Bill Loutitt, CEO of the McMurray Metis still wants to buy a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion despite the recent Federal Court of Appeal ruling.(HO/The Canadian Press)

Indigenous groups still want to buy stake in Trans Mountain after court setback

Federal Court of Appeal ruling quashed the government’s approval of the project

Some First Nations and Metis communities are determined to purchase an equity stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion despite a court ruling that halted construction and potentially set the project back for years.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruling quashed the government’s approval of the project, requiring it to examine the impacts of increased tanker traffic and consult more deeply with Aboriginal groups along the pipeline route.

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

Indigenous groups in Fort McMurray, Alta., say they still want to invest in the project and believe the ruling creates an opportunity for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to get consultation right.

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to consultation,” said Brad Callihoo, chief executive officer of the Fort McMurray #468 First Nation. “(The ruling) identifies an issue that needs to be addressed. The system is broken when it comes to consultation and we need to fix it.”

Canada has purchased the existing Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and pledged to complete the expansion project, which would triple the line’s capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil a day and increase the number of tankers in Metro Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

READ MORE: B.C. spill response plans in limbo after Trans Mountain decision

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

Several First Nations in coastal and central B.C. filed lawsuits against the project, citing inadequate consultation. As they celebrated their win on the banks of Burrard Inlet on Aug. 30, dozens of construction workers from Callihoo’s First Nation were sent home from their jobs.

Indigenous communities on either side of the pipeline fight say they respect each other’s stance and feel no sense of division between them. First Nations aren’t always going to agree, but all deserve meaningful consultation, said Callihoo.

“Do I think there could be common ground for all the First Nations? Absolutely. But we have to be able to come to the table and meet the demands of the B.C. First Nations, just as (was done with) the Alberta First Nations.”

Not all Aboriginal groups in B.C. oppose the project. Thirty-three First Nations signed mutual-benefits agreements with Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. before the expansion was taken over by the federal government, and Cheam First Nation Chief Ernie Crey has expressed interest in buying a stake.

The goal for Callihoo’s First Nation is to become a self-sufficient community that does not rely on government subsidies for the next seven generations, he said, and a stake in the pipeline project would go a long way to achieving that objective.

The McMurray Metis are flourishing thanks to the economic opportunities provided by the oilsands, said chief executive officer Bill Loutitt, pointing to higher-than-average numbers of Aboriginal graduates in the region. The group will continue to push for a stake in Trans Mountain, he said.

Loutitt said Trudeau’s government should pass legislation to urgently resume construction on the project in Alberta, while also fulfilling their obligations to consult and review tanker traffic impacts. It should consider including Alberta Indigenous groups in talks with B.C. First Nations, he added.

“The one common thing that we’re concerned about is the environment,” he said. “But the way to take care of the environment is to be involved on the inside. That’s where you’re able to make the changes.”

The McMurray Metis have opposed projects in the past and learned development usually happens regardless, he said, so the only difference is whether the community benefits from the project and has control over it.

“I really see an opportunity for the coastal First Nations to be a big part in piloting these tankers and actually taking control of what’s going on in their backyard,” he said.

But Rueben George, a representative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver, said he couldn’t imagine his community ever supporting the project or purchasing a stake.

The Tsleil-Waututh commissioned its own 1,200-page environmental assessment and concluded the project was a threat not only to its traditional territories but to the global fight against climate change, he said.

“This isn’t good for Canada. This isn’t good for the world,” he said.

The community could have negotiated a mutual-benefits agreement worth millions but it chose to protect the land and water instead, he added.

But George said he understands why dozens of First Nations signed agreements and why some want to go further and invest in the project. Indigenous Peoples are statistically not doing well in Canada and communities have to make hard choices to keep members fed and housed, he said.

“In some communities in our country, we have 90 per cent, 95 per cent unemployment. I understand they have to make moves forward,” George said. “They have to look out for their people.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Snowfall warning for Trans Canada Highway

Between 15 cm to 20 cm is expected

Highway conditions for Revelstoke

Compact snow and slippery sections on Trans Canada and Highway 23

No one in Revelstoke should face dementia alone

More than 66,000 people struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia in B.C.

BREAKING: Sagmoen denied bail

Bail for Curtis Wayne Sagmoen was denied, to uproarious applause by rally supporters.

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

UBC Okanagan offers its expertise to struggling parents

Pilot walk-in clinic open to the public

VIDEO: Carport fire sets Kelowna apartment building aflame

Kelowna firefighters were called to the 1900 block of Pandosy Street about 4 a.m.

Man accused of smuggling drugs across Osoyoos border still waiting for arraignment

Armando Esparza-Ochoa was charged on Sept. 1 for importing/exporting a controlled substance

Gear worth thousands stolen from Merritt search and rescue team

Thieves broke into a storage facility twice in two days to steal gear

Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated: academics

As B.C. voters decide on electoral reform, the Vote No side is cautioning that the system would allow extremists to be elected

What now for Calgary, Canada and Olympic Games after 2026 rejection?

Calgary, along with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., made Canada a player in the international sport community

Sex-misconduct survey excludes vulnerable military members: Survivors’ group

But It’s Just 700 says recent research has shown young military members and those on training are among those most at risk for sexual violence

Many child killers have been placed in Indigenous healing lodges according to stats

As of mid-September, there were 11 offenders in healing lodges who had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder of a minor

Most Read