Feds restart Indigenous pipeline consultations

First Nations are greeting the consultation launch with some caution

Indigenous communities are open to a new consultation on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but many are greeting its launch with some caution.

The Liberals said Wednesday that they won’t appeal the August decision from the Federal Court of Appeal that tore up cabinet approval for the pipeline’s expansion.

Instead, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the government is hiring former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with affected Indigenous communities using the road map for those consultations the court laid out in its decision.

Iacobucci’s first order of business will be to oversee the process to design the consultations in concert with First Nations and Metis leaders. Consultations themselves won’t start until that design phase is completed, and there is no timeline for that.

RELATED: Feds restarting Indigenous talks over pipeline, won’t appeal court decision

Squamish First Nation, which has thus far opposed the construction of the pipeline, welcomed the decision not to appeal in a statement, but appeared wary about the new consultation process.

“Our nation expects an honourable consultation process that upholds our nation’s Indigenous rights,” said Khelsilem, a band councillor and spokesman for Squamish. “The Trudeau government tried to ram this project through our territory with a predetermined outcome and this was not acceptable to Squamish Nation or the courts.”

Khelsilem added artificial timelines would not be acceptable.

In the appeal, Squamish leaders told the court they didn’t feel they had enough information to decide how risky the pipeline was to their territory, which includes Burrard Inlet, the narrow water way through which as many as 35 oil tankers would travel each month carrying diluted bitumen away from the pipeline’s marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

Chief Michael LeBourdais of Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band near Kamloops, B.C., said the new consultation is “extraordinarily ambitious.”

Whispering Pines supports the pipeline and was the first to sign a benefits agreement on the pipeline with Kinder Morgan Canada, which owned the pipeline until August 31 when the federal government bought it for $4.5 billion.

LeBourdais said the consultation is another opportunity to push for better benefits for First Nations, including a percentage of the value of the oil that flows through the pipeline, or an equity stake in the project.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposes to twin the existing pipeline that runs between Edmonton and Burnaby in order to triple its capacity and carry 600,000 barrels of diluted bitumen daily to oil tankers bound for export markets.

After being elected in 2015, the Liberals added another phase of consultations with Indigenous communities on the project hoping to overcome shortcomings in the process the court identified in the review of the now defunct Northern Gateway pipeline.

In its decision, the Federal Court of Appeal found that additional phase was only a note-taking exercise and that the government incorrectly believed it could not do anything about specific concerns raised, such as by altering the route to move the pipeline away from one community’s only source of drinking water, or ensure another community would be involved in deciding exactly where certain elements of the pipeline would be built on their territory.

Sohi said an appeal of the decision would take years and the government would rather respect the courts — a decision that riled Alberta Premier Rachel Notley who said the Liberals should pursue an appeal in tandem with new consultations.

Sohi said the government planned to put additional people on the file and ensure all government employees involved have a clear mandate not just to listen to concerns, but to figure out how they can be reasonably accommodated.

RELATED: Horgan, Trudeau speak on $40B LNG Canada investment in Kitimat

However, Sohi said reasonable accommodation does not mean every First Nation has to be on side before the project can proceed.

“We also understand there are still groups that will still oppose this project,” he said. “That’s fine. That’s their right to do so. But that does not mean that if we fulfil our constitutional obligation that those groups may have a veto to stop this project.”

NDP MP Romeo Saganash questioned whether the government could call the consultations meaningful when it is adamant the pipeline expansion proceed.

“Does the Prime Minister not recognize that consulting when the decision has already been made is not consultation as required by the Supreme Court of Canada?” Saganash asked in question period Wednesday.

Sohi said the government has made no assumptions about what cabinet will eventually recommendations, but the government still believes the project is in the national interest.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

Seventh round of negotiations between Canada and U.S. wrap up in Washington D.C.

Fun run celebrates Marguerite Rotvold’s legacy

‘She was a mentor and just an amazing lady, all around’

RDKB to test emergency alert system

The alarm is scheduled to go out at 10:30 a.m. on June 21

Rodeo comes back to Rock Creek

The Rock ‘n’ Kettle Rodeo runs June 22-23 at the Fair Grounds

BCSS girls soccer team makes impact at provincials

The team won the tournament’s “Fair Play” award

VIDEO: Stop-motion artist recreates Kawhi Leonard’s famous buzzer-beater

It took Jared Jacobs about 40 hours to make the video, on top of the research

Man charged in crash that killed B.C. pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged for 2018 Highway 1 accident where Kelowna elementary school teacher died

VIDEO: Clip of driver speeding past B.C. school bus alarms MLA

Laurie Throness of Chilliwack-Kent says he will lobby for better safety measures

Province unveils 10-year plan to boost mental health, addiction recovery services

The plan, called A Pathway to Hope, focuses on early-intervention services that are seeing high demand

Rock slide in B.C. river may hinder salmon passage

DFO says it is aware that the slide occurred in a narrow portion of the Fraser River

Four-hour tarmac delay violates charter rights of Canadians with a disability: lawsuit

Bob Brown says new rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Most Read