Press release: CHIPPEWAS OF THE THAMES FIRST NATION REMAINS RESOLUTE IN ENSURING THE FEDERAL CROWN UPHOLDS ITS DUTY TO CONSULT DESPITE THE FEDERAL COURT OF APPEAL’S DECISION TO APPROVE ENBRIDGE’S LINE 9 APPLICATION
MUNCEY – Chippewas of the Thames First Nation is disappointed with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision rendered yesterday to dismiss their appeal of the National Energy Board’s decision approving Enbridge’s application to reverse the flow of Line 9B and increase the capacity of Line 9A. However, the First Nation remains resolute in its commitment to make sure their constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights and Treaty rights are respected and that the Crown fulfills its duty to consult and accommodate their rights and interests.
The Federal Court of Appeal’s decision effectively upholds the NEB’s decision to allow Enbridge to modify its Line 9B pipeline thereby potentially impacting the Chippewas of the Thames Aboriginal and Treaty rights without any consultation from the Crown.
To date, the Federal Crown has provided no consultation on the proposed project despite the Chippewas’ asserting their Aboriginal and Treaty rights would be impacted. The Line 9B pipeline crosses the Thames River which runs through the Chippewas traditional territory and provides a source of drinking water to the First Nation.
Chippewas of the Thames Chief, Leslee White-eye, expressed her concern for her community, “under our own laws and teachings we have a responsibility to protect our traditional lands. It is our understanding that the Treaties we signed with the Crown, prior to confederation allow us to continue to have a say in how our lands are used. This latest decision from the Federal Court of Appeal creates uncertainty as to the Crown’s duty to consult with our people. Any process that effectively removes the Crown from fulfilling its duty to consult cannot be considered reconciliation.”
Chief White-eye has indicated that Chippewas of the Thames will be sending a letter to the Prime Minister Designate, Justin Trudeau, to intervene in this matter as soon as his government is appointed on November 4th. The Chief stated, “Justin Trudeau has promised to give priority and effect to the Crown First Nation relationship and treaty rights. He has also promised to promote reconciliation. He can start by instructing the Department of Justice to make sure the Crown has properly consulted with Chippewas of the Thames in this matter and in the meantime stay the NEB decision until such consultation has occurred.”
As set out in the Federal Court of Appeal’s thoughtful dissent, “the identification of aboriginal interests and engagement of communities early in the decision making process enhances positive and respectful relationships and dialogue, by elements of reconciliation.” Chippewas of the Thames fully support this reasoning and hope that future decisions which may potentially impact Aboriginal and Treaty rights, “will adhere to a process which facilitates early Crown engagement”, said Chief White-eye.
This decision needs to be acknowledged as a step back in achieving reconciliation between the Crown and First Nations. Establishing processes which effectively remove the Crown from consultation with First Nations increases the potential for conflict, reduces the opportunity for respectful relations and entrenches the denial of Indigenous law. Chippewas of the Thames will continue to reach out to other First Nations for support in asserting their constitutionally protected rights and will be meeting on November 3 to consider whether it will decide to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
For more information please contact Chief Leslee White-eye at 519-282-6050 or Kelly Riley, Acting Lands and Environment Director, 519-289-2662