‘Trudeau government failed in its rhetoric’: First Nations groups react to Trans Mountain ruling

WATCH: Reaction from B.C. First Nations groups after the federal Court of Appeal has quashed construction approvals for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The Squamish Nation is celebrating the ruling Thursday morning from the Federal Court of Appeal that quashed Ottawa’s approval of the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The decision means the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of Kinder Morgan Canada’s project.

“The Trudeau government failed in its rhetoric about reconciliation with First Nations and this court decision shows that,” said Khelsilem, the spokesperson for the Squamish Nation in a statement Thursday morning.

“This decision reinforces our belief that the Trans Mountain expansion project must not proceed and we tell the prime minister to start listening and put an end to this type of relationship. It is time for the prime minister to do the right thing.”

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In a written decision, the court says the energy board’s review was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion.

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The court also concludes that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations before giving the green light to the project.

That decision means the government will have to redo part of its consultations with Indigenous groups.

“We’re winning” said Rueben George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Thursday. “Today the court heard the teachings of our culture.”

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“The pipeline is not in the best interest of Canada and that’s what the court said today.”

Chief Maureen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation echoed George’s sentiments, saying “now the federal government is going to have to take a second look and learn to work with all of us.”

WATCH: Coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on

Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, congratulated the First Nations and local governments following the announcement.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for First Nations’ rights and for all those who have long held that this project was not approved based on evidence,” Weaver said in a statement.

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“I am particularly glad to see the court’s judgement that there was an unjustifiable failure at the heart of the federal government’s approval of this project: the failure to assess the impacts of marine shipping on the environment. This was an outrageous omission on the part of the federal government that flies in the face of their stated commitment to evidence-based decision-making. The NEB acknowledged that the marine traffic from this project posed significant harm to the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. The government must now justify to Canadians, and to the world, why it is willing to herald the death knell of this irreplaceable species if it continues to pursue this project.”

Weaver went on to say that following two of the worst wildfire seasons in B.C.’s history, it is now “clear” that B.C. cannot “continue down the misguided path of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“I hope the federal government will now realize that there is an enormous opportunity to support B.C.’s leadership, rather than attempting to force our province to shoulder the huge environmental and economic risks that this project presents.”

Other groups are also applauding the ruling.

The Rainforest Action Network said in a statement: “This is a great victory for Indigenous communities everywhere fighting against destructive projects being imposed upon their territories. It signals that governments, corporations, and funders must all respect Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent.” 

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READ MORE: ‘I’ve lived my 70 years abiding by the law’: B.C. grandma jailed for Trans Mountain protest

Khelsilem and other First Nations leaders will be holding a news conference in Vancouver Thursday at 9:30 a.m. PT. Watch it live in our livestream above.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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