Chippewas Of The Thames--In less than two months, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation will appear in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) to assert their right to consultation and argue that the Canadian government failed in this regard for the heavily contested Enbridge Line 9 pipeline. This challenge comes amidst a wave of resistance to pipelines and a heightened profile for issues of consultation with Indigenous communities. But the path to court is made difficult beyond the legal argument as COTTFN has to finance the legal defence of their rights against treaty violation, which they anticipate will reach half a million dollars. $50,000 has been raised so far, and for the remainder, COTTFN’s fundraising and awareness campaign is intensifying with a new video and website highlighting issues of the case and foregrounding voices from the community.
COTTFN is challenging the Canadian government’s approach to consultation, arguing that based on treaty and Canadian law, the federal government is directly responsible for consulting Indigenous communities on projects that will affect them, and the National Energy Board (NEB) is not a substitute. Clyde River Inuit is simultaneously challenging the lack of consultation in the NEB process which approved seismic blasting exploration in the waters surrounding their community. The recent successful challenge to the Northern Gateway pipeline addressed similar issues, with the ultimate ruling affirming the Canadian government’s legal duty to consult. COTTFN’s case will argue specifically that the NEB cannot substitute for the government in consultation.
Throughout the Line 9 planning process, COTTFN made it clear that they wanted their voice heard. They took part in the NEB hearings for the pipeline, articulating their concerns to the review panel, while insisting that this process was not a substitute for consultation. As band councillor Myeengun Henry explains in the new video, these issues can be traced back to the pipeline’s origins: “Forty years ago our people were still in residential school. When there was a process that brought this pipeline through our traditional territory, we were never consulted at all. So they just built this pipeline without any acknowledgement of the First Nations in the area.”
COTTFN filed their initial legal appeal on April 8, 2014, well before the line was operational, yet in the delay preceding this hearing in the SCC, Enbridge has been operating the pipeline and profiting immensely from the flow of oil, including tar sands and fracked oil, through it.
These oil products are of grave concern not only to COTTFN, but to communities across the continent in the path of pipelines and oil trains. As we experience the hottest year on record, pipeline projects are being met with increasing opposition, including the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Energy East. Councillor Henry concludes, “We know of the damaging impacts of the tar sands, fracking, and other extractive industries have on our earth yet these developments continue with government protection. This is why COTTFN is developing a protocol to engage with proposed plans that would affect our territory. We believe that protecting the water and land, requiring sustainable development, adapting to climate change, and ensuring a safe home for future generations must be central to this protocol.”
COTTFN is inviting donations from individuals and groups and encourages people to visit chippewassolidarity.org for more information about the case and to watch and share the video, “Defending Deshkaan Ziibi: Challenging the Line 9 Pipeline.”
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