Squamish, Tsleil Waututh and Coldwater First Nations have worked for eight long years to assert their rights to be consulted on the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers expansion project. On July 2nd, 2020, The Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band were denied leave to appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada. These three First Nations have fought and challenged the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Project twice at the Federal Court of Appeal.
It is incredibly disappointing that Canada’s top court has denied them an opportunity to be heard on a recent Court of Appeal decision upholding Trans Mountain’s approval – a decision that has potentially disastrous consequences specifically for these Nations. The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to let the federal government be the judge and jury of its own consultation efforts was flawed in so many ways and the Supreme Court of Canada failed to recognize that. This denial also sets an adverse precedent in terms of rights to consultation for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.
This is one of the most important cases of the decade. The recent oil spill along the Trans Mountain pipeline route at the Sumas pump stations signals the environmental risks posed by transporting tar sands bitumen over land and water. But the risk to human rights by failing to meet the reconciliation agenda is graver still.
Since committing to honour the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Nations, the Canadian government has done little to nothing to meaningfully recognize the rights of First Nations. This latest Supreme Court denial underscores the discrepancy between talk and action when it comes to what the BC government once claimed was its most important relationship.
“We are extremely disappointed by today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Chief Leah George-Wilson. “This case is about more than a risky pipeline and tanker project; it is a major setback for reconciliation. It reduces consultation to a purely procedural requirement that will be a serious barrier to reconciliation.”
Watch the video of Indigenous leaders’ reaction to the news: https://vimeo.com/434799907
Although today’s decision marks the end of the road for this legal challenge, First Nations have vowed to explore all legal options to protect their rights, land, water and climate.
“Although Tsleil-Waututh Nation is very disappointed, we are not surprised. This case is about more than a risky pipeline and tanker project. It is a setback for reconciliation. In our view, consultation on TMX fell well short of the mark, and our concerns – that were backed up by world leading science – were not addressed. The FCA relied on the federal cabinet’s determination that their consultation was adequate.
As owners of the project, they are unable to objectively assess the adequacy of their own consultations. Tsleil-Waututh Nation has significant concerns…We live in a highly impacted area the City of Vancouver, Burrard Inlet. We haven’t harvested clams from our inlet for 40 years. Another part of our Section 35 constitutionally protected rights that have been degraded. We will always be here, and we will always uphold our sacred trust, to protect our land. In this era of reconciliation, as we strive as a country to uphold the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, the government’s actions mark a stark departure from where we want to be as a nation.
This project remains risky for everyone. Our decision to reject this project will not be influenced by a decision by the Canadian courts. The whales are coming back. The herring is coming back. These things mean we will continue to do our important work to uphold our obligations as Tsleil-Waututh Nation people – we will uphold our law. We are not deterred. And we are exploring all legal options available. All I can say is that this is NOT the end of our story.”
— Chief Leah George Wilson of Tsleil Waututh Nation.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Squamish Nation first began legal action in 2014 against the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project. Since the Nations’ 2018 win at the Federal Court of Appeal, they have continued to work to protect their lands and waters. Today’s decision does not change that mandate. Together we have raised over a million dollars for these cases. That momentum, and commitment to stand with Indigenous communities leading these cases, does not stop today. We are with you, and we will keep pulling together.
We will never give up on our struggle to defend rights and protect the Earth. We cannot wait to be alongside you as we continue to protect the lands, air, and waters from tar sands pipeline and tanker expansion. Join us for the “Folk That Pipeline” online festival to find out what the next steps are to battle TMX.