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Canadian court approves controversial pipeline

Indigenous groups' appeal rejected despite concerns over damage to communities and environment

A CANADIAN court has rejected appeals from indigenous groups over a much-criticised pipeline that will plough through their land, despite fears about serious environmental damage.

The Federal Court of Appeal approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which will span more than 700 miles from Edmonton in Alberta to the British Columbian coast.

On Tuesday it dismissed four appeals lodged by First Nations people who said that indigenous populations on the pipeline’s route had not been adequately consulted.

Judges said that the government’s consultation process was a “genuine effort” to listen to the communities’ concerns and that an agreement to make some changes showed it was “anything but a rubber-stamping exercise.”

The court said that the concerns raised could not be fully met because doing so would “impose a standard of perfection, a standard not required by law.”

The project was initiated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in 2018 and he insisted that it was in Canada’s best interests when he approved it again in 2019, the project having been halted when a court found there had been inadequate consultation.

Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, and 99 per cent of its exports go to the US. The new pipeline will mean that Canada can expand its exports to Asia, commanding a higher price.

But indigenous people see the pipeline as a threat to their land, and protesters are vowing to do anything they can to stop its development, including chaining themselves to construction equipment.

The project will lead to an increase in the number of tankers in the waters from the US’s Washington state to Canada, rising from 60 to more than 400 vessels annually.

The pipeline’s oil flow will rise from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day with concerns over the increased development of carbon-heavy oil sands.

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Seamus O’Regan, said the ruling showed that if consultations and reviews were conducted appropriately, major projects coud be built in the country.

“The courts have acknowledged that we listened and that we want to do things right,” he said.

First Nations communities now have 60 days to challenge the decision, and Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band confirmed that an appeal to Canada’s Supreme Court was under consideration.

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