Surprise pipeline meeting disappoints Indigenous leader

Local leaders were neither told nor invited to the meeting with the prime minister, writer says

Neither the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe nor the Sto:lo Nation Chiefs’ Council were invited to attend the meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 5, 2018. We were not notified of the meeting and learned about it through the Chilliwack Progress article, rather than anyone from the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee. We were also not notified of the intent of the meeting nor why the Prime Minister was attending.

We must be clear that Chief Ernie Crey does not speak on behalf of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe or the Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council. Each community has their own leadership and governance structure, so we must respect each other’s autonomy for decision making.

The federal government’s decision to buy the $4.5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline goes against the promises made with respect to reconciliation in Canada with Aboriginal peoples. The federal government has a duty to adequately consult with First Nations when rights and title will be impacted. The decision to spend $4.5 billion on a pipeline project in Canada impacts our rights and title because it changes the controlling body of the project and makes it more likely that the project will be built. The purchase decision triggered the duty to consult and accommodate, but there was absolutely no engagement with any of our communities with respect to that decision.

Arguments can and have been made by First Nations who support the project and First Nations who are opposed to the project. There is a significant amount of misinformation about support and opposition that has been made public, and I cannot speak for every impacted First Nation. However, I can speak in my capacity as Chief of Squiala First Nation and President of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe to our process of engagement.

The seven Ts’elxwéyeqw communities have been engaged with Kinder Morgan and the Trans Mountain Expansion project since 2013, when we received an emailed summary of the environmental and socio-economic assessment requirements for the pipeline and facilities, and marine transportation components of the project. We developed an integrated cultural assessment document to understand the potential impacts of the project in our traditional territory. We participated as an intervenor in the National Energy Board process and submitted our argument on the decision, and while doing so we negotiated an impact benefit agreement (IBA) with Kinder Morgan. Our leadership agreed that with such a major project in our territory, we needed to receive direction from our citizens.

We mailed out information packages, had staff go door to door, held community meetings and opened lines of communication for clear and open dialogue with respect to the project. After several months, we held a community referendum to receive direction from our citizens. The majority vote was not in favor of signing the IBA with Kinder Morgan and our leadership took direction from our people who told us that even with an IBA, the impacts of the Trans Mountain Expansion on our rights and title were too large and not sufficiently mitigated. Throughout this process, the federal government, which is responsible for consulting with us, was largely absent, and there are many risks and impacts (including environment risks) in respect of which Kinder Morgan did not listen to us or address our concerns.

Currently, Ts’elxwéyeqw are participating in the judicial review challenging the Order in Council approval of the project on the grounds that our communities were not adequately consulted and accommodated. Along with other applicants including other First Nation groups, environmental groups and the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, we are awaiting the judicial review decision.

Chief David Jimmie, Squiala First Nation

President, Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe

President, Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council

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