Liberals won’t appeal Trans Mountain ruling, name former justice to oversee new Indigenous consultations
The Liberals will not appeal a court ruling that found they failed to adequately consult with Indigenous stakeholders on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi made the announcement Wednesday morning in Ottawa.
Speaking to reporters, Sohi said the government will redo consultations with all 117 Indigenous groups affected by the project.
Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci has also been appointed to oversee these new consultations.
WATCH BELOW: To get Trans Mountain built Andrew Scheer says he would invoke constitutional powers, ban foreign funds
In August, a Federal Court ruling hit the brakes on the Trans Mountain expansion project, which will triple the capacity of an existing pipeline to carry crude oil to the B.C. coast.
That ruling flagged two major issues with the project: first, that the initial approval by the National Energy Board was fundamentally flawed for not considering the impact of the expansion and increased tanker traffic on marine ecosystems and second, that the current Liberal government failed in its duty to consult adequately during the latest Phase 3 round of talks with Indigenous communities.
Last month, Sohi announced the NEB would take a review specifically looking at the marine impact of the expansion, which must be done by mid-February 2019.
He said at the time he was leaving the issue of how to approach Indigenous consultations until a later date.
On Wednesday, he said the government is not putting a timeline on the consultations with Indigenous groups but hoped it would be “efficient.”
“We will not put a stop-clock on the consultations,” he said, noting he “has faith” that the groups the government plans to consult will not try to run out the clock and stall the project indefinitely.
“We’re going to be going into the communities with an open mind.”
Where possible, the government will tr to offer accommodations to Indigenous communities to relieve their concerns.
But if groups remain opposed after the government has fulfilled its consultation requirements, it will still go forward.
“There might be groups that will still oppose this project. That’s fine because that’s their right to do so. But that does not mean, if we fulfill our obligations, these groups have a veto to stop the project,” he said.
“We will not cut corners as we move forward on this project.”
WATCH: Ottawa speaks on decision to not appeal Trans Mountain ruling
When asked why the government decided against an appeal, Sohi said there were several factors involved.
Appeals can take years, he said.
“Appealing a decision is not an efficient way of dealing with the decision,” he told reporters.
As well, the underlying problems identified by the court with Indigenous rights and environmental responsibility are two issues the government cares deeply about, noted Sohi.
“Those are values that are very near and dear to our government,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed those remarks before heading into a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“We are intending to follow the blue print laid out by the courts,” he said of the decision not to appeal.
“If we were to appeal, it would take another few years before we could begin construction.”
So far, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has criticized the lack of a timeline for getting the additional consultations done.
He pointed to deadlines set by the federal government for things like marijuana legalization and imposing the carbon tax, and added that without a firm end in sight there’s no guarantee renewed consultations will go any quicker than the multi-year timeline the government said was a reason for not appealing the court decision.
Neither Alberta Premier Rachel Notley nor BC Premier John Hordan have yet offered a response.
Conservative natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs and Indigenous relations critic Cindy McLeod criticized the decision in a joint statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“The Federal Court of Appeal gave the Liberals clear directions to address their failure to properly consult with Indigenous communities,” the statement reads.
“But instead of following those directions, the government announced they will launch another process, with no timeline, that will only further delay construction. That is absolutely unacceptable.”
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has not commented.
WATCH: Ottawa to re-consult with Indigenous groups on Trans Mountain pipeline
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