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North Shore First Nations taking pipeline expansion to Supreme Court of Canada

Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Coldwater Band seek to appeal to Canada’s top court
Members of Coast Salish First Nations lead a flotilla from North Vancouver to Trans Mountain's Westridge marine terminal in Burnaby. file photo Jennifer Gauthier, Burnaby Now

Three B.C. First Nations, including the North Shore’s Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, are again seeking to take their fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 2018, the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Coldwater Band successfully had the original approval of the pipeline overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal over a lack of constitutionally guaranteed consultation.

The federal government did more consultations with First Nations and the Liberal cabinet later reapproved the pipeline’s construction. The three nations argued that second round of consultations was still inadequate. The Federal Court of Appeal did not agree with the arguments the second time around.

The Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Coldwater Band announced Friday they would be seeking leave to appeal to Canada’s top court.

"The Supreme Court of Canada needs to deal with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision that essentially lets the government be the judge and jury of its own consultation efforts. We need the opportunity to address the flawed consultation and engagement conducted by the federal government, given the strength of rights and title of the Squamish people to Burrard Inlet and Vancouver,” said Khelsilem, Squamish Nation spokesperson and council member, in a release. “Indigenous peoples have a constitutional right to meaningful consultation and the courts must scrutinize that process. This flawed decision cannot stand, and we must challenge it, not just for us but for any future project that may be challenged by First Nations."

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a separate challenge to the pipeline. That challenge by First Nations and environmental groups, alleged the government was violating the Species at Risk Act.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson said the case goes beyond the impacts of the pipeline and tanker traffic and instead speaks to the fundamental issue of the relationship between First Nations and the Crown.

“The Coldwater case is a major setback for reconciliation and consultation in Canada because if it is left unchallenged, it would water down the consultation standard to be no more than a procedural hurdle," she said.

The Supreme Court must decide whether it will hear the appeal but the First Nations argue it is mandatory, as the issue is of national importance.