The Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau has just announced to reporters that they will purchase the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline — a controversial pipeline that runs from the Alberta oil sands to the country’s pacific coast — for $3.45 billion (C$4.5bn).
The pipeline expansion will triple the capacity of pipelines in place to ship oil extracted from Alberta to the Canadian Rockies to nearly 890,000 barrels a day. The expansion would also create a seven-fold increase in the number of oil tankers in an area already subject to environmental concerns.
“The federal government has reached an agreement with Kinder Morgan to purchase the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and infrastructure related to the Trans Mountain expansion project,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters at a press conference.
“So our message today is simple: when we are faced with an exceptional situation that puts jobs at risk, that puts our international reputation on the line, our government is prepared to take action,” he said.
The pipeline has already received tremendous opposition from protesters to include indigenous residents in Canada. Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs told The Guardian in December 2016. “The marches and rallies will intensify. It will become more litigious, it will become more political and the battle will continue.”
“Let’s be clear,” said Caitlyn Vernon of the Sierra Club of British Columbia. “Prime minister Trudeau has picked a fight with British Columbians by approving Kinder Morgan – and it starts now. The Kinder Morgan pipeline will not be built. Not on our watch.”
In addition to previous opposition, there have also been protests on the ground as well as online by concerned indigenous voices.
Matt Rahson’karaké:tas, Mohawk, @ThunderingElk on Twitter, was one of those opposing voices. He wrote on Monday, “Brian Mulroney and Robert Bourassa learned the hard way – maybe it is time we remind Junior Trudeau just how dangerous it is to advocate for a future of drinking oil-laced water, or toxified food, and land that can’t be safely used by humans after repeated spills.”
Brian Mulroney and Robert Bourassa Learned the hard way – maybe it is time we remind Junior Trudeau Just how dangerous it is to advocate for a future of drinking Oil laced water, or toxified Food, and Land that can’t be safely used by humans after repeated spills
— Matt Rahson’karaké:tas (@ThunderingElk) May 29, 2018
Trudeau said the approval of the project was the best option for all Canadians. “This is a decision based on rigorous debate, on science and evidence. We have not been and will not be swayed by political argument, be they local, or regional or national,” he said. “We have made this decision because we are convinced it is safe for BC, and it is the right one for Canada.”
According to Reuters, Canada will also offer federal loan guarantees to ensure construction continues through the 2018 season as part of the deal with the company, a unit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc.
Though Kinder Morgan has touted publicly it’s 43 mutual agreements with Indigenous groups across Canada, Bonaparte Indian Band Chief Ryan Day told HuffPost Canada the debate over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is breaking down relationships between Indigenous groups.
Bonaparte is one of 17 bands that make up the Secwepemc nation — and for 518 kilometers, more than half of the project’s route — the new pipeline will go through Secwepemc’s traditional territory.
“We are downstream from the pipeline, so it certainly will impact us … However, we’ve kind of left it up to directly affected upstream folks to engage more directly,” Day said to HuffPost.
Bonaparte says because his community is dealing with poverty, Kinder Morgan is a solution to alleviate that poverty.
Ernie Crey, chief of Cheam First Nation — whose nation of 547 people has an unemployment rate of 14.3 percent — has become a supporter of the pipeline because it will bring a “laundry list” of opportunity for the Stó:lō nation to include monetary support and work experience that tribal members can bring with them to future jobs.
“The benefits and the money that will flow from that will put this community in good stead for generations to come,” Crey told HuffPost Canada.
Crey said environmental groups were misrepresenting the facts.
“If you were to believe some of these green groups and their allies, you would think that Ian Anderson, the head of Kinder Morgan Canada, drove out on to this reserve, found me, rolled down his car window, handed a check to me and said, ‘There you go, chief. Now I do enjoy your support for my pipeline, right chief?’” Crey said.
Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan — whose reserve would see a new pipeline built over a drinking water aquifer for his tribe — says he has no intention of allowing the pipeline.
“If we have to, it’ll be our Standing Rock,” he told APTN. “For us it’s not about the politics, but the future of our community and ensuring we have access to clean, safe water.”
Tuesday morning in a release, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde released the below statement following today’s announcement by the Government of Canada to purchase the TransMountain pipeline.
“Canada committed to honouring the UN Declaration and the right to free, prior and informed consent. First Nations have different positions on this project but they all agree and insist that their rights be respected, upheld and honoured by the Crown, and that includes the right to free, prior and informed consent. The onus is on the Crown to honour this duty, and that has not yet happened. One step is to bring First Nations together to have this essential dialogue.
First Nations have for centuries used our own protocols and traditional ways to solve problems and broker solutions where we are on different sides of an issue. Canada must work with First Nations and respect our rights regarding our lands and our lives.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter Follow @VinceSchilling