First Nations protest against the tanker ban affecting Eagle Spirit pipeline


Canada has seen its share of protest campaigns and court ruling over projects that involve territories belonging to indigenous and aboriginal communities and ecologically rich environments. Just back in 2016, the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project was scrapped by the Trudeau government citing reasons of ecological harm and threat to the survival of indigenous populations.

However, now the First Nation is backing the Eagle Spirit pipeline which has been developing for the past five years. The proposed pipeline is said to have the backing of the indigenous groups and will seek to receive approval from all communities before it is put out for approval.

Oil tanker ban may hinder the project

But the $16 billion project could run into trouble in the face of the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act which bans the movement of tankers in the North Coast. Till now Canada didn’t have any formal legislation that bans the movement of tankers through a Coastal First Nations ban and an informal ban existed. The proposal is currently making its round in the Canadian parliament and can become a new legislation by the end of the year.

The ban will put an obstacle to any northern pipeline project and the case is same with Eagle Spirit pipeline. If the oil tankers are banned from North Coast, then there will be no transport system to access international waters and deliver the product to other countries.

The First Nation rises in protest

It may seem surprising, but the First Nations is actually looking forward to battle the ban in court. The project already has their backing and now they are going to formally challenge the tanker ban proposal.

The chief counsel of First Nations said in a press release that they were fighting the new law because the move was facilitated by lobbying by foreign-funded ENGOs. They also didn’t consult the First Nation as required by the constitution before passing the law. It was the same reason used by the court to disapprove the Northern Gateway Pipeline as they failed to consult the First Nations properly.

The group formed by more than 30 First Nation communities is looking to raise money for filing the suit. Calvin Helin, chairman of Eagle Spirit, said that they need $1 million to fund the suit and they are ready to take the case to the top courts in Canada. Helin is a lawyer and member of a First Nation tribe living near Prince Rupert.

The group posted a proposal on the GoFundMe platform to raise money for their protest campaign. They have put up a bill which says that the group has always prioritized the environment while balancing economic development. The tank ban will restrict the export of cargo to foreign markets and is not at all desirable.

It is to be seen how the next developments will be since the tanker ban proposal does seem to have far-reaching effects.