April 16, 2018 4:02 pm
Updated: April 16, 2018 4:20 pm

Indigenous leaders in B.C. say PM Trudeau has ‘failed’ to protect their interests

A Squamish Nation official speaks at a press conference Monday about the Trudeau government's "deeply flawed consultation process."

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Prominent Indigenous leaders in British Columbia say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has “failed” to protect the rights of indigenous people in the province.

“He has completely failed in that regard. He made numerous promises to our nation and has failed,” said Squamish Nation Councillor Dustin Rivers, whose traditional name is Khelsilem. “This project has not been in our interest. And the process the Trudeau government has used following on from the Harper government has not been in our interest.”

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READ MORE: Trudeau insists B.C. government has no authority to block Trans Mountain pipeline project

Leaders from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the Tsleil Waututh First Nation and the Squamish First Nation held an event for the media on Monday.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, MP Kennedy Stewart and Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer also spoke at the event. First Nation politicians are concerned that the federal government is infringing on their rights by pushing for the Trans Mountain pipeline project to be completed.

READ MORE: Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute: What to know if you haven’t been paying attention

“We have a right to culture, a right to our way of life. It is a right we have never surrendered,” Khelsilem said. “This land was given to us by our ancestors and it’s our responsibility as elected leaders to maintain that right.”

Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in Ottawa on Sunday. Horgan is opposed to the $7.4 billion pipeline expansion that would see a three-fold increase in the amount of bitumen moved by pipeline to Burnaby from north of Edmonton.

The project has federal approval, but First Nations leaders have raised concerns that the project was approved under the old National Energy Board rules that have been described as “flawed” by federal NDP politicians.

“The prime minister has failed on this project. He is blowing this into a national crisis because of the mishandling of this file,” said Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart. “In addition to not respecting indigenous rights and consent on this project, he is also disregarding his own process.”

WATCH HERE: First Nations leaders rally hundreds of anti-pipeline protesters on Burnaby Mountain

Stewart says Trudeau promised to make Kinder Morgan get new approval under an upgraded environmental assessment process, but failed to do that.

The Texas-based pipeline giant has told the federal government it will back away from the project at the end of May if it does not have assurances that the project can be executed successfully, without the British Columbia standing in the way.

“When a company from the United States declares that May 31 is the drop deadline to go forward, this is an ultimatum to the Canadian government to run-over and disregard the human rights of Aboriginal people in Canada,” said UBCIC vice-president Bob Chamberlain. “I want to believe that Canadians find that unacceptable.”

First Nations are divided on the pipeline. According to Trudeau, 33 First Nations in the province are in favour of the project. Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion has a list of 53 first nations in B.C. that are against the project.

WATCH HERE: Trudeau doesn’t have consent of all First Nations, pipeline protester says

The federal government announced on Sunday that it has officially entered talks with Kinder Morgan about potentially investing in the pipeline.

“This is an organization that simply does not want to play by the rules,” said Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan. “The idea is to use their political power and influence to do the same things developers have to do in our communities each and every day.”

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