The Kwantlen Student Association is contributing $6,000 to the project
Joseph Keller, Staff Writer
With some financial support from the Kwantlen Student Association, the Kwantlen First Nation is planning a building project meant to throw an obstacle in the way of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
The KSA will contribute $6,000 towards a healing lodge that will be constructed on Kwantlen First Nation Territory, directly in the path of the planned oil pipeline. The build is expected to begin in August with the lodge to be fully functional by September.
The contribution was approved by the KSA after a June meeting of Council during which Stand With Kwantlen Founder Justin Bige and KSA Aboriginal Constituency Representative Samantha Davis delivered a presentation requesting support.
The idea to build a healing lodge on Kwantlen territory was conceived a couple of years ago and actually predates plans for the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Bige says that the lodge will be built as a memorial to Indigenous lives lost at the hand of colonialism, including but not limited to victims of the residential school system and the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Bige, whose group Stand With Kwantlen is a community of allied Indigenous people opposed to the construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, describes the lodge as a “place for healing.” It will be used for traditional ceremonies and other cultural practices, as well as for education on Indigenous culture, history, and issues.
The selected location in the planned path of the pipeline is not a coincidence or an accident. The Kwantlen First Nation is hoping that this structure will act as a hindrance to Kinder Morgan’s construction plans.
“This is a last resort, so to speak,” says Bige. “There’s still time for the Kinder Morgan pipeline itself to be canceled.”
Bige hopes that, by building this lodge in the path of the pipeline, the Kwantlen First Nation sends the message that the territories on which the pipeline is being built are still utilized by First Nations who have not ceded their territorial rights. The Kwantlen First Nation is one of a number of First Nations communities to declare opposition to the pipeline, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations.
“There’s this idea that goes around that Kinder Morgan got consent from all the First Nations along the pipeline route, and that’s a really dangerous [misconception],” says Bige.
Bige says that the Kwantlen First Nation expects Canadian law to be on their side, should there be any legal conflict with Kinder Morgan as a result of the building. In 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada sided with the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in a landmark ruling that established the rights of Indigenous groups regarding land title claims. It’s the view of the Kwantlen First Nation that this ruling covers their right under federal law to build the healing lodge within their territory.
The KSA’s contribution will account for half of the project’s $12,000 budget. The rest of the funding comes from non-profit environmental organisations including the Dogwood Initiative and from the Kwantlen First Nations own fundraising endeavors. Labour will be carried out by volunteers, many of whom will be from the First Nations community.
As far as KSA President Tanvir Singh is concerned, it is a responsibility of the student association to support the Kwantlen First Nation in endeavors such as this one. Singh says that the funding is a “show of solidarity” with the community from which the KSA and KPU derive their names. The KSA has adopted an anti-pipeline stance, partly in response to Kwantlen First Nation’s effort against the pipeline.
“Part of being an ally to these [First Nations] groups is to put your money where your mouth is, which is to help support and help fund the projects and initiatives that come from our Aboriginal constituency,” says Singh.
After the KSA decided to help fund the building project, the Kwantlen First Nation held a meeting with Chief and Elder Council to discuss its development. Kwantlen First Nation member and KPU graduate Brandon Gabriel says that the decision was seen as a positive step forward for the Kwantlen First Nation’s relationship with the KSA and KPU.
“Obviously the university is the namesake of the Kwantlen people, and over the course of the last 30-plus years, it has been the wish and the hope of the Kwantlen Nation that there be some sort of connection with the community to the school and vice-versa in a meaningful way. I think that this is coming from the executive table of the students really speaks volumes to the kind of support that we have always hoped for,” says Gabriel.
NOTE: One of the people interviewed for this article, Justin Bige, is an occasional contributor for The Runner.