NEWS

Northern Gateway Pipeline: First Nations to outline legal challenges

07/14/2014 12:25 EDT | Updated 09/13/2014 05:59 EDT
Leaders from several B.C. First Nations are expected to lay out their legal plans to fight Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, at a news conference this morning in Vancouver.

The list of speakers includes Peter Lantin, the president of the Council of the Haida Nation; Clarence Innis, acting chief councillor for the Gitxaala; Ellis Ross, chief councillor for the Haisla; Martin Louie, chief councillor of the Nadleh Whut’en; Jessie Housty, councillor for the Heiltsuk; and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

It is expected First Nations groups will argue the proposed pipeline violates their aboriginal land rights in their respective territories, particularly in light of the Supreme Court of Canada victory last month by the Tsilhqot'in First Nation.

In that landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Tsilhqot'in First Nation's aboriginal title over a wide area to the south and west of B.C.'s Williams Lake, which it considers its traditional territory.

The court also established what title means, including the right to the benefits associated with the land and the right to use it, enjoy it and profit from it.

However, the court declared that title is not absolute, meaning economic development can still proceed on land where title is established as long as it has the consent of the First Nation, or where the government can make the case that development is pressing and substantial.

The court also made it clear that provincial law still applies to land over which aboriginal title has been declared, subject to constitutional limit

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