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Trudeau government failed to consider UN right to water in its Kinder Morgan pipeline approval

Secwepmec Nation activist Kanahus Manuel challenges Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett at the United Nations, April 2017.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the federal government to meet its obligations under the United Nations recognition of the human right to water following a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that it renegotiate the terms of an “exploitive bargain” when it approved the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and endangered the right to water of the C’eletkwmx/ Coldwater people.

The Globe and Mail reports, “The Federal Court of Appeal has ordered Ottawa to renegotiate the terms under which the Trans Mountain pipeline crosses a First Nations reserve in British Columbia, raising new questions about the fate of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s federally approved plan to expand the pipeline. In a decision released this week, the court ruled that the federal government failed in its duty to protect the interests of the Coldwater Indian Band in 2014 when it approved the transfer to Kinder Morgan of an easement agreement on the original pipeline, which was completed in 1952.”

That article adds, “Under the expansion plan, Kinder Morgan would boost the flow of the pipeline that runs through the reserve by 50,000 barrels per day. It would also build a second line outside the reserve territory but through a recharging area for the aquifer on which Coldwater relies for drinking water.”

And it highlights, “The appeal court said Ottawa had a duty to protect the interests of the Coldwater band and failed to execute that duty, finding there was little evidence that the then-minister of Indian and Northern Affairs even took Coldwater’s concerns into consideration. In the court case set to begin next week, Coldwater will argue the National Energy Board and federal government failed to identify the aquifer or take into account the risk the pipeline would pose to their drinking water.”

This past January, Metro News reported, “The First Nation raised its concerns about the proximity of the Trans Mountain route to its aquifer, upon which 90 per cent of the nearly 800 residents depend for drinking water.” On November 28, 2016, federal officials responded, “Coldwater could be significantly impacted from a pipeline spill as the community relies primarily on an aquifer crossed by the project for its drinking water. Coldwater members also rely on cultural foods for subsistence and are at greater risk for adverse effects from an oil spill.” Despite this admission, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his approval of the pipeline the next day.

While the Trudeau government pledged in May 2016 to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Rights – which includes the key provision of the right to free, prior and informed consent – it clearly did not respect this right in its November 2016 approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Furthermore, the United Nations General Assembly recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in July 2010 means that the Canadian government has three key obligations it must follow: the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill. The obligation to protect means, for example, that drinking water must be protected from being polluted by oil spills.

Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, must either champion the right to water for Indigenous peoples or resign.

#StopKM #NOPEKM #right2water