BREAKING NEWS: First Nations score another victory against Trans Mountain

Kai Nagata - Dogwood BC

It’s another legal hurdle for the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion proposal.

Today, B.C.’s Court of Appeal ordered provincial ministers to reconsider the conditions hastily attached to the project by former Premier Christy Clark.

There’s no timeline on that process, but First Nations are encouraging the province to partner with them and “jointly review” Trans Mountain’s threats to rivers, beaches, drinking water, neighbourhoods and human health.

“Premier Horgan and his government need to set the bar higher and rethink their approach to the TMX project,” said Khelsilem, an elected councillor with the Squamish Nation, which brought the appeal.

The core issue was that Clark’s government relied entirely on the National Energy Board’s first review of Trans Mountain to issue a provincial environmental certificate. Then came the bombshell 2018 decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, invalidating the NEB’s entire report.

“It only makes sense that a Provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate issued based on that fatally flawed report would have to be revisited,” says Khelsilem. The province fought the Squamish every step of the way in court. But today, all three appeal judges sided with the Squamish.

What now? The provincial cabinet must turn its mind once again to the Trans Mountain proposal -- and keeping British Columbians safe. Here are some conditions I’d like to see the province impose on this risky project before issuing any more permits:

  • Require Trans Mountain to demonstrate its ability to clean up 80 per cent or more of any heavy oil spill from beaches in the Salish Sea. Anything less is an insult.
  • Require Trans Mountain to create an effective safety plan for Burnaby Mountain. Even the National Energy Board agrees that taking six hours to respond to a tank farm fire would put thousands of lives at risk.
  • Require Trans Mountain to go around sensitive aquifers like the one on the Coldwater reserve, where an Indigenous community’s drinking water is directly threatened by the pipeline.
  • Require Trans Mountain to finally conduct a health impact review, which doctors and municipal officials have been pleading for all along. The chemicals that make bitumen flow through a pipe, like benzene, could poison thousands of people if inhaled.
That’s just off the top of my head. Of course, any additional or strengthened conditions should be decided on in partnership with First Nations -- who share jurisdiction and responsibility for the lands and waters threatened by the Trans Mountain proposal.

We’ll see if the province comes to its senses after today’s court decision. If not, we may need to pile on the pressure for them to do the right thing. For today, I would suggest a donation to the Pull Together campaign, which is raising money for the Squamish Nation and five other Indigenous groups to pursue one more challenge in the Federal Court of Appeal.

With every victory I grow more hopeful that our Indigenous allies can put the brakes on this dangerous, wrongheaded proposal in court.

In solidarity,


P.S. Today marks the end of the Squamish Nation’s challenge of Christy Clark’s flawed pipeline approval. I’m glad the judges sided with the Squamish, and I hope the Horgan government does a good job reconsidering the conditions it attaches to this pipeline and oil tanker expansion. In the meantime, please join me in donating to Pull Together, the official fundraising campaign for the Squamish and five other Indigenous groups appealing the federal government’s slapdash re-approval of Trans Mountain.