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Métis land defenders block construction of Trudeau-approved fracked gas pipeline in defence of their drinking water

The White Rabbit camp on Highway 881. Photo by Joey Podlubny.

The Council of Canadians expresses its solidarity with the Metis land defenders who are attempting to block construction of a TransCanada fracked gas pipeline about 120 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

The Trudeau government approved the pipeline expansion in October 2016 – and the company was given the formal go-ahead to begin construction this past Friday (January 20). The land defenders established the White Rabbit camp on Highway 881 on Thursday (January 19).

CBC reports, “The Métis community says they weren’t consulted about the project that runs underneath a key nearby water source. The pipeline’s route will run underneath the Christina River, and [Chard Métis Society president Raoul] Montgrand said, the community worries a leak could spoil the community’s water source. ‘No. We’ve never been consulted with’, said Montgrand. ‘The reason why I’m doing this is the land.’ Montgrand said day and night over the last five days as many as 15 protesters have blocked the pipeline’s construction site for a ‘peaceful’ protest.”

And the Edmonton Journal quotes Montgrand stating, “They are going to lay pipe across the Christina River. We’ve lived right next door to it all our life and it’s our only water resource we have. They want to put in a pipeline not even five kilometres from our home. That’s too close for comfort.”

TransCanada says the federal cabinet concluded all affected Indigenous groups were consulted.

But the Edmonton Journal notes, “During the NEB hearings two years ago, the Chard Métis voiced their concerns the project, in particular the river crossing, would have ‘an adverse impact on Chard Métis members’ continuous and ongoing exercise of activities, practices, traditions, and customs significantly related to the lands at issue.’ The group argued the project ‘would have cumulative adverse impacts and that it is no longer able to hunt, fish, gather or practice its traditional way of life as it used to.’ Chard Métis asked to be on site to monitor construction and watercourse crossings, something Montgrand said was not happening.”

The 20-kilometre section of the pipeline will connect to the existing Kettle River line which appears to be connected to the NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd (NGTL) System.

When that expansion was approved, Natural Gas Intelligence commented, “Canada’s year-old Liberal government confirmed [on October 31, 2016] that environmental and native opposition has failed to stop natural gas pipeline construction in the western heartland of the industry. …The project enables gas producers both to maintain and expand output for oil sands plants by replacing aging conventional wells with new shale output, chiefly the accessible Montney but also the more remote Horn River, Cordova, Liard and Duvernay deposits.”

Further reading
Trudeau government approves fracked gas pipeline expansion (November 1, 2016)