Last year, people like you supported seven First Nations to raise over $600,000 and stop a pipeline. Thanks to unprecedented solidarity between Indigenous leaders and thousands of Pull Together allies, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is dead and the north coast is clear of oil tankers.
On the same day that we learned we defeated Enbridge, we saw our Prime Minister Trudeau approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The plan — to bring tar sands oil across BC and through Vancouver harbour, increasing oil tanker traffic by 400%— was approved despite evidence and clear opposition from First Nations, municipalities and a majority of British Columbians.
Just like with Enbridge, we won’t let this get built. Together with RAVEN, Sierra Club BC and the Force of Nature Alliance, we are launching Pull Together on Kinder Morgan, using the same community fundraising strategy that won last time. Pull Together is a tangible way individuals, communities and businesses can provide financial support to First Nations legal cases and moral support to everyone on the front lines against this project.
What is the legal basis of the court actions?
On May 19, 2016, the National Energy Board issued a Report in which it found that Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransMountain Expansion Project is in the public interest, and that it is not likely to cause any significant environmental effects. On November 29, 2016, the Canadian government approved the project.
Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and Coldwater First Nations are challenging both the NEB report and the Decision of the government through Judicial Reviews. They are arguing that the Decision infringes their Aboriginal title and rights, and that Canada breached its duty to consult and accommodate. Both Nations consulted the traditional ecological knowledge of their members and also commissioned extensive technical and cultural studies to determine the impacts of the proposed project on their lands, water and people. The nations are seeking an order “quashing”, or setting aside, the Decision of the Governor in Council and the project’s Certificate of public convenience and necessity, as well as a declaration that the Decision constitutes a breach by the Crown of its legal and constitutional duty to consult with Tsleil-Waututh and Coldwater First Nations.
Why does Tsleil-Waututh Nation oppose Kinder Morgan?
Tsleil-Waututh has conducted its own assessment of the Kinder Morgan project. It highlights the exponential increase of marine traffic, loaded with enormous quantities of diluted bitumen, which would unfold directly offshore from Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s primary community, within the waters that are its traditional source of harvesting marine resources. The Tsleil-Waututh argue that the Kinder Morgan project would cause serious, permanent, and far-reaching impacts to the Tsleil-Waututh.
Why does Coldwater Nation oppose Kinder Morgan?
The Coldwater First Nation’s case focuses on the threat to its aquifer which is the sole source of drinking water for over 90 per cent of people on the Coldwater Reserve. For the Coldwater, the Kinder Morgan pipeline represents a significant risk to their water supply and their way of life and Aboriginal interests. The existing pipeline passes right through the residential portion of Coldwater’s Reserve. The now-approved second pipeline will skirt the eastern edges of the Reserve, elevated above most of the reserve and the aquifer. It will run directly through two creeks that not only have high cultural and spiritual significance to Coldwater but which are also the primary source of water for the aquifer that sits downhill within the Reserve. The aquifer was entirely missing from the the proponent’s technical analyses and maps, and the Crown failed to meaningfully engage with the Coldwater on this issue.
Does this mean First Nations can’t carry legal challenges on their own?
First Nations made their own decision to launch legal challenges, knowing the costs that would be required. They are clearly prepared to do what it takes to stop Kinder Morgan. However, legal challenges are expensive. The federal government has deep pockets and will spare no expense in defending its decision to approve this pipeline and tankers. It is not unusual for external legal defence funds to be used when parties of lesser means go up against governments or big corporations. While these First Nations could go it alone, standing together and pooling resources ensures equitable access to justice with a much more likely chance of success.
About the Tsleil-Waututh
The Tsleil-Waututh are the people of the Burrard Inlet. They have been stewards of their territory since before contact. Tsleil-Waututh ancestors maintained villages in eastern Burrard Inlet, defended the area, and used all the natural resources there, especially marine and intertidal resources. Tsleil-Waututh have a sacred, legal obligation to care for, protect, and defend the water, land, air, and resources of their territory. The nation’s name, Tsleil-Waututh, means “People of the Inlet” in their Halkomelem language. This name reflects Tsleil-Waututh’s deep geographic, physical, cultural, and spiritual connection to Burrard Inlet. Tsleil-Waututh Nation has undertaken a vast effort at restoring the ecological integrity of the Inlet, in order to enable its members to carry out traditional practices in the Inlet, including accessing abundant safe salmon, herring, clams and birds. Thanks to these efforts, in 2016, Tsleil-waututh were able to harvest clams for the first time in decades. This ecological restoration and cultural revival would be wiped out by a single oil spill in the Inlet.
“We stand here together as Tsleil-Waututh people and we say ‘no.’ We say ‘no’ the risk is too great. Our obligation is not to oil. Our obligation is to our land, our water, our people, our life, our snəwayəɬ. According to our snəwayəɬ, our law, this project represents a risk that we the Tsleil-Waututh people, are not willing to take.” – Leah George-Wilson (during a National Energy Board’s hearing)
“The federal government’s consultation process was disappointingly flawed. The economic information they relied on was outdated. The oil spill risks and health impacts were significantly understated. We have done our own independent assessment and made a decision based on Tsleil-Waututh law. We do not consent to the Kinder Morgan pipeline project in our territory. We are asking the Court to overturn the federal cabinet’s decision to approve this project.” Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
The Coldwater Nation is one of 15 bands that together comprise the Nlaka’pamux Nation which asserts Aboriginal rights and title over an area that includes the Lower Thompson River area, the Fraser Canyon, the Nicola and Coldwater valleys, and the Coquihalla area. Coldwater’s primary residential community is the Coldwater Reserve, located in the Coldwater River valley approximately 10 km southwest of Merritt, B.C. The Coldwater actively use the Coldwater Reserve and surrounding lands for harvesting traditional foods and medicines according to their annual round; for ranching and agriculture; and for cultural and spiritual uses. A wide variety of plants and berries are used for foods and medicines, while fish, ungulates and other game animals are harvested for food and cultural purposes. Traditional use sites and areas are part of the fabric of Coldwater. Being out on the land connects the present generations of the Coldwater to their ancestors. Coldwater youth are showing an increased interest in learning and practicing the Nlaka’pamux way of life. These activities are part of their identity and bind families together. The Kinder Morgan project threatens not only the Coldwater people’s drinking water but also their cultural identity.
“The existing Kinder Morgan pipeline was built through our reserve, and above our aquifer, at a time when it was illegal for us to vote or hire a lawyer. Due to its location the expansion poses even greater risk to our drinking water. We asked the Crown to take our concerns seriously and to avoid unnecessary risks. The Crown has acknowledged that if there is a spill it may be impossible to remediate our water, and that further study is essential. The Crown’s decision to put our drinking water at risk merely because Kinder Morgan does not want to consider another viable, but more costly, alternative route through our territory is profoundly troubling.” Chief Lee Spahan Coldwater Indian Band.
What is the money needed for?
The funds will assist the nations with the costs of preparing evidence, cross-examining witnesses, fighting motions to delay and building legal arguments.
How is $25 going to help?
It’s simple: every little bit helps. Large numbers of people donating small amounts add up to large sums. The participation of thousands of people from all walks of life creates a groundswell that only keeps growing!
Where does the money go?
The funds are being held in trust for the two nations by RAVEN, an established Victoria-based legal defence fund with a focus on First Nation’s legal efforts. RAVEN stands for Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs. RAVEN will distribute funds equally between the nations involved. Fifteen per cent of the funds are held to cover the costs of running campaigns like this. As a non-profit, charitable organization, if costs are met then all remaining funds go into the pool toward the legal costs.
Can I donate to the other First Nations who have launched legal challenges?
Absolutely. Simply contact the nation you wish to support.
What is the advantage of donating through RAVEN?
RAVEN is a non-profit charitable organization that provides financial resources to assist First Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life, and in a manner that addresses global warming or other ecological sustainability challenges. As RAVEN is a registered charity, it can issue tax receipts for your donations. As well, we are stronger when we work together and the success of Pull Together will show the depth and breadth of support for First Nation legal challenges aimed at protecting the natural environment for the benefit of all people within Canada.
Why is Sierra Club BC involved in this initiative?
One of Sierra Club BC’s key priorities is to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and defend BC’s south coast from the risk of oil spills. In the wake of the federal and provincial decisions to approve the pipeline and oil tankers, we are focusing our efforts on supporting First Nations’ legal challenges. First Nations are standing up for our common future—for the land and water and climate we all depend on. Sierra Club BC is providing support to community members wishing to organize solidarity events. None of the money raised through Pull Together goes to Sierra Club BC.