Supreme Court Redefines Indigenous Consultation in Inconsistent Rulings

Supreme Court Redefines Indigenous Consultation in Inconsistent Rulings - Chippewas of the Thames First Nation continues to oppose tar sands pipeline forced through their community as the Supreme Court of Canada equates Indigenous Consultation with participation in a public hearing. Meanwhile Clyde River Inuit celebrate victory over seismic blasting permit.

MUNCEY -- This morning, the Supreme Court ruled against Chippewas of the Thames First Nation (COTTFN), stating that indirect federal consultation via the National Energy Board's standard public hearings discharged Canada's duty to consult, rather than direct nation-to-nation engagement. In a linked ruling, the court quashed a blasting exploration permit approved by the NEB, after agreeing that the NEB did not even attempt to properly consult the Clyde River Inuit on the project.

Newly-elected chief of COTTFN, Myeengun Henry, stated, "We're extremely disappointed that the court wasn't able to uphold our rights. But when you fight for your rights that's something to be proud of. There's more work to do, and we're going to continue to do it."

COTTFN's case centred on Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline project which has been vigorously opposed by communities all along its path. Line 9, now more than 40 years old, runs from Sarina to Montreal, crossing through COTTFN's territory and that of many other Indigenous communities. Even though COTTFN repeatedly objected that they had not been consulted, Enbridge was given the green light by the National Energy Boards to start pumping tar sands bitumen and fracked oil through the pipeline in December 2015. COTTFN's case was heard by the Supreme Court in November 2016.

Despite today's ruling, COTTFN continues to stand against Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline. After the ruling today, the community gathered at the Deshkaan Ziibi (Thames/Antler River) while Myeengun Henry read a statement outlining their opposition to Line 9, which bisects the entire watershed and crosses the Deshkaan and at least 6 major tributaries of the river. Myeengun demanded that Enbridge "cease operating tar sands pipelines through Chippewas of the Thames First Nation territory" warning that the company had "30 days to comply".

Outgoing chief Leslee White-Eye remarked, "They don't understand us, and they don't have structures in place to understand us, and they don't seem to want to dismantle it. There are nations across Turtle Island that are going to see this decision in the same way, and we hope they will join us in this struggle, and to protect the well-being of the land and our communities in relation to creation." White-Eye concluded, "This decision has strengthened our resolve, Canada has a fight ahead"

Similarly to COTTFN, Clyde River Inuit's case insisted that NEB hearings did not amount to consultation. Their case concerned seismic blast testing in the waters near their community, which was approved by the NEB despite the lack of proper consultation.

This ruling comes amidst a growing wave of resistance to Canada's handling of issues pertaining to Indigenous communities, including the commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the youth suicide crisis in northern Ontario communities. White-Eye and Henry expressed, Henry stating, "As long as the Indian Act is in place, their judgement will always be tainted," while White-Eye observed the apparent lack of respect for nation-to-nation relationships in the Supreme Court ruling, stating, "We are nations and we deserve that much respect."