Indigenous groups in Canada have just won a historic victory. On 30 August, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Canadian government’s approvals to build the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project.
If it went ahead, the project would allow more petroleum products to flow from Alberta’s oil-patch to Vancouver, and then to markets on the Pacific Coast. But many Indigenous groups, environmentalists, and communities in the path of the pipeline don’t want it. They claim: “the project is too risky and would push Canada’s climate change goals out of reach.”
The court ruled that the government did not properly consult Indigenous groups about the Canadian National Energy Board’s (NEB) plans, as the Constitution requires. According to the ruling, there was “no meaningful two-way dialogue” between Indigenous communities and the government. Chief Maureen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said the government’s consultation could “best be described as window dressing.”
The latest ruling deals a massive blow to prime minister Justin Trudeau’s pipeline plans. And although the Canadian government can file an appeal to the Supreme Court, the US$5.71 billion project faces an uncertain future.
Andrew Leach from the University of Alberta said: “The big takeaway is the duty to consult (Indigenous people) is still the most important step in any major project.”
In the wake of the decision, Alberta’s premier Rachel Notley said her Province will “pull out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national climate change plan until construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets back on track.” Trudeau reassured Notley that the government will not abandon the project:
Today I spoke with Premier @RachelNotley – and reassured her that the federal government stands by the TMX expansion project and will ensure it moves forward in the right way.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 30, 2018
Trudeau has claimed to be an ally of both Indigenous populations and environmentalists. But after his government agreed to buy the Trans Mountain expansion project in May, this claim has become increasingly absurd:
I hope @JustinTrudeau knows that this decision is going to haunt him everywhere he travels in the world. Movements fighting for real climate action and Indigenous rights are everywhere. His days of getting out of Canada to bask in the adoring selfies are over. #StopKM https://t.co/ZrsM3lghir
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) May 29, 2018
The court’s ruling is a huge success for the people who campaigned against the project. Those involved in the legal battle celebrated on Twitter:
"From the start, we've told the government they can chose the easy way or the hard way, now they only have the hard way and the harder way 🔥" Rueben George member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation #CNDpoli #TransMountain #VictoryDay pic.twitter.com/3FBrPDC0YW
— Clayton ThomasMüller (@CreeClayton) August 30, 2018
Author Naomi Klein is certainly happy with the result:
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) August 30, 2018
In April, Trudeau wrote: “Canada is a country of the rule of law […]. The Trans Mountain expansion will be built”. After his government didn’t adequately follow the rule of law, it’s looking less likely that the project will happen.
Canada is a country of the rule of law, and the federal government will act in the national interest. Access to world markets for Canadian resources is a core national interest. The Trans Mountain expansion will be built. https://t.co/97vvScpvOo
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 9, 2018
The fight to block the Trans Mountain expansion project is not yet over. But this ruling is a historic victory for Indigenous groups and environmentalists, and offers hope for the future.
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Featured image via William Chen/Wikimedia