Friday, March 23, 2018

Lax Kw'alaams Band files suit in Supreme Court of British Columbia against Federal Government's tanker moratorium

The Lax Kw'alaams Band was at the Prince Rupert Court building on Thursday
filing a civil court claim against the Attorney General of Canada.
The claim is related to the Federal Government's oil tanker ban on the North Coast.

The Federal Government's plans to move forward with a tanker ban on the North Coast have run into a legal challenge from the Northwest, with the Lax Kw'alaams Band filing a civil claim at the Prince Rupert Law Courts on Thursday.

Court File Number 10683 lists the Lax Kw'alaams Indian Band vs Attorney General of Canada, with the filing under Supreme-Civil General, opened on March 22, 2018.

Some of the details of the court filing can be explored in an article in the Financial Post from yesterday, with journalist Claudia Catteneo providing the background to the latest legal moves.

According to this story from the national financial paper, the court challenge is seeking to have the proposed tanker ban declared an unjustified infringement on the plaintiffs' aboriginal rights and title'.

The Federal Government's Oil Moratorium plans
are the subject of a court claim filed
at Prince Rupert Court on Thursday
Ms. Catteneo also notes that the Lax Kw'alaams Band has some issues with the Federal and provincial  governments when it comes to the introduction of the Great Bear Rainforest, which the band reportedly disputes as having been implemented in its traditional lands without its consent.

According to the Financial Post, the eleven page document submitted to the court outlines the claim from Lax Kw'alaams Mayor John Helin that the collective aboriginal rights of the Coast Tsimshian Nation have never been lawfully extinguished, noting that the aboriginal title encompasses the right to choose what uses the land can be put, including use as a marine installation subject only to justifiable environmental assessment and approval legislation.

The document further notes how the tanker ban "discriminates against the plaintiffs by prohibiting the development of land in an area that has one of the best deep-water ports and safest waterways in Canada, while permitting such development elsewhere in British Columbia and Canada where waterways are congested and obstructed by a maze  of islands, bridges, ships and other hazards to marine traffic'

That reference to the North Coast offers the prospect of many potential development options, with one area near Grassy Point a location that has long been suggested as a potential site for a marine terminal.

Most recently, Grassy Point had been studied as the site for  proposed LNG facility by the Australian energy giant Woodside, that company recently abandoned any further interest in the site.

The Grassy Point site has also in the past been occasionally suggested as a potential location or for an oil terminal shipment point.

The court case by the Lax Kw'alaams Band,  could be of some importance towards the evolving plans for development by the Eagle Spirit Energy group, which is led by Calvin Helin, the brother of the Lax Kw'alaams Mayor.

Mr. Helin's project, has been in the news recently, with supporters of the Eagle Spirit proposal having launched a Go Fund Me page to put forward their own court challenge to the federal legislation.

The Eagle Spirit plan would see the transfer of  synthetic crude from upgrader facilities in Alberta or Northeast BC, the upgraded crude would travel by pipeline from Alberta to a shipment terminal to be constructed somewhere on the North Coast.

The terminal proponent recently highlighted a Plan B should they not be able to move forward with their North Coast project,  offering the prospect of a shipment terminal at a location near Hyder, Alaska.

The Financial Post story also suggests that the Lax Kw'alaams Band action is just the first of what could be a string of similar legal challenges, with the prospect of other First Nations along the proposed pipeline route between the North Coast and Alberta also potentially considering taking the Federal government tanker ban to court.

The question of whether residents of Lax Kw'alaams have plans to support, or are against an oil tanker ban and any oil terminal plans for the region, seems caught up in a myriad of conflicting opinions in the First Nations community.

With the current elected leadership of Mr. Helin seemingly on a different path than the previous one led by Garry Reece three years ago.

Added into the mix of it all is the range of commentary that comes from the Hereditary leaders as well.

As for any official notice from the First Nation government north of Prince Rupert, neither of the two public information portals hosted by the Lax Kw'alaams Band offer any background related to yesterday's court information.

Lax Kw'alaams website
Lax Kw'alaams Facebook

For more notes related to items of interest from Lax Kw'alaams see our archive page here.

For a review of what the Eagle Spirit energy project is about, see our archive page for that proposed development here.

Some background on the Federal government's Oil Tanker Moratorium Act can be found from our blog item of last May, which provided a snap shot of the bill known as C-48.

That bill has passed second reading in the House of Commons

So far neither Skeena-Bulkley Valley, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, or North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice have provided for any comment on the Lax Kw'alaam court filing.

Both politicians have been long time advocates of both the oil tanker ban and the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Further notes on the political side of the topic can be reviewed from our MLA Archive page and our archive of notes from the House of Commons.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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