Industry stakeholders are pleased with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a challenge by four Indigenous groups opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
On Feb 3. the court made a 3-0 decision stating the federal government carried out extensive consultation with Indigenous peoples affected by construction of the project before giving approval for a second time for the project to go ahead.
A previous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in August 2018 had stated consultations had up to that point failed and ordered the first approval quashed and directed the federal government to hold more extensive consultations with affected Indigenous groups.
Reaction to the decision amongst western Canadian construction industry leaders was positive.
“We’re delighted. As a group of contractors, we’ve been standing in line to employ thousands of Canadians to work on the pipeline,” Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) president Paul de Jong said.
“We understand the regulatory process takes time and requires consultation. This latest case being dismissed is a key step forward. Workers can work and investors can look at Canada and have one more indication that Canada is open for business,” he said.
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association vice president of communications and marketing Jordan Bateman said he’s pleased with the decision.
“It felt like the goal posts were shifting, but we finally have clarity from the court. We don’t believe there should be any more obstacles and it’s met all legal tests,” Bateman said.
He added the First Nations groups (the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a group of seven Stó:lō villages) have a right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada but he was confident the decision wouldn’t be overturned.
“Let’s get to work. There’s thousands of men and women across two provinces looking forward to building this thing and we encourage the government to get building Trans Mountain,” Bateman said.
BC Building Trades executive director Andrew Mercier was also pleased with the decision.
“BC Building Trades affiliated unions have been building pipelines for decades across Canada, and we have the expertise to ensure this pipeline is built to the highest standards,” he said.
Mercier also said the court’s ruling showed proper consultation had taken place.
“The court has been clear that you need to have reasonable and actual consultation with Indigenous peoples, and the ruling speaks to that,” he said.
“The ruling represents clearance of the last legal hurdle, and that will allow approximately 5,000 jobs to move forward. It’s good news for the construction industry and it send the message that Canada is open for business, which is a good thing,” Vancouver Regional Construction Association president Fiona Famulak said.
The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision made clear while the first set of consultations were inadequate, the second round had met an approved standard of consultation.
“The applicants’ submissions are essentially that the Project cannot be approved until all of their concerns are resolved to their satisfaction. If we accepted those submissions, as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the Project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it,” the decision stated.
The Squamish Nation said in a release that “significant uncertainties and risks remain associated with the project in unseeded Squamish Territory, and that these have not been adequately addressed to-date.”
“There is a lot in the Federal Court of Appeal decision that concerns us. The TMX Project continues to be a threat to our coastline and community in the case of a pipeline leak or tanker spill. This project will harm our communities, our people, and the jobs our people rely on in the Vancouver area,” Squamish Nation Councillor and Spokesperson Khelsilem said.
“Canada was ordered to try again at meaningfully consulting with our Nation but treated us with the same contempt as the first time, when the Courts deemed that Canada’s attempt to consult ‘fell well short of the mark’,” Khelsilem added.