Canada to get into talks with indigenous groups on Trans Mountain pipeline

Canada to get into talks with indigenous groups on Trans Mountain pipeline

Canada to get into talks with indigenous groups on Trans Mountain pipeline

/ International News / Thursday, 11 October 2018 08:51

Canada's resources minister said Ottawa was relaunching consultations with indigenous groups on the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Pacific after a court ruled the tribes get a say in the multi-billion-dollar project.

“We believe that we can and must move forward with engaging in a meaningful and focused consultation with indigenous groups on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project,” Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told a press conference. And so the government, he said, will “reinitiate consultations with indigenous groups impacted by the project.”

The minister added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government - which has made reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples a priority - would seek to “dialogue and listen carefully to the concerns of indigenous peoples and offer accommodation if accommodation is possible.”

Sohi also said the government will not appeal the court ruling affirming the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples to be consulted on commercial projects on their traditional lands.

Trudeau, speaking to reporters outside parliament, said an appeal was off the table because it “would take another few years before we could begin construction.”

“We feel the blueprint the court laid out for (Trans Mountain) will allow us to get things done quicker and get our resources to new markets other than the United States in a more rapid fashion,” he said.

The 1 150-kilometer (715-mile) pipeline was to move 890 000 barrels of oil a day from landlocked Alberta province to the Pacific coast for export, replacing a smaller crumbling conduit built in 1953.

The Trudeau administration approved the project in 2016 after an environmental review, saying it was in the “national interest” as it would help ease Canada's reliance on the US market and get a better price for its crude oil.

But the planned pipeline has faced stiff opposition from environmentalists and indigenous tribes worried that increased shipping from a marine terminal at the end of the route in Vancouver would impede the recovery of killer whale populations in the area.

Ottawa stepped in to buy the project for Can$4.5 billion (US$3.5 billion), effectively nationalizing it in a bid to bring a swift end to legal challenges and illegal protests at construction sites. However, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the government must take a second look at the project, taking greater care to consult with indigenous tribes and consider marine traffic impacts.

Last month, Sohi sent the file back to the National Energy Board for reassessment, taking into account the impact of increased tanker traffic on endangered killer whales along the coast. Once that review and indigenous consultations are concluded, Trudeau's cabinet would have to decide again whether to greenlight the project.


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