Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sundance Chief Rueben George along with other Indigenous leaders comment on the Trans Mountain pipeline decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver B.C, Tuesday, February 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. First Nations disappointed while industry welcomes Trans Mountain ruling

Lawsuit included Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a coalition of small First Nations

First Nations and environmental groups in British Columbia are promising to continue to fight the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion while business leaders are celebrating a court decision that upheld the federal government’s approval of the project.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a coalition of small First Nations in the Fraser Valley filed a legal challenge in the Federal Court of Appeal arguing that the government’s consultation with them was inadequate.

The court ruled in a unanimous 3-0 decision on Tuesday that the government met its duty to consult, clearing a major legal hurdle for construction to continue on the expansion of the pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s coast.

Coun. Khelsilem of the Squamish Nation told a news conference in Vancouver that oil and gas is not the future for the economy when the effects of climate change have been felt in Canada through wildfires.

“When we’re looking down the barrel of a gun … we must act swiftly and boldly,” he said. “Australia is burning. B.C. was burning. Alberta was burning. And yet this government wants to double down on building more oil pipelines. That is not a future that we can invest in.”

The four Indigenous groups oppose the expansion because of the risk of oil spills and increased emissions. They are still deciding whether to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but said they would pursue all available options to stop the project.

ALSO READ: Federal appeals court dismisses application challenging Trans Mountain pipeline approval

The Tsleil-Waututh still have a leave application before the high court, asking it to review a Federal Court of Appeal ruling last September that limited the scope of the legal challenges to the government’s most recent round of consultations.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh criticized the legal standard applied by the court, which requires the approval of the project to be “reasonable” in light of the law and evidence.

“If we’re talking about reconciliation and protection of the environment, I don’t think ‘reasonable’ is adequate. I think that sets a low bar for our reconciliation,” she said.

Environmental organizations based in B.C. also expressed dismay at the ruling, with Stand.earth international program director Tzeporah Berman saying “Canada is broken.”

“For too long, we’ve treated First Nations as second-class citizens. This Federal Court decision reinforces that colonialism is alive in Canada and that reconciliation is a lie,” she said in a statement.

A group called Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion issued a statement saying the Trudeau government has a duty to protect the city and surrounding communities.

“They must stop ignoring the very serious threats to public safety and our environment from the old and planned pipelines, from the old and planned storage tanks on Burnaby Mountain, and from the current and planned shipping in Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea,” it said.

Industry groups, on the other hand, celebrated the court decision as a win for B.C.’s economy and reputation with international investors.

Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, said the project represents a “huge” capital investment that will create both construction and permanent jobs in the province. It also shows the world that Canada can get its natural resources to market in a safe way that limits environmental impacts and respects human rights, he said.

“Today’s unanimous decision is obviously inspiring news for TMX, but more broadly this is an important development for Canada’s resource sector. It sends a signal again that projects can get built here and that Canada is definitely open for business,” Litwin said.

The City of Vancouver, which has long opposed the pipeline project, said it stands with First Nations that are opposed to Trans Mountain.

“The city remains of the view that the Trans Mountain pipeline project would have significant environmental impacts, including the unacceptable risk of oil spills and increased greenhouse gas emissions related to the project at a time when the world needs to reduce emissions,” it said in a statement.

The B.C. government recently lost its own case before the Supreme Court of Canada, in which it argued that it should be able to regulate hazardous substances that flow through the province. The top court ruled that only the federal government has jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines.

Environment Minister George Heyman said in a statement Tuesday that the government remains concerned about the risks posed by diluted bitumen and the potential of a catastrophic oil spill on the B.C. coast.

“We will continue to urge the federal government to ensure that the strongest protections possible are put in place to protect our environment, public safety, our coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that are at risk from a spill.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

crude oilPipelineTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

Grand Forks and Boundary cancellations, changes due to COVID-19

This newspaper’s list of community events, institutions that change or cancel due to pandemic

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Interior Health to host virtual town hall Friday, March 27

The Q&A forum begins at 6 p.m. PDT, link in story

West Kootenay octogenarian helping develop low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients

Peter Brockley is working with his doctor son, Graham, to develop the unit that could save lives

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read