This article outlines the federal government’s plan to address the concerns which led to the quashing of environmental permits for the project by the Federal Appeal Court.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What concerns did the Federal Appeal Court have in quashing the expansion permits?
  • What is the federal government’s plan to address the issue?
  • Who is opposed to the expansion and why?
  • Who supports the expansion and why?

New Terminology:

Indigenous community

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students and Internet access for research purposes

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

As we all know, pipelines and their expansion have been hotly debated because of their potential negative impact on the environment. The Trans Mountain pipeline is no exception. Those in favour of the expansion list increased capacity and therefore revenue, jobs, tax revenue and a stronger economy as the benefits. Those opposed argue that increased risk of oil spills, increased tanker traffic and the expansion of the Alberta oil sands are reasons why this should not go forward. The federal government had made the decision to proceed with the expansion but the Federal Appeal Court quashed the environmental permits, which brought the whole project to a dead stop. It ruled that Ottawa had failed to adequately consult Indigenous communities and did not make accommodations regarding specific concerns. The federal government decided not to appeal the decision but rather appointed a former judge to conduct needed consultations with Indigenous communities in order to rectify the situation and get the project going again. While recognizing the need for these consultations, there is still great pressure by some to expedite the process as millions of dollars a day are being lost through restricted capacity of the existing pipeline.

This lesson will have the students examine the issue from various perspectives in order to determine where they stand on the issue of pipeline construction and expansion.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students why the Trans Mountain pipeline has been in the news recently.
  • If they are unaware of the reason, explain to them the background: that the Federal Appeal Court just put a stop to the expansion because of failure to consult adequately with the Indigenous communities.
  • Provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Having this as background, inform them that they are going to be involved in a role play situation in which they will have to assume the role of one of the various interested parties in this project and effectively represent their case.
  • Divide the class into six groups and assign one of the following roles to each group:
    • The federal government
    • The Alberta government
    • The British Columbia government
    • Representatives from the Indigenous communities
    • Representatives from the oil companies
    • The federal judge appointed by the government.
  • Explain to them that groups one to five are to research the position taken by their role concerning the current state of the planned expansion and be prepared to present their case to the judge when required to do so.
  • The judge group will discuss what criteria they will use to help evaluate the various positions presented.
  • Allow the remainder of the period for the groups to complete their tasks and explain to them that they must be ready at the start of the next class period.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Begin this period of the lesson by indicating that the judges are to take positions at the head of the classroom and, in turn, call each group forward to present their case.
  • Once all of the groups have made their presentations, the judges will huddle and construct their report and findings and present that report to the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Explain why the pipeline permits were cancelled;
  • Outline the various positions being taken on the issue
  • Appreciate the complexity involved in addressing the concerns about pipeline construction and expansion.

Confirming Activity:

  • Once the judges have filed their report, ask the students, in writing, to explain their personal position on pipelines and their construction, giving reasons for their stance. This is to be handed in.