A 2014 conditional approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline by the previous Conservative-led Government of Canada was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal last week.
The Federal Court of Appeal cited lack of consultation with First Nations affected by the project as the reason for overturning the project approval.
“The consultation process was too generic: Canada and the joint review panel looked at First Nations as a whole and failed to address adequately the specific concerns of particular First Nations,” says the ruling.
Enbridge Inc. proposes the construction of a 1200-km twin pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s coast, passing directly through Burns Lake.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision is “the right one, and one that northerners have known for a long time.”
“People across the northwest were insulted by the [previous] federal government’s cold indifference toward our communities, our land our water, and our way of life,” said Cullen. “We watched our own government ignore science, ignore our concerns, and even call us radicals and enemies of the state for raising legitimate and important questions about this project.”
The project has been volleyed back to the federal government’s cabinet for “redetermination.”
Cullen said the ball is now squarely in prime minister Justin Trudeau’s court.
“Barring an unlikely appeal of the ruling by Mr. Trudeau, his cabinet will now be charged with conducting additional consultations with First Nations and issuing a decision on the project,” explained Cullen. “Meaningful consultation means the government must seriously listen, and First Nations have been consistent and clear from the start.”
Northern Gateway president John Carruthers released a statement shortly after the ruling saying the Federal Court of Appeal addressed important concerns regarding the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
“While the matter is remitted to the federal government for their redetermination, Northern Gateway will consult with the Aboriginal equity partners and our commercial project proponents to determine our next steps,” he said. “However, the Aboriginal equity partners and our commercial project proponents are fully committed to building this critical Canadian infrastructure project while at the same time protecting the environment and the traditional way of life of First Nations and Métis peoples and communities along the project route.”
First Nations chiefs in the Burns Lake area – including Wet’suwe’ten First Nation Chief Karen Ogen, Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George and Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam – have repeatedly stated they are against this project.
– With files from Kevin Campbell