A conditional 2014 approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline by the previous Conservative-led Government of Canada was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal on June 30.
The ruling explains that the government failed to meaningfully engage in significant dialogue with affected First Nations territories.
The project has been volleyed back to the federal government’s cabinet for “redetermination”.
The $7.9 billion, 1,177 km twin pipeline is proposed to be built from Bruderheim, AB to a planned marine export terminal at Kitimat, carrying 525,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
In early spring, there were reports of the federal government evaluating alternate routes, with Prince Rupert being on the list as a possible end point and the Nass Valley as a possible transit route.
Those reports were supplemented by statements by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said that the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.
A potential North Coast tanker ban is also in play, being a campaign item for the now-governing Liberals in last fall’s federal election.
Speaking after the court decision last week, Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen welcomed its contents.
“This decision is welcome news for First Nations, northerners and British Columbians as a whole, who know that the federal government did more insulting than consulting on Northern Gateway,” said Cullen.
“Meaningful consultation means the government must seriously listen, and First Nations have been consistent and clear from the start,” he continued.
The legal action which resulted in the court decision was filed mostly by coastal First Nations, including the Haida, and environmental groups long opposed to the project.
Still, Northern Gateway president John Carruthers stated through a press release that support has grown from 26 to 31 First Nation and Metis communities, gathered under the name Aboriginal Equity Partners, over the past year and continues to grow.
“Today the Federal Court of Appeal addressed important concerns regarding the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Though the court found that the JRP [Joint Review Panel] recommendation was acceptable and defensible on the facts and the law, and is reasonable they concluded that further consultation is required,” said Carruthers.
“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.
“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 Metis peoples and communities along the project route,” Carruthers added.
Cullen said the court decision places the next move with Trudeau and unless he appeals the outcome, the Liberal government must now undertake additional consultations with affected First Nations.
“The government must act now to introduce real reforms to restore public faith and respect for the rights of First Nations,” he said.
With files from The Northern View, Prince Rupert.