To widespread dismay, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on November 29 his government’s approval of the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, which will transport tar sands oil from northern Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
The decision was not unexpected, but it was swiftly met with loud condemnation and promises to block the project. Trudeau’s announcement galvanised indigenous communities, environmentalists, activists and politicians across Canada, who have long campaigned against the pipeline.
North American tribes belonging to the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion have also vowed to block the project, which will carry 895,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen from the mines in Alberta to a terminal at Burrard Inlet in Burnaby, BC.
“Let’s be clear, this is about our survival,” said Rueben George, manager of the Sacred Trust Initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. “This is about protecting our home, on Burrard Inlet and on the planet.
“This is everyone’s problem. Trudeau’s permits are worthless without our consent.”
“I’m not surprised [by the government’s decision], I’m sincerely disappointed,” said Charlene Aleck, a councillor with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, to the CBC.
“This is not just our backyard, this is literally in our kitchen. It's definitely the beginning of a long battle ahead for us.”
Local politicians in BC also condemned the federal government's decision. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said that he was “deeply disappointed and depressed”.
The decision, Corrigan said, “bows to the pressure of the oil lobbyists at the expense of Burnaby’s — and all of Canada’s — economy and environment, while ignoring the science-based evidence as to the harm this pipeline project will cause on land and water, even without a spill.
“Prime Minister Trudeau said ‘Governments grant permits: ultimately only communities grant permission.’ We agree. He does not, however, have our permission and we will continue to make that clear.”
Trudeau also announced approval for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project, which will increase the volume of tar sands crude transported each day to the US. Many environmentalists have decried the decision to increase fossil fuel infrastructure after Canada promised to cut emissions in the Paris climate accord.
“The approvals raise grave doubts how these and additional pipelines, including Keystone XL and Energy East, can fit with Canada’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement and Alberta's cap on tar sands emissions,” noted the Canadian group Environmental Defence.
“The federal government insists that it is committed to acting on climate change, but approving Kinder Morgan’s project contradicts its promises and undermines the government's climate strategy and its international commitments,” said Ecojustice lawyer Karen Campbell.
“The Kinder Morgan project will put communities and ecosystems on the pipeline route and on the tanker route at risk like Northern Gateway would have — and it probably means extinction for the Southern Resident killer whales.”
Trudeau also finally confirmed on November 29 that the Northern Gateway pipeline project will not move forward.
Activists and advocacy groups remain committed to stopping the Trans Mountain expansion from being built, putting their faith in the indigenous leadership in the campaign against the pipeline.
“Just as indigenous peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
“At this historically critical time when human civilisation is on the brink of climate disaster, we have no choice but to do things differently — that means looking to indigenous wisdom and teachings, but also indigenous leadership,” said Dr David Suzuki after attending the ceremonial Treaty Alliance signing.
“Indigenous peoples did not get us into this mess, but fights like Standing Rock and the Treaty Alliance’s fight against Tar Sands expansion are showing us the way out.”
[Abridged from Common Dreams.]