Trans Mountain project. 

"The project was supposed to be in service mid-2019, and at this point that not going to happen," said Tim McGillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Over several decades, the global demand has been on the rise and the industry has been growing, McGillian said. However, Canada's challenge is that the country only has one customer.

"We have been beholden to the United States—that has not been to our advantage," McGillan explained. "And projects like Northern Gateway and Energy East and Kinder Morgan would and will give us access to global markets and global prices."

"It's fundamentally important to our nation to have that sovereignty over our own resources."  

To discuss the issue, The Current's guest host Connie Walker spoke to:

  • John Paul Tasker, a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa
  • Peter Lantin, president of the Council of the Haida Nation
  • Jocelyn Stacey, assistant professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law
  • Tim McMillan, president and CEO of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


With files from CBC News. Produced by The Current's Karin Marley and Jessica Linzey.