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Squamish Nation takes NEB to court over pipeline

First Nations groups allege there has not been meaningful consultation

The Squamish Nation have filed one of three similar court challenges.
The Squamish Nation have filed one of three similar court challenges.

The Squamish Nation is filing a court challenge against the National Energy Board (NEB) for recommending the approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion.

The recommendation report, which was issued on May 19, consists of 157 conditions that the Nation alleges did not sufficiently and carefully address their concerns or the concerns of other BC First Nations.

The NEB allegedly failed to thoroughly consult the Squamish Nation about the conditions before going forward to recommend that the federal government approve the pipeline expansion.

“The conditions established by the NEB aren’t reflective enough of the Squamish Nation’s beliefs, [which] need to clearly be represented,” said Ronald Johnston, director of the office of Indigenous Education at SFU, who emphasized that he speaks respectfully and independently from the Squamish Nation and does not represent them.

This $6.8 billion expansion project is slated to nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline, which currently transports 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to Burnaby. It will also reportedly increase the risk of oil spills in the Burrard Inlet by up to 600 percent, and tanker traffic will be multiplied by almost seven.

“The standard for meaningful consultation has been established by precedent Supreme Court decisions and lawsuits,” Johnston said. “It stems from the Constitution Act Section 35 that affirms the rights the aboriginals have within the act.”

The Squamish Nation is not the only BC First Nations taking a legal stand against the NEB’s actions. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation filed a lawsuit against the NEB under similar claims in October 2015.

“We’ve had a chance to look at [the reports] and have come to the conclusion that they didn’t seriously take into consideration Squamish’s concerns. Therefore, we must file a writ to protect our interests,” Chief Ian Campbell told The Vancouver Sun.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has put the final decision on hold until December 2016, as three court challenges have been filed for similar reasons against NEB — from the City of Vancouver, Squamish nation, and Tsleil-Waututh.

“For them to have taken legal action, it means they were left with no alternative,” said Johnston.

“It’s not just about a conflict between the First Nations and the NEB, it’s about any person who faces an alleged act of unlawful conduct and disputing it in court. That is a natural response.”

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