The twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline by Texan infrastructure company Kinder Morgan has created a rift in Canadian politics and society, even before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the project in late November 2016.
The Trans Mountain Pipeline is a pipeline that transports crude oil from the landlocked province of Alberta to coastal British Columbia, across numerous Indigenous territories. The twinning of the pipeline would triple the amount of crude oil transported between provinces, increase the amount of oil tankers off the British Columbian coast and consequently increase the chances of an oil spill which could devastate ocean ecosystem and Indigenous livelihoods.
The potential project has pitted the British Columbian government, Indigenous groups, environmentalists and other allies, against the Albertan government and the Canadian federal government. The Canadian federal government and the Albertan government see the expansion of the pipeline as economically vital and in national interest, believing that twinning the pipeline would allow Canada and Alberta to export oil on a larger, more global scale, with less dependence on the United States’ market and the potential to get a better price on oil exports. Many environmentalist, economists and writers have questioned these motives, often stating that the economics behind this project is incredibly shaky and not black and white. Exporting to global markets may in fact flood the market, lowering oil prices.
Evidently, the environmental concerns stand on more scientific and factual bases than the economic push. But even as this is becoming increasingly clear, the Canadian government is still working hard to ensure this project materializes. Recent developments highlight the Canadian government’s disregard for human rights and the environment, in favour of shaky economic beliefs.
Mike De Souza, an investigative journalist and managing editor of Canadian news website, National Observer, recently obtained newly released court documents, and testimonies from what he calls whistleblowers, that prove that the federal government had “rigged” approval for the project, and then “sought to suppress the evidence”.
During the 2015 Canadian federal election, as leader of the Liberal Party, Trudeau ran a campaign which included promises of environmentalism and reconciliation with First Nations, especially in regards to the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Additionally, the federal government has a constitutional duty to consult with First Nations about the project.
About a month ago, Tsleil-Waututh Nation lawyers stated that they believe Trudeau’s government had influenced cabinet to greenlight the project, despite the fact that the Tsleil-Waututh Nation had not properly approved the project and that Trudeau’s Government claimed to be in the process of consulting with, and accomodating First Nations at the time. Additionally, they believe that the government attempted to suppress this evidence of “gamesmanship” in hopes that it would be lost in fast-paced court proceedings over the matter. The recent documents obtained by the National Observer highlight the claims and add further evidence.
Kinder Morgan, who has stated they would abandon the project if opposition were not silenced by May 31st, want the Tsleil-Waututh Nation “to pay for their legal fees following ‘significant’ delay and prejudice to a stalled pipeline expansion project.”
In 2013, before becoming Prime Minister, Trudeau publicly stated that “Governments may be able to issue permits, but only communities can grant permission,” – a crucial truth which has now evidently been ignored by his government.
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