A retired Supreme Court of Canada judge, Frank Iacobucci, has been appointed to lead a native affairs team seeking tribal cooperation with the suspended Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.
In Ottawa, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Wednesday the consultations would follow guidance in a book-length Federal Court of Appeal verdict that had overturned the project’s approval. The government will not launch a further appeal, said Sohi and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Canadian government’s decision to buy the pipeline from a Kinder Morgan Inc. subsidiary was completed even after the unanimous ruling by the appeals court, which concluded that the government’s review was flawed and said Indigenous groups had not been adequately consulted.
Iacobucci’s team plans to meet all 117 tribes affected by the plan to triple capacity to 890,000 b/d on the Trans Mountain conduit across Alberta and British Columbia to a Vancouver harbor tanker dock, Sohi said.
The appellate court ruled native consultations to date on the project fell short of constitutional requirements for “meaningful” and “focused” work. Sohi set no deadlines for completing the new round but indicated the government has not set a target of unanimous native consent that could delay the pipeline indefinitely.
"We understand there will be groups who will still oppose this project,” said the natural resources minister. “That's fine, because that's their right to do so. But that doesn't mean if we fulfill our constitutional obligation that those groups may have a veto to stop this project."
The native consultations will run in parallel with a 22-week further review of oil tanker safety and environmental standards by the National Energy Board, also following instructions in the appellate court verdict.
The legal setback foiled hopes for a quick start on Trans Mountain expansion construction because the government bought the pipeline for C$4.5 billion ($3.6 billion). The Canadian government has set no target date for rescuing the project from legal limbo.
Former owner Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. suspended the expansion proposal following an inconclusive regulatory and political ordeal. The line is a growth enabler for Canada’s top natural gas consumer, northern Alberta thermal oilsands production.