Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged right off the bat that he understands that not everyone was “unanimous” in support of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The PM was at the brand-new Multiplex building Tuesday on the Cheam First Nation reserve near Chilliwack to address members of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC).
“As we move forward with the project, I know there are people around this table, and across the country, who go from strongly opposed, to somewhat kind of neutral, to strongly supportive,” Trudeau said. “And I think it’s really important that we continue to talk.”
He was at the Cheam reserve to listen to the concerns and key issues of IAMC reps, who have the mandate to oversee monitoring of the Trans Mountain pipeline, both during and after construction, and to offer advice. The PM made the point that the committee work “goes to the heart of something that is important, not just to Indigenous communities, not just to this government, but to all Canadians, that of reconciliation.”
Reconciliation, he continued, was “the way we figure out how to turn the page on decades, generations, centuries of broken relationships.”
So while the different IAMC members may not necessarily be in agreement on the pipeline issue, they might be united about the reconciliation to be found in shared opportunities.
“It’s important that we get it right,” Trudeau said, adding that meant “getting it done in a way that benefits everyone and reconciles some of the concerns and impacts.”
The IAMC was set up to represent communities all along the pipeline expansion route, and the committee gives communities “a mechanism” to weigh in and participate.
Federal government put aside $64.7 million over five years to support the work of the IAMC. Of this, $42 million in program funding will enable the committee to monitor the pipeline expansion project. It can also support: engagement and communications; training and research, data gathering and technical reviews.
“This does not mean that everyone is unanimous,” Trudeau said, and he said their presence was not understood to be agreement either. He said he looked forward to collaborating with the committee, and the people they represent along the route, on an ongoing basis.
As he was speaking these words, the chants from outside could be heard inside.
“We have the partnerships, the respect and collaboration and the shared path, that I know all of Canada wants to see in the coming years,” said Trudeau. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing from all of you around the table.”
As he arrived in Chilliwack, his entourage was greeted by approximately 40 anti-pipeline protesters who gathered at the hall. The group expressed disgust with the existence of the pipeline, and disagreement with the federal bailout of the project and KM assets.
Opponents of the pipeline expansion were drumming, chanting, and making online speeches outside while the Prime Minister spoke inside.
Cheam band member Denise Douglas was one of the most outspoken protesters, attempting at one point to enter the building by pushing past RCMP officers.
– with files from Paul Henderson