Canada, why haven’t we learned?

by mmoher on October 7, 2016 - 9:17pm

Over and over again it’s the same story. The Canadian government has failed to have meaningful consultations with First Nations communities. This caught up with the Canadian government as the Court of Appeal overturned the already approved Northern Gateway project in British Columbia. CBC published a news article titled “Northern Gateway pipeline approval overturned”, which emphasizes the on-going, fragile relationship between the First Nations and the Canadian government regarding the management of natural resources. It was agreed to have a five-part process before the permit could be issued to build the pipeline from Kitimat, BC to Bruderheim, AB. The First Nations were a part of the initial process and provided a substantial amount of opposing evidence. To no one’s surprise, the government went on without them and failed to finish the agreed plan. The Court of Appeal concluded that there was no sincere effort to consult and inform the First Nations communities, setting back the project.

 I don’t know about anyone else, but this doesn’t surprise me at all. You would think that the Canadian government has finally learned to properly involve the First Nations, but instead of repairing that broken relationship, we’re making it worse. Behavioural conflict is having a large role in this relationship due to lack of trust that the government is continuing to demonstrate. The fact that the government was wrapped up in the economic side of the pipeline and jumped the gun on the project makes the First Nations continue to doubt the intentions of the government. This conflict was present 12 years ago when First Nations, environmental interests and local communities opposed the pipeline. To this day, the First Nations still oppose which shows that they have respect towards the land, but they don’t trust the government to develop it.

It is understood that they government has the power to make decisions based off of economic, cultural and environmental factors, but with the stunt they recently pulled, it comes across as an abuse of power. The government used material power in the form of legislation to control the way people interact with the environment. It is mind blowing that they have the authority to approve something as controversial as a pipeline without even completing the entire process, let alone not even taking the time to thoroughly consider the evidence. If it weren’t for the Court of Appeal, the government would have had power over the Aboriginals traditional way of life as the waterways they use for fishing would be filled with traffic from oil tankers.

As shocking as this article was to me, there is one flaw that sticks out. The government has the duty to consult and accommodate with the First Nations to obtain a fair decision using fair methods. Now, it was determined by the Court of Appeal that the consultation was poorly done and important information was left out. In my opinion, I feel as if it would be hard to distinguish what an adequate consultation is. In the government’s eye, they could have thought they went into great detail explaining the project and the concerns that people may have. As a result, I don’t think that there is a way to measure how adequate the consultation was, instead it is based on the perception of the Court of Appeal.  

With all this said and done, it is important for the government to think rationally and take into account what the First Nations have to say. It is important to restore the relationship we once had to avoid conflicts and power abuse.


Mitchell, B. (2015) Resource and Environmental Management in Canada, Oxford University Press, Canada. pp. 3-19, 55-79.

Proctor, J. (2016) Northern Gateway pipeline approval overturned. Retrieved 30 September 2016 from:



Hey mmoher,

First things first, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Your title and flow of information really made it stand out, and got your points across. I found the article you chose to be very interesting and eye-opening, as it truly gives us the perspective of the present day relationships between the First Nations and the Canadian government. Aboriginal rights must be respected; however, I also feel as if the government views them as just being a stepping stone to getting what they want. Like you said in your blog, they fail to acknowledge their rights during the Northern Gateways project. This goes hand in hand with the government's failure to execute a duty to consult with First Nations.
Some further research on previous pipeline development court processes in Canada could be beneficial. This could give us some background on how the government and First Nations engage and communicate with each other over resource management. To further this point, I am curious to know if the Northern Gateway pipeline will ever be approved, and will they have to start the process all over again, whilst consulting First Nations.

Katherine Shirriff

Thank you kshirrif!
I am glad you enjoyed the post. I think you raise a good point by including other pipeline court processes into the blog. This would allow the people to see how previous pipeline processes have been handled and to see if this type of behaviour has been displayed by the government in the past.

Since this article was not posted too long ago, I do not know if the Northern Gateway pipeline will ever be approved. It is to my understanding that the overturning of this pipeline has greatly delayed the project, but if it is going to be considered again for approval, all 5 steps of the agreed process must be followed. This includes adequate consultations with the Aboriginals. I think there is potential for the project to be approved once this incident has been resolved and if the government follows through with what is agreed upon.