VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – BC First Nations opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline say even communities that have signed agreements with Kinder Morgan may not want the project to go forward.
Several First Nations, along with local and national representatives of Vancouver and Burnaby joined together to redouble their opposition to the expansion of the pipeline Monday, following a meeting between Premier John Horgan, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to Kinder Morgan, 51 First Nation communities, including 41 agreements in B.C. have signed comprehensive mutual benefit agreements with the company. The number represents every First Nation along the pipeline route and 80 per cent of communities in proximity to the pipeline’s right-of-way.
“There are a number of First Nations that may have made whatever agreements that they had to make on their own behalf,” Squamish Nation Coun. Khelsilem Dustin Rivers said. “But that does not necessarily mean that these First Nations are in favour of the pipeline. It means that they have had to consult and be consulted by the government to ensure that there are some protections for their communities, but that does not translate into consent.”
Opposition to Trans Mountain project not universal across First Nations in BC
Some First Nation leaders have voiced their concern with provincial groups seemingly speaking for every community. Cheam Chief Ernie Crey said the public must be careful of “environmental groups who want to red wash their agendas under an Indigenous flag.”
“Let me be perfectly clear, no provincial Aboriginal organization speaks for the Cheam First Nation when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” Crey said on social media. “My advice to some folks is be careful not to be too presumptuous.”
Crey supports the pipeline, saying it could benefit First Nation communities. He is also a co-chair of the indigenous advisory and monitoring committee, a 13-member group created by the federal government and funded by $64 million in tax dollars to monitor the pipeline’s construction.
Crey says many people don’t seem to realize that diluted bitumin is already making it to the coast — it’s just moving along rail lines, like the one near his community. He tells NEWS 1130 he’s hearing from elders who fear that a derailment would dump that product right into the Fraser River.
“We want to see this pipeline constructed. And I don’t think it serves anyone’s interests to try to represent a single organization or a few spokesmen as the individuals who speak for all the Indigenous people in British Columbia.”
He notes no environmental group should speak for all First Nations, either. “A number of these environmental groups, to advance their own particular agenda, will take their agenda and fly it under an Indigenous or Aboriginal flag.”
It’s a practice he calls “red-washing.”
He adds that sometimes, the actions of environmental groups have been to the detriment of First Nations economies, like opposition to commerical trapping.
“All I’m saying is often our agendas do not match one another’s. So, it’s really important who you choose as your friends.”
Trans Mountain says it engaged with more than 130 First Nations and other indigenous groups as part of its application to the National Energy Board, which was approved. However, Union of B.C. Indian Chief’s Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says only 33 engaged in non-binding exploratory discussions with Kinder Morgan.
“You have to have 100 per cent support. That’s just the nature of our land rights, our jurisdiction and this whole issue,” Phillip said.
He says the $7.4-billion pipeline does not have the support of First Nations and Trudeau has violated his own commitments when it comes to consent for the project.