Federal Court of Canada dismisses Indigenous peoples’ plea against gas pipeline project

The Trans Mountain gas pipeline is proposed to be expanded to triple its current size. However, the local Indigenous population has objected to the government’s approval for the project on the grounds that it affects their rights and poses a danger to the environment

February 05, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Trans pipeline Canada
A protest against the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Vancouver, Canada.

In a unanimous decision on February 4, Tuesday, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal dismissed all the challenges filed by Indigenous groups, against a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline on their land. The dismissal of the challenges means a go-ahead for the 1150 kilometers long Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. 

In the judgement, the court said if all the submissions filed by the Indigenous groups are accepted “as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the Project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it.”  

In a press conference in Vancouver, The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs expressed their disappointment with the verdict and vowed to keep up their fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Trans Mountain pipeline runs from Edmonton, Alberta to the British Columbia coast. It is proposed to be expanded to triple its current size and will be used to carry diluted bitumen.

Indigenous groups in the region have condemned the government’s failure to consult them before giving the project the green light. They are also worried about the possible effects of the pipeline on their rights over the natural resources of the region, and on the environment, in addition to the projected massive increase in traffic in the ecologically sensitive region that could have possible repercussions for the local ecology.

Groups such as Tslei-Waututh Nation and others had filed the appeal after the federal government approved the project for the second time in June last year. The project was struck down by the Federal court in August 2018 after admitting that the government had failed to engage with the local population.

Canadian law makes it compulsory for the government to consult the Indigenous tribes in case their rights are affected by such a project. In this case, the right to safe drinking water for the Indigenous people is under question.

The USD 5.6 billion project has been promoted as being essential for the Canadian economy. Prime minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the verdict and assured that the revenue from the project would be used for the development of renewable sources of energy.