While the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is vowing to continue the fight against the twinning of the TransMountain pipeline, the Assembly of First Nations has a more measured response.
It has become one of the more contentious projects for First Nations as there are opposing perspectives on the value of the project.
“First Nations in B.C. are both the most at risk, and most likely to benefit from this project,” said Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. “Many First Nations are seeking to reinvest in the green economy and have few choices for economic development in their territories. As non-renewable, carbon intensive resources continue to dominate major project investments, First Nations require support and investment opportunities in the transition to the green economy.”
Yesterday Ottawa announced the approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX). In 2018 Canada bought the TMX from Kinder Morgan Inc. for $4.5 billion, shortly thereafter the federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the project, ordering more consultation with Indigenous communities.
“This is a long time coming,” said Teegee. “For many years First Nations have been waiting to learn what the next move would be for this project. As regional chief I do not have decision-making authority over projects or its investments. We do however expect that First Nations rights, title and decision-making authorities are respected, implemented and included.”
The TMX is an expansion of an existing oil pipeline originating in Edmonton, ending in Burnaby, with an expected seven-fold increase in tanker traffic. There are over 35 First Nations in B.C. impacted by the pipeline component of the project, and many others impacted by the marine shipping component.
“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a key legal tool for assuring that Canada is respecting and protecting the human rights of First Nations peoples in Canada,” said Teegee. “We must improve the processes for decision-making, land use planning and laws that secure the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations in BC and Canada. If the project moves through the construction stage, we will continue to stay vigilant on the conditions set by First Nations governments to assure protection of their rights and interests.”