OTTAWA – The federal government will not appeal the court decision that tore up cabinet approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and is appointing former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi says the government does not intend to start the phase-three Indigenous consultations from the beginning, but will use them to address the weaknesses that led to the Federal Court of Appeal decision in August.
The court found that while the government did spend several months in 2016 meeting with Indigenous communities concerned about the pipeline, those consultations were largely note-taking exercises and the government did not do anything to address the concerns that were raised.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion plan to triple capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., is in limbo while Ottawa attempts to fulfil requirements to consult Indigenous communities and consider the environmental impact the pipeline will have from additional oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia.
Last month, Sohi ordered the National Energy Board to go back and do a better environmental review of the risk of oil spills and the impact on marine life when the number of oil tankers in the Burrard Inlet rises to 35 a month from about five.
Sohi gave the NEB until the end of February to report back on the environmental review, but is not putting a deadline on the Indigenous consultations.
“We believe that meaningful consultation can be undertaken in a focused and efficient manner,” he told a news conference today.
“We are not going to put a timeline on these consultations because we feel that it is our duty to faithfully engage with the Indigenous communities to get this right.”