British Columbia First Nations scored a major victory over Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline Wednesday when the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the province had breached its duty to consult the Gitga’at and other First Nations on the project.
“I don’t think we could be happier. This is a landmark decision,” said Art Sterritt, former executive director of Coastal First Nations. “Basically, Northern Gateway is back where they started 10 years ago.”
The court challenge focused on a June 2010 “equivalency agreement” in which B.C. gave the National Energy Board final say over the environmental assessment process for five projects, including Northern Gateway, the National Observer reports. This week’s ruling essentially nullifies federal approval of the project, said Coastal First Nations lawyer Joseph Arvay.
“What it means is, Enbridge now has to come back and get the certificate from British Columbia,” Arvay told the Observer. “The ruling said the B.C. government abdicated its duty to conduct an environmental assessment, and its duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations.”
Yet he speculated the province would be “loathe to appeal” the ruling, since it “actually confirms British Columbia’s legal right and constitutional power to weigh in on major energy projects,” Uechi writes.
Three time zones away, meanwhile, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation has launched a Supreme Court appeal of the Line 9 pipeline from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal. “At the heart of its legal case is a question over the duty of the Crown to consult and accommodate First Nations on concerns related to the potential effects of the pipeline on their Aboriginal and treaty rights,” Canadian Press reports. “The First Nation argues it wasn’t consulted properly over the pipeline that runs through its traditional territory.”
“The case has huge implications for First Nations across the country,” said Chief Leslee White-Eye. “The corporations running the pipeline shouldn’t be the ones fulfilling the constitutional obligations.”