Mixed reaction to federal court ruling that puts pipeline project on hold
- NC Raine | September 18, 2018
Canada's Federal Court of Appeal, on August 30, put the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project on hold, only three days after the pipeline project celebrated the official start of construction.
The court concluded that federal was based on a National Energy Board of Review that was too narrow in scope, and consultation with Indigenous and First Nations people was insufficient.
Reaction to the court’s ruling has undoubtedly been varied and impassioned. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Edmonton that he wants to see “shovels in the ground quickly as possible.”
“We know Albertans were disappointed, as were many Canadians, with the decision. It was a hard blow to a province that has come through a difficult time and was beginning to see a brighter path forward,” said Trudeau.
Overall costs to Alberta’s economy from pipeline restraints are projected at billions of dollars per year. Trudeau is considering legislation or an appeal to end the Trans Mountain stoppage.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the federal court’s ruling a victory for First Nations.
“Today’s federal court decision is another victory for First Nations. It’s unfortunate that First Nations must litigate to protect our inherent rights, title and jurisdiction,” Bellegarde said in a release.
“The decision confirms yet again why we need to work together on a better approach that leads to better decisions and better outcomes – an approach that implements and enforces rights and title (...) This is how we avoid conflict and costly legal battles and advance reconciliation. This is how we can grow a stronger country for our children.”
Several First Nations in BC celebrated the decision, calling it a chance for reconciliation. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs expressed his surprise at a press conference.
“I’m absolutely elated. I’m ecstatic,” he said. “We denounced the so-called consultation process from the beginning as fundamentally flawed (...) and the courts upheld that.”
But some First Nations are upset about the court’s decision. Some First Nations along the existing pipeline still hope to see it move forward. Chief Mike LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines First Nation in BC wishes the pipeline to continue under Indigenous control, as his First Nation is part of contingent trying to buy it.
“We are tired of watching corporations from Texas making money off our resources as they flow by,” LeBourdais told CBC News. “We want to protect the environment and we want to do it on our terms.”
In Saskatchewan, response has also been varied. Premier Scott Moe urged the federal government to do everything in its power to get the construction back on track.
“A delay of this project in any way to the province of Saskatchewan ultimately means we will go a longer period of time with the large oil difference that we experience,” said Moe.
Although the pipeline will not run through Saskatchewan, Moe has been a proponent of the expansion project.
“Unbelievable,” said Moe in a tweet reacting to the ruling. “The federal government now owns a multi-billion-dollar pipeline it can't get built.”
Steelworkers in Regina also expressed disappointment in the decision. Evraz, a multinational steelplant in Regina, was to provide the majority of pipe for the expansion.
“People are worried,” Mike Day, United Steelworkers Local 5890 told reporters. “We’ve got everything in the states being tariffed and dutied. Everything going west is happening now. There’s a lot of worry about our jobs.”
Chief Todd Peigan from Pasqua First Nation said the decision won’t effect their First Nation, but is a positive decision for Indigenous peoples.
“The court has reaffirmed both to the federal government and industry that they cannot run rough-shot in regards to their projects over those territories that are traditional to First Nations people,” Peigan told Eagle Feather News. “There’s an obligation on governments on how they engage First Nations and Indigenous people…The court said those issues raised by First Nations cannot be set aside but must be addressed in a meaningful way.”