Aboriginal concerns have been a key part of protests against the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal

Pipeline foes to fight Ottawa on approval

Northern Gateway opponents to face feds in next phase of pipeline fight

  • Jun. 18, 2014 11:00 a.m.

By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – One of the biggest hurdles for the Northern Gateway project is one the company has never had the means to address.

Now that the project has received federal approval, the next phase of the pipeline fight will not focus on the Calgary pipeline company but on the government that many B.C. First Nations ultimately blame for the dispute.

“For us, it’s a rights and title discussion,” Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation, said Wednesday.

“It’s not necessarily about a pipeline.”

The Crown has failed to resolve aboriginal rights and title in B.C. for generations, he said. Now, native communities are united for a sweeping legal challenge against the federal government approval, he said.

The expected legal challenge involves a coalition that includes all three major aboriginal organizations in the province: the pro-treaty First Nations Summit, the anti-treaty Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the regional branch of the Assembly of First Nations, as well as dozens of individual bands.

They will meet in the coming weeks to decide on the course their case will take, Lantin said.

Lantin said the Haida recognize the importance of natural resource projects and the national interest, and he said they would be happy to have that conversation — about another project.

“There is no compromise. There is no mitigating measures that we could talk about that would satisfy or change the Haida position,” he said.

“I don’t believe that after the fact we can somehow hit a reset button. … The damage is done.”

The company said it will continue trying to engage aboriginal and other communities.

Janet Holder, vice-president of western access for Northern Gateway Pipelines, said there have been some discussions and more are planned.

Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and its partners remain committed to the project, she said.

“We believe that we can move past this,” Holder said. “I don’t think we’ll get 100 per cent support. There’s never anything, any significant issue, that’s ever been dealt with in Canada that has ever had 100 per cent support.”

But the project is worth working on, she said. Canadians are losing billions of dollars a year in revenue without access to the coast for export, she said, and Enbridge and its 10 partners will push forward and find a way to make it work.

“They truly understood before and understand now what the issues are, what needs to be done to move forward, and they’re still willing to fund the project,” she said.

Analysts and shareholders appeared less optimistic. Shares in Enbridge dropped slightly the morning after the federal announcement.

“All told, we see the federal government’s approval largely as academic at this point, with B.C. provincial, environmental and First Nations challenges likely stalling further progress, potentially for years,” said an analysis by CIBC World Markets.

“We do not believe it likely that a consensus can be reached on the project; the environmental and First Nations groups have become entrenched in their positions.”

In announcing approval, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said the company has more work to do to engage aboriginal groups and local communities.

But it’s not necessarily the company that has work to do, said one legal expert.

First Nations have legal rights, but in the absence of treaties in B.C., it’s not clear just what those rights entail, said Gordon Christie, an expert in aboriginal law at the University of British Columbia.

“The federal government has the responsibilities to First Nations, not the company,” he said. “This is all about the government making a decision to allow the pipeline to be built.”

Legal challenges could take up to two or three years to resolve, he said.

The Conservative government already faces another challenge in Federal Court that could affect the approval.

The Mikisew Cree and Frog Lake nations in Alberta have filed for a judicial review of changes to the federal environmental assessment rules and the Fisheries and Indian acts included in the Tories’ omnibus budget bill two years ago.

They argue the changes undermine environmental protections and the Crown’s duty to consult aboriginals.

Just Posted

VIDEO: ‘Stewie the Starfish’ mascot revealed at Premier League kickoff party

Pacific FC kickoff party scores in Victoria Inner Harbour

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake returns to Langford

Annual fundraising event held from April 26 to 28

Report calls on Saanich to expand multicultural programming at recreation facilities

Report also notes that Saanich could do more for sexual minorities.

Victoria cannabis dispensaries are busy in their first days of legal operation

The Cloud Nine Collective and The Original FARM opened their doors on April 15

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Most Read