First Nations take Trans Mountain approval back to the courts

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is launching another legal challenge to Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The nation’s leadership, joined by the Squamish Nation and four other First Nations from along the pipeline route, announced Tuesday they were filing fresh documents in Federal Court of Appeal seeking a judicial review of the government’s approval of the project last month.

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Chief Leah George-Wilson told a press conference the challenge will follow a similar strategy to the one that halted the expansion project at the Federal Court of Appeal last summer: that the approval process had legal and regulatory errors and that the consultations with the First Nations, as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, were too truncated to be meaningful.

Issues left unresolved, George-Wilson said, include the likelihood of a spill and how the diluted bitumen could be cleaned up, out of date economic justifications from the project from 2015, and that the National Energy Board only considered marine impacts of the pipeline within 12 nautical miles of the terminal – not the 200 nautical miles that are critical to endangered southern resident killer whales.

A new wrinkle, however, was the government’s decision to purchase the pipeline from Kinder Morgan, which “makes it impossible for them to make an unbiased, open-minded decision,” George-Wilson said.

“We believe that the consultation once again missed the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada. Tsleil-Waututh participated in consultations in good faith again but it was clear Canada had already made up their mind as the owners of the project,” George-Wilson said. “We have no choice but to appeal again and we expect the same result – that the approval will be overturned.”

The government of Canada and Trans Mountain have 10 days to file their own response in the courts. The First Nations expect to have an answer from the courts as to whether the appeal will go ahead in September.

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