With Trans Mountain expansion greenlit again, Indigenous leaders vow to fight on
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion “will not be built.”
So said Will George, a Tsleil-Waututh member and leader of Protect the Inlet, an organization that describes itself as the “spiritual home of the resistance against the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project in the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples.”
His is just one Indigenous voice that has vowed to keep fighting the expansion after it was approved — again — by the federal government.
WATCH: Premier Horgan on the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline
“People in British Columbia are the ones risking disaster from spills and we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to stop this pipeline,” George continued in a statement.
The statement came ahead of a demonstration expected in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday night, as well as a 22-kilometre walk that’s expected to take place in Victoria on Saturday.
That march will occupy a highway before demonstrators deliver what they call a “Tiny House” to Island View Beach in support of the Secwepemc Tiny House Warriors, a group looking to stop the expansion from traversing Secwepemc territory in B.C.’s Interior.
The Tiny House Warriors plan to build 10 small homes along the route “to assert Secwepemc Law and jurisdiction and block access to this pipeline.”
Meanwhile, a statement from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said leaders from across B.C. remain “staunchly opposed” to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“Our lands are burning and flooding. Our fish are dying and our people are suffering,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said in the statement.
“Now is not the time to recklessly pursue environmentally devastating projects while our territories suffer.”
Phillip pledged that the UBCIC would continue to “oppose these projects and stand in defense of our lands.”
The federal government announced its greenlighting of the pipeline expansion Tuesday after the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the approval last August.
The court overturned it, in part, because the federal government “failed to fulfil the legal duty to consult Indigenous peoples.”
In response to the decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government doubled the sized of its consultation teams and re-initiated engagement with Indigenous communities.
WATCH: 2nd approval of Trans Mountain pipeline ‘isn’t a victory to celebrate’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi met with 65 Indigenous groups across 46 meetings, Trudeau said.
However, some still were not satisfied with the government’s efforts.
“Tsleil-Waututh again engaged in consultation in good faith, but it was clear that the federal government had already made up their mind as the owners of the project,” Chief Leah George-Wilson said in the UBCIC’s statement.
“Unfortunately, this feels too familiar — Canada repeated many of the same mistakes from last time. We will review the decision carefully with our team, and we will consider our legal options to ensure our rights are protected.”
Meanwhile, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) took a different tack, commenting less on the pipeline’s approval than the need for rights, title and jurisdiction to be respected.
“It’s clear First Nations have different positions on this project but they all stand firm that their rights be respected and their traditional territories be protected,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement.
“The government needs to engage fully with First Nations — to uphold rights and for the basis of good business.”
WATCH: Jagmeet Singh says environmental, Indigenous concerns haven’t been met with Trans Mountain
Bellegarde said the current situation is an “important reminder why the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent is the way forward.”
The declaration says, among other things, that states will “consult and cooperate in good faith” with Indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
The Government of Canada said it would implement the declaration in 2010.
The current government committed to “fully adopt and work to implement” the declaration in 2016.
An act to implement the declaration sits in the Senate, awaiting third reading.
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