Canadian Supreme Court Says No Indigenous Veto On Energy Projects

Ruling critiques National Energy Board for lack of Indigenous consultation, but says there is no Indigenous veto over whether energy projects proceed.

The Supreme Court of Canada has issued a big ruling approving the Enbridge pipeline and blocking seismic testing in Nunavut. At the same time, the ruling will have greater long-term consequences, as the idea of an “Indigenous veto” over energy projects was rejected.

The ruling centered on the Crowns Duty To Consult – the rule that states Indigenous communities must be consulted on that could impact Indigenous and/or treaty rights.

According to a report on the ruling, “the ruling said consultations are a two-way street and Indigenous Peoples alone should not be given the final say on whether a project should proceed. Aboriginal rights must be balanced against “competing societal interests,” the court said. “This does not mean that the interests of Indigenous groups cannot be balanced with other interests at the accommodation stage,” the justices wrote. “Indeed, it is for this reason that the duty to consult does not provide Indigenous groups with a ‘veto’ over final Crown decisions.”‘

The court also ruled that the National Energy Board can consult on behalf of the Crown, which some activists had opposed.

Another part of the ruling rejected seismic testing in Nunavut that was being pushed by a Norwegian oil consortium. The consortium was seeking to search Canada’s north for oil, while Inuit groups had said the seismic testing would have damaged marine life. In that instance, the court ruled that the government did not fulfill their duty to adequately consult.

Important ruling

Today’s ruling is very important, and strikes a good balance. It is essential for the government to fulfill the duty to consult. After all, treaties are like contracts, and contracts must be respected. That said, the duty to consult should not mean that a small percentage of Canada’s population has unlimited power to block projects that are in the national interest. The government must have the ability to serve all Canadians and Canadian businesses must have the chance to create prosperity in our country.

Spencer Fernando

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