Trudeau’s Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline for $4.5 billion in 2018 and has been supportive of the project despite the opposition of many concerned groups, including Indigenous land and water protectors.
One argument in favour of the pipeline expansion is that it creates thousands of job opportunities for Canadians, while one argument against it is the possibility of an oil spill that could detrimentally damage the environment.
On Dec. 3, President and CEO of Trans Mountain Ian Anderson told The Canadian Press that he vowed to begin construction on the pipeline before Christmas.
“The announcement comes just two weeks before a court hearing in British Columbia could decide whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government can complete the [TMX] project,” reads the article.
Partially as a result of this hearing, “a United Nations committee working to end racism is urging Canada to immediately stop the construction of three major resource projects in B.C. until it obtains approval from affected First Nations,” wrote Laura Kane for The Canadian Press on Jan 5.
“The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors a convention to end racial discrimination signed by countries including Canada, is calling for a suspension of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Site C dam and Coastal GasLink pipeline,” it continues.
The oils will later be exported to markets in Asia through shipment, after arriving in B.C’s coast.
“The federal government says the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will bring another $500 million a year in corporate tax revenue to be spent on fighting climate change, but the Liberals won’t say where they got that number,” an article by Mia Rabson for The Canadian Press reads.
The government’s goal is to get potential buyers in Asia to step in by increasing the quantity of oil shipped to the coastal ports. By obtaining the new buyers from Asia, Canada’s dependency on America as an oil consumer will decrease, allowing for an increase in the price Canadian producers can get for their exported products.
“Alberta is angry the pipeline hasn’t yet been built, and blames Trudeau’s regulations and climate policies for the delays on Trans Mountain and the lack of other new pipelines as well,” reads Rabson’s article. “Climate activists argue the pipeline works against Canada’s promised reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Samantha Jack works with the Indigenous Gathering Place at KPU, Indigenous Cultural Safety with Fraser Health, and the Aboriginal Friendship Association as a youth representative with Fraser Region. She is from both Nuu-Chah-Nulth Nation and Yale Nation, specifically Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation and Ruby Creek Reserve #2.
“I am definitely not in support of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. It did not go through adequate prior and informed consultation with Indigenous nations. [The government was] called out for this specific reason by the Supreme Court in August,” says Jack.
She notes that the construction of pipelines isn’t just an Indigenous peoples’ issue, but an environmental issue for everybody, as its construction will leave an irreversible impact on our ecosystem for generations.
“I believe the potential for a spill is very real, as are the dire consequences associated with them,” says Jack. “Loss of habitat, destruction of Indigenous sacred lands like burial sites, pollution of water, disruption of the ecosystem, and food chain.”
Jack has proposed possible steps for the Canadian government to take to create a healthier and stronger country.
“We need to move away from fossil fuels [and] towards a greener future,” she says.
“Over the last 30 years, green technologies and the companies that produce and sell them have brought the cost of green technologies down by 90 per cent. The market is there. The money is there. Political will, the honesty of politicians, and accessible information are not there. This is the gap that we can all work together to address.”
Dr. Ross Pink, chair of the political science program at KPU, has similar views to Jack. He sees the pipeline as problematic through his perspective as an instructor, recalling the moment when 383,000 gallons of oil were spilled in North Dakota in 2017.
“Basing it off science, it is well known that a tanker or pipeline exporting oil has a very high chance of a break or leak,” he says.
“The science says it is extremely difficult to clean up oil spills from water [and] the scientific data claims the damage to marine life ecosystem is devastating.”
He notes that thousands of Canadians are employed by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, and shutting it down overnight isn’t possible. Instead, he suggests integrating the expansion into a plan to promote a green economy with the help of governments, public businesses, and civilians.
Still, he is worried about the aftermath of an oil spill.
“My concern is that the water ecosystem is so fragile, we don’t have the capacity to clean up oil spills properly in water,” he says. “We don’t have a rapid response that’s quick enough, and a lot of the oil will already be spread far because we don’t have the capacity to clean up 60 to 70 per cent of the oil that is spilled.”
Land and water protector Tawahum Bige was born and raised in Surrey, but is from Łutselk’e Dene. They are Plains Cree and Hungarian.
“When it comes to pipeline leaks, it’s not an issue of if, but rather when,” says Bige. “Standing Rock Sioux fought against pipelines across their territories, had it forced upon them, and were told it was safe. Now there’s a spill [from the Keystone Pipeline] which is specifically what the Sioux were attempting to protect their land against.”
Bige notes that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion violates the rights that Indigenous Peoples — including Kwantlen, Tsleil-Waututh, and Secwepemc First Nations — have to their land.
“When Trudeau originally approved TMX, I wasn’t surprised,” says Bige. “He made promises about overhauling the National Energy Board process and having a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pierre Trudeau was not friendly with Indigenous people during his terms as Prime Minister either.”
They add that Canadians have a duty to protect the land against those who seek to pollute and destroy it. They also share their personal story.
“I was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for breaking an injunction the courts of B.C. supported Trans Mountain with. Essentially, I sat in a chair in a crosswalk over 100 feet in front of the Kinder Morgan Westridge terminal, in prayer and ceremony, holding an eagle fan, and was arrested for it,” they say.
“I could possibly face 28 or more days in jail for protecting the land. Hundreds of people have been arrested for breaking the injunction.”