Spill response vessels take to Burrard Inlet for an exercise, Sept. 19, 2018. (Trans Mountain Corp.)

B.C. First Nations didn’t approach pipeline consultation in good faith: lawyer

Trans Mountain argues the Indigenous groups are relitigating issues raised in the original case

A lawyer for Trans Mountain Corp. is defending the government’s consultation with Indigenous groups over the Crown corporation’s operation and construction of its pipeline project.

Maureen Killoran said Wednesday that the $10 billion project has twice been declared in the national interest by a government that weighed various priorities, perspectives and interests, and the Federal Court of Appeal is tasked with striking the same balance.

The court is hearing arguments about whether a new round of consultations with Indigenous groups on the project was adequate after the same court quashed the government’s initial approval of the pipeline in August 2018.

Killoran told a three-judge panel that the latest round of consultations builds on more than six years of work by Trans Mountain to engage with Indigenous groups and other affected communities, and that will continue through the project life cycle.

She said arguments should be dismissed by the four Indigenous groups who allege the government failed again to meaningfully engage them before approving the project for the second time.

Killoran said the same groups failed to engage with Trans Mountain in good faith or at all and are relitigating issues that were raised in the original case or have taken positions that are effectively a veto against the project.

“We say that such defences serve as a complete bar to the applicants in this case,” Killoran said.

The three-day hearing to consider challenges launched by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a coalition of small First Nations in the Fraser Valley were expected to conclude Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has twice approved a plan to triple the capacity of the pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.

Several First Nations, environmental groups and the City of Vancouver had originally filed challenges making a range of arguments including that the project threatens southern resident killer whales.

Killoran alleged Trans Mountain was excluded from meetings with the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, and Squamish did not respond to any correspondence from Trans Mountain.

She also argued that the nations are attempting to revisit issues that have already been dealt with, despite direction from the court that the new round of consultations should be specific and focused on filling gaps related to project impacts on Indigenous rights.

Scientific reports that have been taken into evidence by the National Energy Board should not be the subject of new arguments, she said.

“Where the (energy board) considers conflicting evidence and reaches a determination, this is not a gap on which the Crown needs to permit the applicants a second kick at the can,” she said.

In contrast, she agreed that Coldwater has appropriately identified the lack of a feasibility study on an alternate route for the pipeline as a real gap in earlier rounds of consultations.

The existing pipeline runs through the Coldwater reserve and the First Nation has expressed concerns about impacts to the aquifer that supplies its drinking water.

However, she accused Coldwater’s leadership too of avoiding contact with Trans Mountain and of delaying the initiation of drilling required to begin a requested study of potential impacts on the aquifer.

When asked by one of the judges if she thinks a failure to engage with Trans Mountain constitutes a failure to engage with the Crown, Killoran responded that it is.

“A failure to engage the proponent and take advantage of those opportunities is absolutely a failure to engage,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nation alleges feds withheld information in pipeline consultation

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stepping Stones in need of clothing donations

The Nelson shelter is asking for help

Nelson launches citizen survey on climate change

Survey can be filled out online until Jan. 31

Province looking at steps to dissolve Jumbo resort municipality

Disincorporating municipality will likely require a legislative change, according to the province

New playground, dock in Nelson receive Columbia Basin Trust funding

Projects in Slocan, Winlaw and Taghum also received grants

WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

VIDEO: ‘Porn’ answer was a wrong one for Surrey family on ‘Feud’ game show

Surrey’s Rams competed on the TV show Wednesday night

Abandoned boats left to freeze on Okanagan Lake cause chaos

Over the last week weather conditions have caused three separate incidents

B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai: ‘Everyone is on edge’

Face masks and hand sanitizer ‘sell out’ as 9 SARS-like illness cases confirmed in the city

B.C.-based firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing three

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

Living near major roads linked to higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s: UBC study

Green space could mitigate some of the risks, researchers found

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

Victoria’s plastic-bag ban ended by Supreme Court of Canada

City’s leave to appeal lower court’s decision denied

One person in Vancouver being monitored for coronavirus, feds say

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said five or six people are being monitored in Canada

Most Read