Opinion

Trudeau Just Sacrificed BC for Big Oil

First Nations are owed so much more, and he will soon find that out.

By Judith Sayers 29 Nov 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Judith Sayers (Kekinusuqs) is from the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni, B.C. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria in Business and Environmental Studies.

Today is a dark, dark day for British Columbia, and it feels like we have been cast back in time a couple of centuries with the archaic decision to proceed with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Today, the government chose big oil over the environment and First Nations.

It is a very sad day for Mother Earth, the lands and waters in B.C., especially the west coast. Today, as predicted and expected, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan project. It is a massive blow to the First Nations, municipalities and people who live along the line and will be most impacted.

When Trudeau made his announcement, he was not his usual engaging self. He read strictly from his paper and did not deviate. There were no off-the-cuff remarks, no eye contact. It was strictly business and kept on script. Clearly, he was uncomfortable making the announcement knowing how many people were vehemently opposed to the project.

His announcement started with the bad news of approving Kinder Morgan and Line 3, and then the inevitable news that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project was dead. His strategy was to give all the bad news at once so there wouldn’t be opportunities for two major backlashes, and he hoped to soften the blow with the Northern Gateway decision. He has interesting strategies on how to deal with the public.

Under questioning, Trudeau could only say repeatedly in defence of the federal government decision that “it is in the best interest of Canada.” Not surprisingly, he didn’t elaborate on what that meant. Convince me, Mr. Prime Minister, how the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion is in the best interest of Canada as a whole?

It is obvious that it is in the best interests of Kinder Morgan and its shareholders, and in the best interest of Alberta, but how does it benefit B.C. when all we get is the risks?

How does it benefit New Brunswick or Nova Scotia or Quebec or Ontario who are so far removed from the project? Of course there are revenues that will flow to the federal government that may be of small benefit to provinces. But it’s not enough.

From the beginning of his speech, you knew the prime minister was going to approve the project. He highlighted jobs for middle class Canadians, the introduction of a carbon tax, a world-class marine recovery plan, Alberta’s leadership on climate change, high environmental standards for future generations and phasing out coal.

He tried to appeal to the masses in B.C. by making it personal. “If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it. I have lived and worked in B.C.”

When will the prime minister live in B.C. again, and why does his personal opinion matter? I thought decisions were made on science.

He also tried to rationalize his decision by asking what country in the world would leave its rich oil resources in the ground when they could be exploited today for future generations?

His values and the values of his government came across clearly. He is only interested in money and relations with corporate Canada and the exploitation of First Nations resources.

Trudeau said he listened very carefully to what people have said, but if he had listened carefully he would not have approved the project. He glossed over the importance of First Nations’ rights, title and resources by saying the government had had talks with Indigenous Peoples.

Talks? First Nations are owed so much more, and he will find that out.

Most disappointing today was to see Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould stand with the prime minister to announce a decision that cuts to the heart of her friends, the First Nations that have always stood by her and supported her. In 2015, she said that Ottawa could not force Kinder Morgan on B.C.

How much more powerful would it have been if she resigned because she disagreed with the decision? It is a very depressing day for those who had such hope for change with her on the cabinet of the Liberal government.

Today, Prime Minister Trudeau showed his true colours, showed where his loyalties lie and what he values most. Clearly, it is not his relationships with First Nations. He has shown the world that he does not value climate change solutions or the environment.

He imposed a tanker ban for the North Coast, when he should have done it for the whole coast. Why is only one part of the coast more important than the other? His credibility plummeted with this decision.

A protest took place in downtown Vancouver hours after Trudeau's announcement. Hear from Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs above. Video by Christopher Cheung.

Today, the message is that we as people in British Columbia need to rise up and protect the land and water for the future of our children and grandchildren. This can be done in many ways, from being on the land to being in the court and in the media.

We have learned from the Dakota Access pipeline, and those protests can be repeated here with even stronger results. We can bring in our allies who will stand with us.

Trudeau said he knew there are people who feel strongly on both sides of the issue, and in Canada we can express ourselves, but it must be done peacefully.

If Trudeau wanted peace, he would have axed the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.  [Tyee]

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