First Nation leaders from the United States and Canada are speaking to the National Energy Board (NEB) on Wednesday to explain why they think the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will harm their culture, treaty rights, and way of life.
The hearings are part of the federal government’s latest round of consultation mandated after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the $9.3-billion pipeline project.
“Our way of life is being compromised,” Lummi Nation member Lisa Wilson said.
“We are here to do everything we can to save our relatives, the orca. To save our people, not only just our people, but all of the people and animals who depend on a healthy ecosystem.
“We have come here to tell our stories about the impact the Kinder Morgan pipeline will have on our way of life.”
The NEB is hearing from people in Victoria this week about the pipeline project.
The federal court ruled the NEB had not properly consulted First Nations nor had it factored in the effects on an increase in tanker traffic when it originally approved the pipeline twinning.
Four U.S. Coast Salish tribes — the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Lummi Nation, and Suquamish Tribe — came to British Columbia’s capital to speak out against the project.
One of the biggest concerns is that the pipeline twinning would increase the tanker traffic off British Columbia’s coast seven fold.
First Nations communities along the coasts are arguing this leads to a higher risk of a spill and that an oil-tanker disaster could “unleash toxic pollution” into a sensitive marine environment that would be catastrophic.
“We are no stranger to the courtroom either in the United States, it is usually our last resort but we try to find a way to fulfill the responsibility to our ancestors,” Suquamish Tribe Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman said.
“We will continue to fight for our treaty rights and we will do that today.”
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Both the federal and Alberta governments have been arguing the pipeline expansion is in the national interested. Ottawa cannot proceed with building the pipeline, which it now owns, until this updated NEB process is completed.
The federal government is still struggling with getting all First Nations on board. Reuben George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has been fighting the project for nine years.
“All of us here have a reciprocal relationship with the waters and the lands that you can’t put a price on,” George said. “There is too much at risk.