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Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear Trans Mountain appeal

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Environmental lawyers vow to fight on as Court denies leave for Indigenous legal challenges

VANCOUVER, BC, Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories – West Coast Environmental Law is deeply disappointed by today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which denies three Indigenous applicants leave to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s Coldwater decision regarding the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation and Coldwater Indian Band sought a challenge at the Supreme Court in February 2020, after challenging the approval of TMX twice at the Federal Court of Appeal.

“We are obviously very disappointed that the Indigenous nations leading this case will be denied their day in court this time round,” said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel. “Today’s result highlights the increasing gap between the minimum standard of consultation Crown governments can get away with, and Canada’s commitments to a standard of ‘free, prior, informed consent’ and reconciliation.”

“There can be no reconciliation on the basis of continued denial of Indigenous title and self-determination. Nowhere is this more clear than in the federal government’s refusal to respect these nations’ decisions on the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project,” said Clogg.

“The Coldwater decision was a significant setback for reconciliation – sending a signal to Indigenous nations that Canada’s legal system can not be relied on to deliver justice in the face of dishonourable Crown conduct. It’s troubling that this decision will now be left unchallenged, but progress rarely follows a straight line,” said Eugene Kung, Staff Lawyer.

“I fear that today’s outcome has sown the seeds of further uncertainty and conflict if the federal government persists in its intention to build the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said Kung.

The Supreme Court’s decision marks the latest chapter in a years-long legal effort led by Indigenous nations working to defend their lands and waters from Trans Mountain, which included a victory at the Federal Court of Appeal that quashed the project’s original approval in 2018. West Coast lawyers have worked closely with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation throughout the regulatory and legal process.

“The journey to defend communities and the environment from TMX has been long and difficult, and despite today’s decision, this journey isn’t over,” said Kung.

While this is the final stage in this particular legal challenge, the applicants say they are exploring all legal options.


For more information, please contact:

Eugene Kung | Staff Lawyer