After remaining relatively silent on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) announced Friday that is has been granted intervenor status in the B.C. government’s court of appeal case on the project.
“The AFN has a long history of participating in judicial proceedings where our peoples, their rights and traditional territories are concerned,” said newly re-elected National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement. “Any decision in this reference case could have far-reaching impacts for First Nations across the country and the AFN is uniquely positioned to provide a national perspective on these potential impacts.
“It is essential we be there and it’s positive that the court recognizes our unique role.”
In April, the B.C. government asked the court to rule on whether it has the authority to regulate, and place restrictions on companies that transport bitumen through the province. The province has draft legislation written and is waiting on a ruling from the court.
According to the release, the lobby group received intervenor status in June but the issue of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was never raised on the assembly floor by chiefs or the AFN.
The project was also never part of the resolutions chiefs voted on at the annual general assembly despite the fact that B.C. is the epicentre of opposition against the project – and a growing anti-pipeline camp being situated in nearby Burnaby.
Bellegarde did comment on the fight over the pipeline extension to APTN’s Todd Lamirande.
“The whole pipeline dialogue and discussion is very divisive. Premiers are fighting each other. Canadians disagree with it. There’s all sides, even with Chiefs. So you got to go to the rights and title holders. And that’s where that decision rests. It doesn’t rest with any council, the youth council, women’s council. Go to the rights and title holders and that’s where the decision should be made.”
A scan of news releases from the AFN shows that in May, Bellegarde released a neutral statement on the pipeline expansion project saying both sides need to be listened to.
“First Nations have different positions on this project but they all agree and insist that their rights be respected, upheld and honoured by the Crown, and that includes the right to free, prior and informed consent,” Bellegarde said in a statement in May.
The AFN did not say why it took until August to send a release on intervenor status in the case at the time of posting.