Tsleil-Waututh Nation vows to stop Trans Mountain pipeline despite Trudeau government approval

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday during a press conference in Ottawa his government approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

APTN National News
A British Columbia First Nation facing a potential sevenfold increase in tanker traffic on its doorstep as a result of the Justin Trudeau government’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is vowing to ensure the project will never reach completion.

A spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in a statement the Trudeau government’s announcement Tuesday it had approved Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion was a “big mistake” and would face a court challenge.


“Their permits are illegitimate, I believe they will be thrown out in court. This is just the beginning of another phase of this conversation,” said Tsleil-Waututh spokesperson Charlene Aleck. “This issue is as black and white as the killer whales they endanger. This is about our survival and the protection of our home, this inlet and the planet. They are making a big mistake, we will not allow this pipeline to be built.”

Leaders from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation travelled to Ottawa this week to again voice their opposition to the project which will increase tanker traffic through the Burrard Inlet on their doorstep from about 30 to 70 oil tankers a year to about 360 a year.

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Maureen Thomas at a press conference in Ottawa Monday.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Maureen Thomas at a press conference in Ottawa Monday.

Trudeau said Tuesday during a press conference in Ottawa his government approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but rejected Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project, which would also have moved bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

Trudeau also announced his government approved Enbridge’s $7.5 billion Line 3 pipeline replacement project which will run from Hardisty, Alta., through Neche, ND, to Superior, Wis.

The prime minister said his government would soon be introducing legislation to make permanent a moratorium on oil tanker traffic through British Columbia’s northern coast.

Once completed, the $.6.8 billion Trans Mountain expansion pipeline project will increase the capacity of existing infrastructure to 890,000 barrels per day, up from 300,000 bpd.  The 1,150 kilometre pipeline expansion would run from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., where it would pump Alberta-mined bitumen and synthetic product onto tankers which would sail through Tsleil-Waututh Nation waters for Asian markets.

Trudeau said the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will need to meet 157 conditions outlined by the National Energy Board before it begins operation. The prime minister said 39 Indigenous communities have signed onto the Kinder Morgan project, which faces stiff opposition from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the coast and is listed as one of the pipelines opposed by a cross-country Indigenous treaty alliance which has about 100 signatories.

Trudeau said Alberta’s climate change plan, coupled with his government’s improvements to marine safety, allowed his government to approve the pipeline project.

“We know there are people who feel very strongly on either side of this decision,” said Trudeau. “There will be people upset. The fact is the decision we took today is in the best interest of Canada, the best interest of Canadians.”

TsuuT’ina Chief Roy Whitney (left) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after naming ceremony earlier this year. Brandi Morin/Photo
TsuuT’ina Chief Roy Whitney (left) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after naming ceremony earlier this year. Brandi Morin/Photo

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley welcomed Trudeau’s announcement on the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

“Our province has been brutally slammed by the collapse in commodity prices. It has been a long, dark night for the people of Alberta as a result,” said Notley, in a statement. “Today we are finally seeing some morning light. We are getting a chance to break our land lock. We’re getting a chance to sell to China and other markets at better prices.”

Trudeau said Canada needs new pipelines to transport the expected increased production from Alberta’s bitumen fields. He said pipelines are the safest way to transport bitumen to world markets.

“Oil sands production will increase,” said Trudeau. “More oil will be transported by rail in the coming years if we don’t build pipelines.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the Canadian government met its duty to consult with Indigenous communities on the Trans Mountain project.

“There was an enormous amount of work that went into the consultation with Indigenous people with respect to the Kinder Morgan project,” said Wilson-Raybould. “We engaged with many Indigenous peoples, we certainly, as a result of those consultations, entered into significant accommodation agreements and recognize the substantive nature of those agreements.”

The accommodation agreements with Indigenous communities are worth about $300 million, said Trudeau.

Wilson-Raybould said Indigenous communities will have representatives on boards overseeing Kinder Morgan’s implementation of the NEB’s 157 conditions for the project.


Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose criticized the Trudeau government for ending the Northern Gateway pipeline and said the Trans Mountain project “will never be built.”

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said the Trudeau Liberals “betrayed” British Columbia by approving the Kinder Morgan project.

Other First Nations in B.C. praised the Trudeau government’s decision to finally kill Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project and make permanent a moratorium on tanker traffic along the province’s northern coast.

“We’re jubilant to see this final nail in the coffin to Enbridge Northern Gateway. Coastal First Nations have been calling for this decision since 2011. It’s a huge victory for us and for all coastal communities that depend on our coastal marine resources,” said Coastal First Nations board chair Patrick Kelly. “Nobody knows better than First Nations the risks posed by crude oil transport at sea and the damage oil spills can wreak on our cultures, economies and ways of life.”

The Coastal First Nations is an alliance of First Nations that includes the Wuikinuxv Nation, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation.

The anti-pipeline Indigenous treaty alliance held a signing ceremony in Manitoba Tuesday. It is also targeting Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion.

In the run up to Trans Mountain decision, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr appointed a three-person panel to review the project. The panel report questioned whether the Trudeau government could square its commitment to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with approval of the project.

Moments after Trudeau announced the approval of the Trans Mountain project, calls went out on social media to begin organizing opposition to the project.

The announcement comes as opposition in North Dakota continues against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. The anti-pipeline movement there has electrified a continent-wide movement against new oil pipelines.

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