B.C. Premier John Horgan says there is no “majority rule” when it comes to First Nations on the Trans Mountain pipeline. This comes as First Nations who are supportive of the pipeline start to question what will happen to the benefit sharing agreements they have signed.
The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion has a list of 53 First Nations in B.C. that oppose the project, while 33 have signed project benefit agreements in return for support of the project.
“When you are talking about an energy corridor from the border with Alberta to the coast you are dealing with dozens and dozens of nations. It is not about a majority rule here,” Horgan said. “Rights and title have been established in court ruling after court ruling.”
The Squamish First Nation has been one of the most vocal opponents of the pipeline expansion. Horgan says their views as a nation need to be respected.
“As the Squamish Nation said earlier this week, they have not given consent to have this activity in their territory,” he said. “These are rights and titleholders and they have to be acknowledged and have to be accepted.”
Squamish Nation Coun. Dustin Rivers, who goes by his traditional name Khelsilem, said his community has lost trust in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he did not require Kinder Morgan to go through a new environmental assessment process.
“He has completely failed in that regard,” he said of Trudeau. “He made numerous promises to our nation and has failed. 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.”
The B.C. Liberals raised the issue of benefit agreements in the legislature on Wednesday.
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who previously served as the elected Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation, asked the government whether the NDP would honour the agreements even if the Trans Mountain expansion was not built.
“The number one issue we had on our table was poverty, dependence and all the social issues that came with it,” Ross said.
“The one shining light we had was to sign project benefit agreements with projects in our territories. They were well thought-out agreements. We spent a lot of money on them in lawyers and consultants.”
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser would not comment directly on whether the government would honour the agreements, but made it clear that many First Nations are against the $7.4-billion project.
“There are different perspectives from First Nations across the province on Kinder Morgan,” Fraser said. “Only nations can speak on their own behalf and the people of this province expect this government to defend our province from the devastating consequences of a bitumen spill on our coast.”