Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce his approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project today.
Forty-three Indigenous groups have signed agreements in support of the project, and some Indigenous groups from Western Canada are hoping to buy the pipeline.
But Will George from Tsleil-Waututh Nation hopes the prime minster has a change of heart and puts solving the climate change crisis ahead of pipelines as the national interest.
“Climate leaders don’t build pipelines, it is unacceptable,” says George. “The Alberta tar sands is one of the biggest carbon bombs on the planet.
“These big industrial companies, they will die of old age and our children unfortunately run the risk of dying of climate change.”
George and his niece Rogue are worried about the future and their traditional territory.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation sits on Burrard Inlet, known as ground zero for the TMX expansion project.
George showed APTN News by boat what the project means for his people.
“These are our spiritual highways, this is how we got around,” says George. “Ninety per cent of our diet came from this exact body of water.
“Our teaching and our culture stems from this water and it is important for us to protect that and continue teaching our young ones.”
(Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet. Photo: Laurie Hamelin/APTN)
George and his nation have been fighting the expansion for years.
Pointing out the Westridge Marine Terminal, George says the construction is illegal.
“My nation fought them for nine years in court and it cost millions of dollars.”
“We won, in our favour, the construction is supposed to halt for two years, but you continue to see them constructing illegally, and this is happening from here and up to Jasper.”
The expansion is essentially the twinning of an existing 1,150-km pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia.
More than 800,000 barrels of bitumen a day will be piped to the marine terminal in Burnaby.
Tankers will first navigate through Burrard Inlet, an already very busy port, along the rocky B.C. coast and then to Asia.
“In and around San Juan Islands there are tricky navigational turns, not even experienced fishermen will go in these areas,” says George. “It’s proven time and time again that human error happens, that mechanical failure happens, all it takes is one spill.
“This bitumen will sink to the bottom, it’s not recoverable.”
(The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will twin the existing pipeline from Edmonton, Alta., to Burnaby)
Although Trudeau introduced what he calls a world-class Oceans Protection Plan, George says the massive increase in tanker traffic is too much of a threat.
“It’s not foolproof and it shouldn’t look foolproof to anybody,” said George.
Despite the project being expected to get the final greenlight Tuesday, George says he won’t ever quit fighting.
“What little we have is being threatened so we will do whatever it takes to stop this.”