Haida Nation announces legal challenge against Northern Gateway

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Image from the Council of the Haida Nation.

Image from the Council of the Haida Nation.

Haida Gwaii – The Haida Nation has filed a legal proceeding in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging the Harper Government’s decision to conditionally approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project.

That decision was based in part on the Joint Review Panel process, which Haida and other First Nations leaders say was unlawful due to its lack of accommodation of Aboriginal Rights and Title.

“We will take our fight to the land, sea and courts to uphold and protect Haida territory, and to ensure clean water, clean air, and a healthy way of life for future generations,” said Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation, in a statement issued shortly after the project was conditionally approved last month by Canada’s federal government.

The Haida Nation, rooted in 10,000 years of co-existence with Haida Gwaii, hold unceded Title and Rights to the marine area proposed for the tanker routes. The Haida have been preparing an Aboriginal Title Case for over 12 years.

“The Crown’s duty to the Haida Nation has not been met,” says Haida legal counsel Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. “The Haida have a strong case for Aboriginal Rights and Title, which requires not only the deepest level of consultation, but also accommodation that may require the Haida Nation’s consent with respect to high risk projects that threaten Haida Gwaii and the very existence of the Haida way of life.”

Haida Gwaii is recognized as a globally significant archipelago worldwide, and the federal and provincial governments have recognized this ecological and cultural importance in various co-management agreements negotiated over the last 27 years. The inherent risks of the Northern Gateway project, the Haida believe, threaten the lands and waters and undermine the objectives contained in these co-management agreements. As a result, the federal government has acted contrary to the interest of all Canadians.

“Harper’s decision is just plain wrong and not in the ‘national interest’ as claimed,” argued Peter Lantin. “This is clearly corporate and foreign interests against everything that is right, and against the chorus of people from every spectrum across BC who have said ‘no’ to this project. Reconciliation leading to peace and order and a healthy environment is in all of our national interests.”

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot’in case reaffirmed the test for Aboriginal Title, which is at the heart of the Haida Title Case. The Supreme Court also confirmed the spectrum of Crown duties for consultation and accommodation articulated earlier in the Haida case that the Haida Nation brought to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004.