Had the Trudeau government already approved Kinder Morgan while still consulting First Nations on it?

A new controversy is swirling around Kinder Morgan's contentious 890,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.

Investigative reporter Mike De Souza writes, "Speaking on the condition of anonymity with National Observer, [government insiders] say a high-ranking public servant [Erin O'Gorman] instructed them, at least one month before the pipeline was approved, 'to give cabinet a legally-sound basis to say 'yes'' to Trans Mountain. These instructions came at a time when the government claimed it was still consulting in good faith with First Nations and had not yet come to a final decision on the pipeline."

He adds, "Public servants were never asked to prepare for the possibility that the government might reject the pipeline, they explain, or restart the federal review using a new and improved process that Trudeau himself had promised."

In a follow-up article, De Souza notes, "NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his parliamentary leader, NDP MP Guy Caron, have fired off a letter [largely based on revelations uncovered by National Observer] to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to release all of the government's secret cabinet records related to its review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project."

That letter by Singh and Caron says, "A truly nation-to-nation relationship doesn’t mean doing symbolic and paternalistic consultations with Indigenous communities in which you already know the results of the process. ...Clearly you can see how these allegations cast serious doubts on the legitimacy of the entire approval process for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. There is significant evidence here to seriously question whether any of your arguments regarding the national interest have any merit at all."

Following the revelations about the allegedly 'rigged' process, Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation in Manitoba, has stated, "I hope that’s not how we consult. I hope that the decision was not a foregone conclusion, but that these were meaningful and honest consultations.”

Ouellette also indicated his support for the NDP's request to have O'Gorman testify on this matter before the House of Common natural resources committee.

North Shore News has reported, "Seven indigenous First Nations have legally challenged federal approval of the pipeline expansion. Together with the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver and two environmental groups, they are asking the court to overturn the federal government’s decision to approve the expansion. Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation said the federal government failed to consult or gain consent of First Nations for the expansion of the oil pipeline, so they have to try to protect their land and water in the courts."

And the Vancouver Sun has noted, "A decision could be released at any time."

De Souza comments, "That [Federal Court of Appeal] decision could also be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which would trigger more uncertainty about the future of the Trans Mountain project. Legal experts interviewed by National Observer say [the instructions allegedly given by O'Gorman] could be a significant matter reviewed by the courts to determine if the government’s approval of Trans Mountain was valid."

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