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DOLPHIN: Court hears opening arguments in endless TMX appeal

There is some hope that these judges might put an end to the seemingly interminable opposition of an increasingly smaller group of Indigenous activists.




The seemingly endless legal exertions of several British Columbian Indian bands to block the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) resumed before a panel of three Federal Court of Appeal judges in Vancouver this week. 

In what has become the norm for Indigenous and environmental groups opposed to oil pipelines from Alberta to the west coast—pace the Northern Gateway fiasco—a dozen groups appealed the federal government’s June 18 “re-approval” of the TMX, which it bought from Kinder Morgan in July of 2017, on the familiar grounds of “insufficient consultation.”

But in a September decision that suggested the court may be growing a little impatient with these plaints, Appeal Court Justice David Stratas rejected six of the 12 appellants, including the City of Vancouver. He gave the remaining half dozen groups—all First Nations— seven days to file their paper work. Construction of the TMX, which began in August, was allowed to continue.

Stratas limited the scope of the challenge to matters relating only to the feds’ consultation process, and not to various other issues that two of the bands – the Tseil Waututh and the Squamish nations—wanted heard, but which Stratas ruled had already been dealt with by the court. These included the bands’ claims that the National Energy Board’s environmental assessment process had been flawed. 

Those two bands, both of whom are subsidized with money originating from the anti-oilsands Tides Foundation, remain among the appeal court appellants. But at the same time they have filed an application to have Stratas’ limitation appealed in the Supreme Court of Canada, which will decide in mid-January whether to hear the case.

Since September two other of the six First Nations—the Upper Nicola Band, south of Kamloops, and the Kamloops Indian Band (aka Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepem) have dropped out of the Court of Appeal case, having reached accommodations with Trans Mountain, leaving four to challenge the Governor in Council’s (i.e. the federal cabinet’s) re-approval of the TMX. 

Represented by a platoon of gowned, taxpayer supported lawyers at this week’s three-day hearing, the four groups are:

• The Tsleil Waututh Nation (pronounced “slay-wah-tooth” and abbreviated as TWN), the Metro Vancouver band enriched by its real estate developments on urban reserve land across Burrard Inlet from the Trans Mountain terminal. It claims an insufficiency of consultation on the likelihood of a tanker spill and the effects of a spill and increased traffic on killer whales with whom the band claims a “sacred relationship.”

• The Squamish Nation, another real-estate enriched coastal band whose claimed cetacean-centric concerns are similar to those of the Tsleil Waututh.  

• The Coldwater Indian Band from near Merritt, which claims the second-round consultations, ordered by the court of appeal in its quashing of the TMX project in August 2017, failed to consider its argument for a re-routing of the pipeline to avoid crossing creeks feeding the aquifer that supplies the 300-member community with drinking water. 

• The “Stó:lō Collective,” a coalition of 11 small tribes stretching about 200 kilometres along the lower Fraser River watershed from Burrard Inlet to the Coquihalla Highway. Stó:lō claims the government failed to properly consult it on the 89 recommendations in its “Integrated Cultural Assessment for the Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project” that sought to mitigate the project’s impact on its fishing rights and “cultural integrity.”

On Monday, the judicial panel, consisting of three, male, septuagenarians headed by Chief Justice Marc Noel (a Harper government appointee), listened to lawyers from three of the groups (Squamish was yet to come). The general thrust of their submissions was similar: the federal government had, as in the first go-round, failed to “meaningfully” engage the bands, had rushed through the process, behaved as if the pipeline approval was a foregone conclusion, and the “Phase 3” consultations were treated as a chore to be got out of the way ASAP. (The phase three consultations followed on the on the consultations that preceded the initial cabinet approval in 2016 then those that preceded last June’s re-approval.)

The TWN lawyers claimed that the federal representatives had ignored evidence from the band’s experts that put the likelihood of tanker spill as high as 75%, maintained that diluted bitumen could sink and be irretrievable in one-to-two days, and that the noise from increased tanker traffic out of Burrard inlet and into the Strait of Georgia could threaten the survival of the orcas that are already “on the brink of extinction.” (Never mind the 100 or more ships that ply those lanes daily already.)

Coldwater’s lawyers argued that the government’s representatives had given the band too little time to discuss the findings from their hired hydro-geological engineer that recommended alternative routes for the pipe that avoided crossing the creeks. (Never mind the fact that the existing Trans Mountain line has crossed creeks in their territory for 65 years without incident.)

And the lawyer for the Stó:lō complained that the feds spent too little time on the consultations (January to May) after wasting too much time preparing (August to December) and failed to “adequately address” the bands 89 recommendations.

Unlike the previous federal court panels—such as those that killed the Northern Gateway and quashed the TMX in 2017—this triumvirate of judges appears devoid of any who might be described as activist. All three have backgrounds in corporate litigation or tax law and none of them hail from Burnaby—site of the controversial TMX terminal and home of Justice Eleanor Dawson, who wrote the 2017 TMX decision quashing the project, and co-wrote the Northern Gateway killer in September 2016.

Thus, for Alberta and Saskatchewan – both of whom are represented as interveners in this hearing — there is some hope that these judges might put an end to the seemingly interminable opposition of an increasingly smaller group of Indigenous activists.

Ric Dolphin is the Alberta Political Editor of the Western Standard. He has had a long career in journalism with Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Alberta Report, and the original Western Standard. He was previously Publisher and Chief Editor of Insight into Government. rdolphin@westernstandardonline.com


Alberta brewery shocks Maori people by naming beer after their pubic hair

New Zealand TV presenter Te Hamua Nikora, a member of the Maori community, blasted the brewery on his FaceBook page.




An Alberta brewery has unwittingly offended the Maori people of New Zealand by naming one of its beers after their pubic hair.

The Hell’s Basement brewery in Medicine Hat used the Maori word “huruhuru” to name its “New Zealand hopped pale ale”.

Unfortunately, in the Maori language “huruhuru” means pubic hair.

New Zealand TV presenter Te Hamua Nikora, a member of the Maori community, blasted the brewery on his FaceBook page.

“Some people call it appreciation, I call it appropriation,” he wrote.

Nikora said he contacted the brewery to inform them of their blunder.

“Don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair,” he said.

Brewery co-founder Mike Patriquin said in statement to the New Zealand news site RNZ he thought “huruhuru” meant “feather” and he didn’t realise it was a reference to pubic hair.

“We did not realise the potential to offend through our artistic interpretation, and given the response we will attempt to do better in the future,” he said.

“To those who feel disrespected we apologise. We also do not think pubic hair is shameful, though we admit it may not go well with beer.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard



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Gov.-Gen. Pyette spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so she doesn’t have to see people

But Pyette’s spokeswoman says Canadians don’t have to right to ask about her living arrangements.




There’s more evidence out of Ottawa of Gov.-Gen. Julie Pyette acting like a drama queen – including spending $141,000 to plan for a private staircase that was never built.

But Pyette’s spokeswoman says Canadians don’t have to right to ask about her living arrangements.

It was part of hundreds of thousands of dollars Pyette demanded in privacy upgrades before she would move into Rideau Hall – but she still hasn’t moved into her official residence almost three years into her five-year mandate. 

More than $117,500 was also spent on a gate and series of doors to keep people away from Payette’s office, according to the National Capital Commission (NCC), which manages the official vice-regal residence.

While a large chunk of the grounds of Rideau Hall are open to the public, Payette “wanted to come and go without anyone seeing her,” one source with knowledge of the project told the CBC.

Multiple sources told CBC, Payette doesn’t like maintenance workers in her line of sight and even RCMP protection officers aren’t allowed to stand directly outside her office door and must hide in a room down the hallway.

Early in Payette’s mandate, CBC reported she wanted a door for her cats to be able to exit the living quarters on the second floor and go outside. The idea then changed into a private exit for Payette.

CBC said a team of government staff and outside companies spent months working on the project and going through a rigorous approval process to make the addition to the heritage building, according to sources. But the staircase was never built. 

But Payette’s press secretary, Ashlee Smith, suggested it’s not in the public’s interest for the media to ask about Payette’s living arrangements.

“To date, outstanding issues regarding universal accessibility and privacy in the space provided in Rideau Hall for the Governor General have not yet been addressed,” said Smith in a statement to CBC. 

“In this day and age, the interest in this seems contrary to respecting the life and privacy of a person.”

During the pandemic, Payette has spent time working at her own cottage in Quebec which means RCMP have to travel to the area near Mirabel and stay in hotels, the CBC reported.

Just last month there were claims the Queen’s representative in Canada had seen a mass exodus of staff while reducing others to tears after dressing-downs.

“Four members of Payette’s communications team have departed during the pandemic period alone. A fifth person is leaving this week and another two have taken leaves of absence. It’s just the latest wave of staff to quietly transfer out of the small office in response to mistreatment during Payette’s mandate”, multiple sources told the CBC.

“This has gone from being one of the most collegial and enjoyable work environments for many of the staff to being a house of horrors – it’s bullying and harassment at its worst,” one source told CBC.

CBC said they had spoken to dozens of sources to come up with the portrait of a tyrant Pyette.

The sources told CBC Payette has yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. They accused her of throwing tantrums in the office and, on one occasion, tossing an employee’s work aside and calling it “sh&%.”

CBC reported on one day along multiple people were seen leaving Pyette’s office in tears.

Multiple sources told CBC Payette routinely complained of being tired, underfed and overworked.

But Rideau Hall said Payette and “the management of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General ‘strongly believe’ in the importance of a healthy workplace.”

“We deeply regret this reporting, which is in stark contrast to the reality of working at the OSGG, and obscures the important work done by our dedicated staff in honouring, representing, and showcasing Canadians,” said Ashlee Smith, press secretary to the Governor General, in a statement to CBC.

Payette, a former astronaut, was appointed Governor General on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October 2017. Her term runs until 2022.

At the beginning of her mandate, CBC reported, Payette put staff on the spot by quizzing them about outer space — asking them to name all the planets in the solar system, for example, or to state the distance between the sun and the moon.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard



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WATCH: Alberta to explore nuclear option

Kenney said Alberta will enter into talks with Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick to support the development of versatile and scalable small modular reactors.




Alberta is joining three other province to try and launch small scale nuclear power plants, says Premier Jason Kenney.

Kenney said Friday Alberta will enter into a memorandum of understanding with Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick to support the development of versatile and scalable small modular reactors (SMRs).

In a release, the government said SMRs are smaller than traditional nuclear reactors and scalable to suit local needs, with lower upfront capital costs and enhanced safety features. This new and versatile technology could supply non-emitting, low-cost energy for on-grid and off-grid communities in Alberta, including remote and rural areas of the province, as well as industries with a significant need for steam, such as Alberta’s oil sands.

“Our government is exploring all opportunities that could help diversify our economy and create jobs for Albertans,” said Kenney.

Government of Alberta video

“We are building on our track record of responsible and innovative energy production by exploring the potential for small modular reactors, which have the potential to generate reliable and affordable energy, while also strengthening our traditional resource sectors and reducing emissions.

“We are excited to collaborate with our provincial partners to stay ahead of the game in the development of this promising technology.”

The government said SMRs would be small enough to be built in a factory and shipped by truck, rail or ship.

A typical SMR would generate between two and 300 megawatts of electricity, which could provide power for a village or small city. In comparison, a conventional nuclear reactor can generate 600 to 1,000 megawatts, which can provide power for a large city.

SMRs could operate independently or be linked to multiple units, depending on the required amount of power.

“Alberta’s rich uranium deposits, respected innovation and research sector, and technically skilled and educated workforce could make us an attractive destination to develop and deploy SMRs,” said Energy Minister Sonya Savage in a statement.

“By signing on to this agreement, our government is taking another step to attract investment and job creators to our province by ensuring we have the appropriate regulatory framework in place should private industry decide to pursue this emerging technology.”

In December 2019, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to support the development and deployment of SMRs.

Canada is the second largest uranium producer in the world, with about 15 per cent of total world production.

The Athabasca Basin, which straddles the northern Alberta-Saskatchewan border, contains some of the greatest uranium resources in the world.


Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard



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