TransCanada’s 650-kilometre (400-mile) Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is headed for judicial review after the Nadleh Whut’en and the Nak’azdli First Nations in British Columbia filed a challenge to the province’s environmental assessment process in mid-December.
The communities’ lawyer, Merle Alexander, said this was the first legal challenge initiated by a First Nation against the province’s liquefied natural gas industry.
“We took every step possible to make our concerns known to B.C. and to work with the province to have our concerns addressed,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation. “Unfortunately, B.C. rushed the project through the environmental assessment process and left us with no other option.”
Alexander said the 32 conditions that B.C. established in approving the project failed to reflect hundreds of pages of submissions from his clients. “They’re challenging primarily on the basis that there’s been a failure to fulfill the duty to consult and accommodate the First Nations.”
The communities are focusing much of their attention on the provincial Environmental Assessment Office’s dual role as regulator carrying out the duty to consult and the decision-maker on whether that duty has been met, Munson writes. Their challenge will be based in part on the Supreme Court of Canada’s recognition of Aboriginal title in the Tsilhqot’in decision last year.