Canada’s Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – a self-proclaimed political unit that picks up where the regional government fails – wants to take the federal government to court to challenge the approval of a controversial pipeline with an already troubled past.
The organization wants a judicial review of Enbridge’s line 3 $7.5-billion replacement project, which would, as its name suggests, replace the aging pipeline so that it may run at full capacity – 760,000 barrels of oil per day. Currently, the pipeline, built in the 1960s, is only operating at half capacity due to “reliability concerns” the company found, according to CBC News. It runs from Hardisty, Alberta through Saskatchewan and ending at SUperior, Wisconsin.
AMC’s outgoing Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, argues that the project will increase the risks of spills in Manitoba’s watershed. It will also betray the commitments to environmental sustainability the country made at the Paris climate summit last year, he said.
"Canada committed to restoring public confidence and modernizing the [National Energy Board] with a specific focus on Indigenous and traditional knowledge," Nepinak said, as quoted by CBC News.
"Instead, the Enbridge Line 3 decision is founded upon a process that marginalized Indigenous voices and legal orders."
The project was approved by the National Energy Board back in April. The federal government then gave it the green light last November despite massive opposition from Indigenous communities. This was reflected in the concerns that several First Nations in Saskatchewan submitted to the NEB in 2015.
Nepinak therefore argued that the Great Binding Law – the result of meetings among Indigenous elders that focused on the impact of tar sands and pipelines in ancestral lands ‘– should have been included in the NEB’s evaluation and in the federal Order in Council.
The Order not only authorized the project, but went as far as alleging that “the consultation process undertaken is consistent with the honour of the Crown," as quoted by the CBC.
The organization will therefore argue that the consultation process was inadequate given that the Great Binding Law was ignored, and after the NEB declined two invitations to learn about it.
The pipeline is already marred by a troubled past, including a spill in 1999 that released more than 20,000 barrels of heavy crude oil near Pilot Butte, east of Regina.
That spill had “economic, financial, emotional, lasting and devastating” impacts “beyond description,” the Ochapowace First Nation said in a statement submitted to the NEB opposing the project.
Other First Nations affected by the pipeline include the Keeseekoose First Nation, which is also concerned about the proximity of the pipeline to the land; the George Gordon First Nation, worried about the waste management during the pipeline's decommissioning and operation; and the Pasqua First Nation, located downstream from Line 3 replacement's crossing of the Qu'Appelle Valley.
The company claims it takes the concerns seriously and, according to CBC News, it has entered into an agreement with the Pasqua First Nation.
Nevertheless, the AMC vehemently opposes it and demands that the prime minister live up to his election promises.
"It is unfortunate we have to go to court when there clearly is no political will with the current federal government to live up to Prime Minister Trudeau's comment that no other relationship is as important as the one with indigenous people in Canada," he said, CBC News reported.