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WIN! Chapters celebrate Federal Court overturning Northern Gateway pipeline approval

The Council of Canadians celebrates the Federal Court of Appeal decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline released today.

The Canadian Press reports, “The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned the government’s approval of a controversial pipeline proposal that would link Alberta’s oilsands to British Columbia’s north coast. In a written decision, the court says Canada fell short in its duty to consult with aboriginal people before giving the green light to Enbridge’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway project. …The judgment is dated June 23 and has not been posted on the court’s website, but it was released today by JFK Law Corp., which represents a First Nation involved in the appeal.”

CBC adds, “‘We find that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity … to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue’, the ruling says. ‘It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal peoples. But this did not happen.'”

And Reuters notes, “The court ruled that the government had failed in its duty to consult with Aboriginal groups on the pipeline and sent the matter back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet for a ‘prompt redetermination’.”

Pull Together is a grassroots campaign that was started in 2014 to raise funds to support this legal challenge by eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one union. As we have noted in previous campaign blogs, the Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli Nations are in the northern interior of British Columbia along the proposed pipeline that would move 525,000 barrels of bitumen per day from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. The Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai’xais and Gitxaala Nations are located on British Columbia’s central and north coast, along the planned route of as many as 230 supertankers a year. The proposed tanker routes also encroach on Haida marine territory.

The Chilliwack chapter raised $230 for this legal challenge, the Golden chapter raised $780, the Victoria and Vancouver-Burnaby chapters raised $1,230 and the Mid-Island chapter raised $3,500.

In September 2015, the Montreal Gazette reported, “The Pull Together Fund — as it later became known — started with a spaghetti dinner in rural B.C. The event raised $3,000. Subsequent bake sales, movie nights and other community fundraisers kept the fight alive, one $20 bill at a time. It’s an example of the faith some non-aboriginal environmental groups have placed in First Nations’ hopes of stopping Northern Gateway.”

The Pull Together website notes, “People, communities, and businesses raised an incredible $598,506 in one year! We have used that money to pay for legal research, expert science, argument preparation, court time, and attendant costs such as court filing fees.”

The Council of Canadians supported this legal challenge because we believed that the National Energy Board’s joint review panel did not properly consider Indigenous rights and title or weigh the adverse effects of the pipeline and tankers on territorial land and waters. We also shared the view that the panel failed to properly assess the evidence before it according to established legal standards, that the consultation process was inadequate, and that the panel made its conclusions without providing reasons, notably not explaining why it found the pipeline would have ‘no adverse effects’ on Indigenous culture or the environment.

Maude Barlow has stated, “Stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline is one of the most important fights we have right now. If we allow Northern Gateway to go ahead, it will mean a massive expansion of the tar sands, more harm to the land, water and climate, and yet another delay for the clean energy future we need. First Nations are the rightful stewards of their lands and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed. The Council of Canadians will stand with them in the coming battles to stop this pipeline.”

Today, the Alaska Highway News reported, “During his election campaign, Trudeau promised a moratorium on crude oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast. But in recent months, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said that isn’t necessarily a death knell for Northern Gateway.” The Pull Together fund acknowledges this challenge may go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a media release issued today, Chief Fred Sam of Nak’azdli says, “The time has come for the federal government to put this toxic issue behind us for good, by rejecting the Northern Gateway project once and for all, and by following through on the commitment to ban oil tankers on the coast. Yinka Dene Alliance Nations look forward to meeting with the government to ensure that it respects the spirit of this decision – not only for this project but for consultation on future development in our territories.”

The Council of Canadians congratulates the First Nations that led this legal challenge, the Pull Together campaign, and all involved in winning this court ruling.

To read the Yinka Dene Alliance media release celebrating their win, please click here.