Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to lead Indigenous consultations on Trans Mountain pipeline

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Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci will lead the new consultation process with Indigenous people on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced that Iacobucci will act as the federal representative to design and oversee the consultation with affected Indigenous communities.

Sohi said those consultations will move ahead with an « open mind » to fulfill the duty to meaningfully consult, and would not put a « stop clock » on that process. 

« We’re going to take our time to get this right, » he said.

But Sohi said the process will move ahead in a « focused and efficient manner, » building on past information rather than starting from scratch. The government will not make decisions based on election cycles, he added.

« We also understand there will be groups who will still oppose this project. That’s fine, because that’s their right to do so, » he said. « But that doesn’t mean if we fulfill our constitutional obligation that those groups may have a veto to stop this project. »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains why his government won’t appeal the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion court ruling. 0:36

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said not appealing the court ruling will expedite construction. Instead, the government will follow the roadmap given by the court that respects and partners with Indigenous people and relies on proper environmental research and science.

« We feel that the blueprint the court laid out for TMX will allow us to get things done quicker and get our resources to new markets other than the U.S. in a more rapid fashion, » he said.

Iacobucci ‘honoured’ to take on role

In a statement, Iacobucci said he is « honoured » to take on the role and eager to begin.

« How this process is managed is of deep concern to all the parties involved and is profoundly important for the country, » he said. « I am committed to working diligently to ensure that the court’s judgment is applied properly and that Indigenous peoples are meaningfully consulted. »

Sohi said the government will double the resources to consult with Indigenous groups, and will listen, consult and make reasonable accommodations.

It’s the second announcement from Sohi laying out the Liberal government’s strategy for proceeding after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed approval for the project, which would nearly triple the flow of oil from Alberta’s oilsands to the West Coast.

Sohi confirmed that the government will not appeal that court ruling.

Last month, the government announced it was giving the federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, 22 weeks to review the project and consider its impact on the marine environment.

At the time, Sohi said word on new consultations with Indigenous people would come at a later date.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi’s announcement Wednesday is to discuss the second part of the government’s strategy towards construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (CBC/Scott Neufeld)

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