VANCOUVER — The Federal Court of Appeals struck down the government’s approval to move ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project today, a major victory for First Nations and endangered orcas.

“This decision proves that in an age of reconciliation, Canada needs to up its game when engaging in deliberative dialogues with Indigenous Peoples,” David Suzuki Foundation CEO Steve Cornish said. “Today, Ottawa received a strong legal message that its duty to consult goes far beyond the airing of grievances to actually incorporating First Nations’ concerns into all decisions about developments that affect their rights, title and territories.”

The court found that the NEB’s assessment of the project was so flawed that the federal cabinet should not have relied on it when it gave its approval to proceed in November 2016.

The court also ruled that the NEB made a critical error when it did not include the scope of tanker traffic and its negative effects on southern resident orcas.

“Today’s decision means we can no longer stand by and watch resource projects move forward while Canada’s iconic species at risk — like the southern resident orcas — continue to die off,” Foundation director general for B.C. and Western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “As the world is moved by the plight of the 75 remaining endangered and starving southern resident orcas, ignoring the risks from increased tanker traffic to this federally listed species at risk rejects the latest science and is now clearly unlawful.”

Today’s ruling not only means the NEB was wrong to ignore the effects of this project’s sevenfold increase in tanker traffic, but that government must now also address risks from all projects that affect the whales, including B.C.’s Terminal 2 expansion for container ships at Roberts Bank. All traffic from the Port of Vancouver will transect critical habitat the orcas need to survive and may drive the species further toward extinction.

“We will continue to follow with interest as important issues related to NEB processes and Indigenous rights and title are decided,” Cornish said. “What is clear is that today’s decision sets a new high-water mark in terms of what it means to achieve true reconciliation, with Indigenous Peoples and nature.”

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