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BC: Northern Gateway pipe breaches First Nations duty

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World Pipelines,

The BC Supreme court has ruled that the province "has breached the honour of the Crown by failing to consult" with the Gitga'at and other Coastal First Nations on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The court challenge stemmed from the BC government's agreement with Ottawa to hold a single environmental assessment process, under the National Energy Board, rather than parallel federal and provincial reviews.

Coastal First Nations took the BC government to court in January 2015 in a bid to strike down the agreement, which gave Ottawa decision-making authority over the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The lengthy Northern Gateway approvals process

In 2014, the federal government approved the controversial pipeline that would bring heavy Alberta oil to BC's north coast, for international shipment by tanker.

But First Nations opponents of the pipeline argued the province wasn't living up to its own duty to consult with them, and today, the court found in their favour.

"This is a huge victory that affirms the provincial government's duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations and to exercise its decision-making power on major projects," said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga'at First Nation, in a statement.

That means the equivalency agreement is invalid and the province must make its own decision on Northern Gateway, after consulting with and accommodating First Nations along the route.

"We're now at the point where if Northern Gateway as a company wanted to move ahead, it would almost have to start over," said Art Sterritt, a member of the Gitga'at who's been a staunch opponent of Northern Gateway.

Northern Gateway has had a federal permit in hand, with 209 conditions attached, since mid-2014, but the company has not officially committed to building the project. Instead, it has been looking to garner support from First Nations along the route.

Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner

Sources: CBCCTVNational Observer

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