By DARRYL GREER
VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Environmental and First Nations groups claim in court that the Canadian government approved a controversial oil pipeline project based on a review panel's dubious findings which failed to comply with species-at-risk and environmental laws.
In four applications in the Federal Court of Canada, the Gitxaala Nation, the Haisla Nation, the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, ForestEthics Advocacy, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation seek to quash findings of a joint review panel into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.
Canada refers to its recognized Native American groups as First Nations.
The pipeline would send diluted bitumen from Alberta's sprawling oil sands to the British Columbia coast, bound for tankers to supply Asia and elsewhere.
The Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a staunch advocate of oil-sands development. But that support has been met by fierce opposition from environmentalists and first nations groups who claim the British Columbia Coast would be devastated by inevitable oil spills.
The environmental groups claim the review panel's report Dec. 19, 2013 report erroneously concluded that the project was in the public interest despite its impact on grizzly bear and caribou populations along the proposed pipeline route.
The Gitxaala Nation claims it was inadequately consulted about the pipeline and that the project would reduce access to fish and wildlife resources due to habitat disruption, destruction or contamination.
"These effects have the potential to affect the food security and very survival of the Gitxaala people," the application states.
The Haisla Nation has a main residential reserve across from the pipeline's proposed main terminal site, in Kitimat, B.C. The panel, the Haisla claim, improperly concluded that a large spill is unlikely either from the pipeline itself, the terminal facilities or the oil tankers tasked with navigating B.C.'s coastal waters.
Named as respondents are the Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Environment, the National Energy Board and Northern Gateway Pipelines LP.
The Federation of B.C. Naturalists is represented by Chris Tollefson with the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria.
The Gitxaala Nation is represented Rosanne Kyle with Janes Freedman Kyle Law Corp. in Vancouver.
ForestEthics, the Living Oceans Society and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation are represented by Karen Campbell in Vancouver.
The Haisla Nation is represented by Jennifer Griffith with Donovan & Co. in Vancouver.