The Supreme Court of Canada—the arena for a long series of constitutional decisions that have expanded the recognition of Indigenous rights in Canada—hears arguments Wednesday on two cases that could have profound significance for the fossil fuel industry, Canada’s government, and the embattled National Energy Board.
In one case, the Inuit community of Clyde River, Nunavut is asking the country’s top court to overturn permits the NEB issued for marine seismic testing in its area. “The tests involve a five-year program of 230-decibel sound blasts every 13 to 15 seconds, 24 hours a day, during operating periods,” the Canadian Press reports. “Locals say that would kill or drive away the animals they depend on, a position widely shared across Nunavut.”
The community argues the federal government ignored its constitutional duty to consult with its members by leaving the task to the NEB. “No public hearings were held, and local people had no chance to examine statements from the proponent,” the news agency reports, citing the plaintiffs’ lawyer Nadal Hasan.
The Chippewas of Ontario’s Thames River valley will make a similar argument over another conflict during the same hearing. That group, CP reports, wants “the court to overturn a permit given to Enbridge Inc. to reverse and expand the flow of the Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia, Ontario and Montreal.” The community’s brief to the court asserts that “neither the Crown nor the board at any time engaged in meaningful consultation with the Chippewas First Nation regarding the nature of their asserted aboriginal rights and interests.”
Ottawa argued successfully in both cases before the Federal Court of Appeal that the National Energy Board was qualified to stand in for the Crown, and that the plaintiff groups had sufficient opportunity inform themselves about the issues and voice their concerns.