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West Coast reacts: Federal government needs a real plan for Indigenous consultation on Trans Mountain

Friday, September 21, 2018

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – The federal government’s “first step” to proceed with the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project fails to address the critical issue of Indigenous consultation, says West Coast Environmental Law.

This morning Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced plans to launch a new 22-week National Energy Board review aimed at addressing one deficiency identified in the recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling that quashed the project’s approval – the failure to assess the impacts of marine tanker traffic.

The Ministers would not confirm whether the government plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, and did not provide any details about their plan for addressing the most significant aspects of the court decision, which relate to the failure to properly consult Indigenous peoples.

“While the government does need to take steps to correct the mistakes in the NEB’s review of marine shipping impacts, we are very concerned about the lack of a concrete plan or timeline for renewed Indigenous consultation – which is a glaring omission,” said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel. “The court was very clear that Canada ‘fell well short of the mark’ in its constitutional duty to consult with affected First Nations, and any plan to move forward on Trans Mountain must take that duty seriously.”

During the press conference, Minister Sohi emphasized that there was “no relationship more important” than Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. However, when pressed on the next steps for consulting with Indigenous nations on Trans Mountain, the Ministers only stated that they would be announcing plans in the near future.

“The Federal Court of Appeal decision presents an opportunity for Canada to fundamentally change the way it approaches Indigenous rights in decision-making, but it has to stop aiming for the lowest bar. To fulfill the government’s constitutional obligations, an additional review and consultation process should be developed in collaboration with First Nations – and engaging in meaningful dialogue on key outstanding issues will take much longer than 22 weeks,” Clogg said.

As part of the upcoming review of marine shipping impacts, the government says it intends to present to the NEB regarding its recent actions to protect southern resident killer whales, as well as the Oceans Protection Plan. The government will also appoint a special marine technical advisor for the review, and will provide opportunities and funding for public and Indigenous participation.

West Coast lawyers will be watching closely in the coming weeks and months as further plans are revealed.

“We will be evaluating not just whether basic legal requirements are met, but whether the federal government is living up to its own commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes free, prior and informed consent as the minimum standard for the outcomes from consultation,” said Clogg.

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For more information, please contact:

Jessica Clogg | Executive Director & Senior Counsel
778-327-8964, jclogg@wcel.org