Ottawa has met already with three-quarters of Indigenous communities during Trans Mountain consultation reboot

The federal Liberal government says its consultation teams have met already with more than three-quarters of all Indigenous communities affected by the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, according to the latest statistics supplied to CBC News.

The Crown consultation teams carrying out this work — there are more than 60 people working on the consultations — have reached out in some way to all 117 communities.

The teams, working under the direction of former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, have met with 85 of  the 117 communities as part of their effort to reboot the so-called Phase 3 consultation process with Indigenous peoples so the government can meet its constitutional duty to consult with them before making a final decision on whether to proceed with construction.

“It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get our natural resources to market, but that is only possible if we achieve the required public trust by addressing environmental, Indigenous Peoples’ and local concerns,” a spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said in a statement.

“Minister Sohi also continues to meet and build relationships with Indigenous communities along the route.”

Planned work on the new pipeline line was stalled last summer after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet’s initial approval of the project and halted further work — ordering Ottawa back to the consultation table with Indigenous peoples.

The court also demanded that Ottawa task the National Energy Board (NEB) with considering the impact that the expansion, and increased tanker traffic near the terminal in Burnaby, B.C., would have on local marine life — notably the Southern resident killer whale population. That environmental assessment is set to be completed by week’s end.

The author of the Federal Court of Appeal decision, Justice Eleanor Dawson, did not mince words in her ruling last August, describing the Trudeau government’s Phase 3 efforts as a “failure” — and using that word well over 100 times in a 272-page decision.

Dawson called previous federal consultants glorified “note-takers” who recorded concerns without acting. Iacobucci and his team will be empowered to turn feedback into action where possible.

The previous Crown consultation team believed, erroneously, that it could not add more conditions to the project than those the National Energy Board (NEB) already imposed as part of its Phase 2 consultation phase, the court found.

The court said that, for the consultation to be considered successful, the consultation teams must engage in meaningful, “two-way” dialogue between the Crown and affected Indigenous communities.

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