More Controversy with the Trans Mountain Pipeline

The latest developments in the Trans Mountain pipeline issue put indigenous groups first 

Annalisse Crosswell,  Associate News Editor  // Stock Photo by Michael Wheatley Photography

In the latest development in the ongoing Kinder Morgan company saga, the Federal Court of Appeals has unanimously overturned the federal government’s approval of the project. The court deemed the National Energy Board’s (NEB) report on the Trans Mountain pipeline to have too many flaws to be relied upon for federal approval of the expansion. The ruling came Aug. 30 and highlighted the lack of consultation with affected indigenous groups, serving as a gentle reminder to Canadians that indigenous relations are still a central issue. 

The proposed expansion to the pipeline, which currently runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, would cut through the land of many indigenous groups, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations on whose land Capilano University resides. Given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s past comments on the topic of reconciliation and his promises made to the indigenous peoples of Canada, a large part of the conversation surrounding the pipeline has come to be about the responsibilities owed to indigenous groups. 

Since Kinder Morgan’s 2012 announcement of their intention to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, the western provinces of Canada have been heavily voicing their opinions on the project. On the latest ruling Alberta Premier Rachel Notley recently commented, “I know I speak for everyone here in this room and every Albertan in saying that we are frustrated and, let’s go with it, angry about the recent court decision on Trans Mountain.” On the other hand, the BC NDP and Green Party coalition was clearly influenced by their mutual desire to end the project. 

The effects are being felt even closer to home than this however, with the City of Burnaby’s fight to put an end to the project. In the spring of 2017 the city took a lower court ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada over a decision that did not allow them to block pipeline construction, though the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. The initial ruling allowed the company to bypass local bylaws in the construction of the pipeline. 

With the May 30 announcement that the Trudeau government intends to purchase the pipeline from the Texas-based company for $4.6 billion, the debate has only gained more attention at the national scale.   

At Capilano University, the ideals surrounding the topic have aligned closely with those of the BC government. A statement released by the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) stated that they “applaud the decision”. 

“We need to consider the harm that this increased traffic may cause to an area that is important to Indigenous people and that all of us rely on for our livelihoods today and in years to come,” said Anna-Elaine Rempel, president and vice president of equity and sustainability. In a more candid interview with the Courier, Rempel also commented on the importance of this issue for CapU students: “It’s not very far out our back door and we need to be aware of the issues that are happening so close to us,” she said, “I think it’s an incredibly critical step for us to make sure that, when we’re doing consultations, we’re not just doing it to say we had a consultation, but for that to really mean something.”  

As a university located on unceded land that is constantly working to maintain a positive relationship with local indigenous groups this is important not only at a national scale, but also locally. Whilst the ruling comes as a positive turn for Canadian indigenous relations, Rempel acknowledges there will be negative impacts for those families who financially rely on the work that the expansion would create a labour demand for. Despite the controversy that has followed the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Aug. 30 ruling, Finance Minister Bill Morneau remains insistent that the purchase of the pipeline will go ahead.

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