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VIDEO: B.C. First Nations hail court’s quash of Kinder Morgan pipeline approval

First Nations from across B.C. celebrated the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision on Thursday to quash Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“This project cannot proceed based on this court order. Indigenous people have won,” said Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “This whole process must be restarted.”

He was among other members the Tsleil-Waututh, as well as the Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to talk about next steps in a news conference in Vancouver’s Crab Park following the decision.

“Canada did not behave honourably with its relationship with the Squamish people… this government played politics with our livelihood,” said Squamish Nation spokesperson Dustin Rivers. “Their consultation process was in effect note-taking.”

The appeals court took aim at Ottawa’s failure to consult with Indigenous peoples in its decision to approve the expansion, saying the government acted in good faith and had an appropriate plan, but they merely listened and recorded Indigenous objections and did not respond with “responsive, considered and meaningful dialogue.”

It means the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of the project and the federal government will have to reengage with Indigenous groups.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

TIMELINE: Key dates in the history of the Trans Mountain pipeline

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said they were wary of whatever next steps Canada takes.

“Mr. Trudeau is in an incredibly awkward position at this moment,” said Phillip. “We have no reason whatsoever to trust the Trudeau government’s grandiose statements. We will take it as it comes.”

Speaking from Victoria later that morning, Premier John Horgan praised the ruling.

“This case has always been about First Nations rights and about the Tsleil-Waututh asserting their view that the NEB decision was flawed,” said Horgan. “[Trans Mountain] is something that will no longer be top of mind for British Columbians.”

Horgan acknowledged that not all Canadians, and particularly Albertans, would be happy. He was set to speak to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley later that day.

Premier John Horgan fields questions about Trans Mountain following a federal appeals court decision to quash the project’s approval on Thursday. (Arnold Lim/Black Press Media)

BC Greens Leader Andrew Weaver call the ruling a “death knell” for the Trans Mountain expansion.

“The environmental risk of shipping polluted bitumen is not worth the hypothetical benefit,” said Weaver.

“The reality is that the NEB assessment process has changed… that new process would not have ever approved [Trans Mountain]. I suspect we’re going to see this project kicked down the road, past the next federal election, and it will quietly die the death of a thousand paper cuts.”

Ottawa has pledged to overhaul the National Energy Board by making the process consider not just environmental impacts but also health, the economy, social issues, gender and Indigenous rights.

The new review body will have a new name – the Canadian Energy Regulator – and tighter approval deadlines for many projects.

But gasoline energy experts are wary of what the appeal court’s decision means for the price at the pump in B.C.

“It would probably insulate us to a large extent against the price shocks that are caused by problems with the U.S. west coast [supply],” said GasBuddy.com senior analyst Dan McTeague.

Other than one refinery in Burnaby, Washington State ones supply most of the Lower Mainland’s gas.

Those U.S. refineries bring about 50,000 barrels to B.C. – the same amount the could be shipped into the Lower Mainland with a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline, McTeague said.

READ MORE: Gas prices to spike for Labour Day long weekend

“It would plug a significant hole in terms of the fuel deficit we have here in the Lower Mainland,” he noted.

“It would do it in a way that wouldn’t involve having to building another refinery and go through the risk of 10 years of back-and-forth.”

McTeague said that while the court’s decision won’t have an immediate impact on pricing, it will make future investors wary of bringing refineries to B.C.

“Anybody who thought that we were going to build a refinery near Vancouver anytime soon better take a look at that decision… that’s a clear call to any investor in this world that Canada is definitively closed for business.”


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Katya Slepian

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