The number of suits coming from northwest First Nations shows a failure in the federal review process, said Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
“The process used by the government has failed First Nations people and we won’t be able to move forward without changes to it … this will only create uncertainty in the resource development sector,” he said during a Jan. 23 media call, noting the appeals are a necessary step.
“These are going to be very expensive lawsuits, but First Nations have to stand up for their rights and title, which have been proven time and time again … ultimately I hope these will make the system better so we won’t need to have suits like these in the future.”
So far the Haisla of Kitamaat, Gitga’at of Hartley Bay and Gitxaala of Kitkatla have filed suits in the Federal Court of Appeal and Cullen said there are some similarities between what each group is saying.
“In the Joint Review Panel report, the concerns of First Nations were not addressed at all … First Nations don’t feel a true consultation process occurred and accommodation has not been made,” he said.
“These come from very credible First Nations who have been through legal challenges before. Their claims will be very hard to argue against in court.”
Joining the First Nations are several environmental groups who Cullen said also have a valid claim.
“They were specific about the Joint Review Panel not having all the environmental evidence needed,” he said.
“The fact that bitumen will sink when mixed with sediment in salt water, which was demonstrated by a federal study is not something the panel would have known before issuing their report.”