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Federal court dismisses Indigenous challenge of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Click to play video 'First Nations lose latest appeal against Trans Mountain pipeline expansion' First Nations lose latest appeal against Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
WATCH: What may be the last legal hurdle facing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is gone, with a ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal. Nadia Stewart reports.

The Federal Court of Appeal says the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion a second time is reasonable and will stand.

In a unanimous, 3-0 decision Tuesday, the court dismissed four challenges to that approval launched last summer by First Nations in British Columbia.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was “delighted” by the decision, saying it showed the project is “overwhelmingly supported” by Indigenous communities across western Canada.

“This is a victory for common sense and the rule of law,” Kenney said Tuesday.

“While we respect the opinion of those who have voiced opposition to the project, the fact is the majority of First Nations communities — and the majority of Canadians — want to share in the economic benefits of responsible resource development.

Click to play video 'Kenney ‘delighted’ with Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion' Kenney ‘delighted’ with Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion
Kenney ‘delighted’ with Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion

“That’s demonstrated by the 58 mutual benefit agreements that Trans Mountain has signed with Indigenous communities across Alberta and British Columbia.”

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READ MORE: Feds to avoid selling Trans Mountain pipeline so long as risks remain

The First Nations who opposed the project argued at a hearing in December the government went into consultations with Indigenous communities in the fall of 2018 having predetermined the outcome in favour of building the project.

But the three judges who decided the case say cabinet’s second round of consultations with First Nations affected by the pipeline was “anything but a rubber-stamping exercise.”

Click to play video 'Trudeau: TMX approval process ‘needs to be done right’' Trudeau: TMX approval process ‘needs to be done right’
Trudeau: TMX approval process ‘needs to be done right’

The judges say the government made a “genuine effort” to listen to and consider the concerns raised by the First Nations and introduced new conditions to mitigate them.

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Kenney said the ruling confirmed that the Trans Mountain expansion project “has been held to the highest standard at every turn.”

“We particularly appreciate the clarity in the decision that the duty to consult does not equal a veto.”

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley reacting to the Trans Mountain pipeline ruling in Edmonton, Alta. on Tuesday, February 4, 2020.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley reacting to the Trans Mountain pipeline ruling in Edmonton, Alta. on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. Cam Cook, Global News

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, who as premier fought for Trans Mountain, said she was also pleased with the ruling. Notley said it was a vital component to rebuilding the province’s lagging economy and restoring jobs.

“That is why we worked so hard to change national opinion, why we stood up to B.C. when they threatened it, and why we pressured the federal government to buy the pipeline when it was in jeopardy,” Notley said.

“Today the project is in play, and that is good news for Alberta.”

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The expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., and also re-route the beginning of the line in the Edmonton area.

READ MORE: Feds to avoid selling Trans Mountain pipeline so long as risks remain

Construction to prepare the route began last fall in the Edmonton area, where trenches can now be seen dug up and pipes ready to be laid along the Transportation Utility Corridor that surrounds the city.

Click to play video 'Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion ‘overwhelmingly’ supported by Indigenous groups: Premier Kenney' Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion ‘overwhelmingly’ supported by Indigenous groups: Premier Kenney
Federal Court of Appeal decision to approve TMX pipeline expansion ‘overwhelmingly’ supported by Indigenous groups: Premier Kenney

It has become a political football for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he insists Canada can continue to expand oil production and still meet its commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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READ MORE: Pipe for Trans Mountain expansion project to be in the ground before Christmas: CEO

Trudeau’s government stepped up to buy the existing pipeline in 2018 after political opposition to the project from the B.C. government caused Kinder Morgan Canada to pull out from building the expansion.

The government intends to finish the expansion and then sell both the existing pipeline and the expansion back to the private sector.

It has been in talks with some Indigenous communities about the sale, but Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said the project won’t be sold until all the risks to proceeding are eliminated. Those risks included this court case.

Click to play video 'Alberta Premier praises Trudeau for ‘commitment’ to completing TMX expansion' Alberta Premier praises Trudeau for ‘commitment’ to completing TMX expansion
Alberta Premier praises Trudeau for ‘commitment’ to completing TMX expansion

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

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