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Tsleil-Waututh Nation rejects new federal panel reviewing Trans Mountain pipeline

Rueben George speaks with the RCMP at a police line on Burnaby Mountain, as mother Amy George looks on. Photo by Red Power Media (November 2014).

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation has rejected the Trudeau government’s additional review panel that will be considering the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal over the next four months.

As noted on the Tsleil-Waututh Nation website, “We have inhabited the lands and waters of our traditional territory surrounding the Burrard Inlet in British Columbia since time immemorial.”

The Burrard Inlet is a shallow-sided coastal fjord that separates the City of Vancouver from the North Shore Mountains, where the communities of West Vancouver and the City and District of North Vancouver are located. The Burrard Inlet is also where the Westridge Marine Terminal is located. Approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline would result in more than 400 oil tankers per year travelling through those waters.

Yesterday, the federal government announced a new three-member panel that will look into the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan is proposing to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline from northern Alberta to the British Columbia coast to increase the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands through Jasper National Park, into the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, across the Vedder Fan aquifer and the municipality of Chilliwack’s protected groundwater zone, then across the Fraser River and to the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burrard Inlet for export on supertankers.

The National Energy Board joint review panel is expected to make its recommendation to Cabinet on the pipeline this Friday (May 20), but CBC reports the new panel has been set up “to consider the views of communities along the route; to ‘meaningfully consult’ indigenous peoples and, where appropriate, to accommodate their rights and interests; and to assess not just the direct emissions from the pipeline, but the so-called upstream pollution from the oil fields.”

Sundance Chief and Tsleil-Waututh member Rueben George says, “That’s their processing. Our consultation is called nation-to-nation. …What you have is 24 months of the NEB and their processing, and now you have this new group coming in that are gonna try to do what they couldn’t do in 24 months, and they’re gonna do it in four months.”

The three-member panel is expected to begin its work in June and make its report to the Cabinet in November. The Cabinet will then announce its decision on the pipeline in December.

In May 2014, Council of Canadians organizers Brigette DePape and Leila Darwish were present at a media conference when the Tsleil-Waututh Nation launched a legal challenge against the pipeline. At that time, Chief Maureen Thomas stated, “The Crown and NEB are running roughshod over our Aboriginal Title and Rights. …This challenge goes to the heart of the Crown’s assertion that it can make unilateral decisions about our territories. Our nation has self government authority to review and make decisions that affect our territory according to our own Law.”

The Council of Canadians has been opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline for the past five years. We support the Leap Manifesto, including its call for respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land, a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050, and for no new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future.