The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by several Indigenous groups challenging the Liberal government’s approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.
The dismissal is a big step in the legal battle that has delayed the pipeline project for months. The project, totalled at $7.4 billion, is set to transport nearly one million barrels of Albertan oil per day to British Columbia.
The Indigenous groups that went to court were the Coldwater Indian Band (Coldwater), Squamish Nation (Squamish), Tsleil-Waututh Nation (Tsleil-Waututh) and Aitchelitz, Skowkale, Shxwha:y Village, Soowahlie, Squiala First Nation, Tzeachten and Yakweakwioose (Ts’elxweyeqw).
The decision came in at a unanimous 3-0, with the court ruling that Ottawa acted reasonably and conducted “meaningful” consultations with Indigenous peoples that would be affected by the pipeline’s construction.
The courts also found that out of all 129 Indigenous groups potentially affected by the pipeline’s construction, the overwhelming majority support it or do not oppose it. 34 groups have signed benefit agreements.
“This was anything but rubber-stamping exercise. The end result was not a ratification of the earlier approval, but an approval with amended conditions flowing directly from renewed consultation,” the court ruled. “All very much consistent with the concepts of reconciliation and the honour of the Crown.”
The court’s ruling states that the groups “did not show that Canada failed to meet its duty to consult and accommodate during the re-initiated consultations.”
“For the foregoing reasons, the applications for judicial review are dismissed with costs to the respondents.”
The groups have 60 days to appeal the court’s decision, thus bringing the issue up to Canada’s Supreme Court.
‘A victory for common sense and rule of law’
Premier Kenney commented on the victory, calling it a win “for common sense and the rule of law.” His full comment can be read below:
“This is a victory for common sense and the rule of law. We are pleased the Federal Court of Appeal made a fair decision. This ruling confirms what we’ve known all along: the Trans Mountain expansion project has been held to the highest standard at every turn.
“Now that this legal hurdle has been cleared, there is absolutely no denying that it’s time to get this pipeline built. TMX will result in billions of dollars of economic prosperity for Canadians and create well-paying jobs throughout the country.“
“While we respect the opinion of those who have voiced opposition to the project, the fact is the majority of First Nations communities – and the majority of Canadians – want to share in the economic benefits of responsible resource development. That’s demonstrated by the 58 mutual benefit agreements that Trans Mountain has signed with Indigenous communities across Alberta and British Columbia.“
“We particularly appreciate the clarity in the decision that the duty to consult does not equal a veto.“
“This marks an important milestone for TMX, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. Completion of construction remains the one true measure of success. We will hold our celebrations until oil is flowing through the pipeline.“
“Our government will continue to stand up for Alberta by advocating for increased market access and protecting the value of our energy exports to grow our economy and create jobs.”