9 June 2019, Unceded Coast Salish Territory, (VANCOUVER, BC) — With little over a week left until the federal government makes its decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, Indigenous leaders and hundreds of supporters gathered in Vancouver to send a message to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Despite opposition from First Nations along the pipeline and tanker route, as well as the absurdity of building new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate crisis, the federal government is expected to once again approve the pipeline.
“Building the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project would trespass on fundamental Indigenous rights in Canada, fuel the climate emergency fire and risk our coastal waters. One major spill could doom our Southern Resident killer whales and the salmon so many depend on,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “Oil companies are making record profits and crying poverty. The economic case for this project collapsed with $120 a barrel crude oil prices. The boom is over and it’s not coming back – we must embrace a clean energy economy for our children and grandchildren, despite Justin Trudeau’s ongoing support to the dirty fossil fuel industry.”
There has been no formal accounting of climate pollution from the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project from the federal government, but a study commissioned by the City of Vancouver determined the downstream climate impacts of greenhouse gas pollution to be 71.1 Mt Co2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) annually, roughly equivalent to adding 13,694,444 passenger vehicles for one year or cutting down 75,912,447 acres of forest in a year.
“Any government that wants to expand our most polluting industry simply has no credibility on climate change,” said Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee Climate Campaigner. “I don’t see how they plan to fight an election on this critical issue if they approve Trans Mountain four months beforehand.”
The Liberal government is expected to declare a climate emergency before Parliament breaks for the summer on June 21, a symbolic declaration that does not require any action, bringing into relief the difference between their pipeline ambitions and Canada’s climate policies.
“Indigenous communities are already facing evacuations due to wildfires and the loss of traditional foods like our wild salmon,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Chief of the Neskonlith Band of the Secwepemc Nation, whose territory encompasses 512 km of the proposed pipeline. “On August 30, 2018, the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion was quashed by the court. In addition to environmental degradation, the expansion stands to drastically increase the number of man camps which directly threaten the safety and security of our Indigenous women and girls. No decision should be made about resource development in Canada without the free, prior and informed consent of the proper Title holders.””
During the event, hundreds signed up for specific actions to block the pipeline project, including knocking on doors and phone banking during the federal election and supporting frontline Indigenous defence. Last year, more than 200 people were arrested at Trans Mountain construction sites before the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of First Nations and environmental organizations, overturning permits and halting construction. With growing urgency to address the climate crisis, organizers expect the response to a renewed construction effort to be even larger and more disruptive than last year, which saw Kinder Morgan withdraw from the project in the face of continued opposition.