First Nations turn to court following Ottawa approval of tar sands pipeline


Nearly two weeks ahead of elections, Canada’s federal government will face off with frontline communities in a Vancouver courtroom as those communities fight to overturn the approval of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Starting today, a First Nations-lead coalition is presenting their case against the Conservative government in a six day “mega hearing” following the controversial approval of the project that cuts through 40 traditional First Nation territories. Environmental groups have long revealed that the multibillion dollar pipeline — which would transport bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands towards British Columbia’s Pacific coast — could affect salmon spawning grounds, increase tanker traffic, and put communities vulnerable to pipeline spills at the mercy of an industry with a track record of failure, while simultaneously violating Indigenous land rights. With national party leaders putting their best foot forward as they inch towards the election finish line, all eyes will be on candidates to prove that they are putting people’s best interest ahead of a dwindling industry.



Key Points

  • First Nations are using their land rights to protect communities far and wide. First Nations leaders are pursuing legal actions against big oil and the Canadian government by holding them accountable to legal measures put in place to protect their interests. By taking on this battle, they are also working to protect the wider community and the environment from the impacts of this pipeline.
  • Pipelines have real impacts on communities. Pipelines are risky — they’re leaky, emit greenhouse gas emissions, affect wildlife and cut through communities while violating the territorial rights of those who live off the land. A project like Northern Gateway could devastate many communities.
  • Federal candidates can show that they put people at the forefront of their political agenda. While the Crown deliberates over the legitimacy of this pipeline in the coming days, federal leaders will be on the campaign trail. Now is a unique opportunity for Canada’s next prime minister to show what he or she intends to do for the people and the climate if they were to run the country.



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  • “Climate change and pipelines are key issues during this election. This summary reveals a wide gap between different parties’ positions on issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy and transit.” – Steven Guilbeault, Équiterre

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