Federal Court dismisses First Nations’ challenges to TMX pipeline project

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OTTAWA – The Federal Court of Appeal says the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion a second time is reasonable and will stand.

In a unanimous, 3-0 decision today, the court dismissed four challenges to that approval launched last summer by First Nations in British Columbia.

The First Nations argued at a hearing in December the government went into consultations with Indigenous communities in the fall of 2018 having predetermined the outcome in favour of building the project.

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But the three judges who decided the case say cabinet’s second round of consultations with First Nations affected by the pipeline was “anything but a rubber-stamping exercise.”

The judges say the government made a “genuine effort” to listen to and consider the concerns raised by the First Nations and introduced new conditions to mitigate them.

The expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

It has become a political football for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he insists Canada can continue to expand oil production and still meet its commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Trudeau’s government stepped up to buy the existing pipeline in 2018 after political opposition to the project from the B.C. government caused Kinder Morgan Canada to pull out from building the expansion.

The government intends to finish the expansion and then sell both the existing pipeline and the expansion back to the private sector.

It has been in talks with some Indigenous communities about the sale, but Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said the project won’t be sold until all the risks to proceeding are eliminated. Those risks included this court case.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2020.

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