First Nations being ‘left out’ on Kinder Morgan
Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, warned that First Nations “are being left out of the decision-making process” when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.
“I remind all governments that it is not too late to engage our peoples,” Bellegarde said.
“This approach is better for everyone involved and leads to better decisions and better outcomes.”
Bellegarde, who is the elected voice for just under a million First Nations people through his leadership of the AFN, sent the comments to iPolitics in an email Thursday afternoon. The statement comes just after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he’ll be meeting with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan Sunday to discuss the path forward on the Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute.
That dispute heated up this week when Kinder Morgan announced it would suspend all non-essential spending on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. They attributed the decision to opposition coming from the B.C. government — but the Indigenous people living along the proposed pipeline’s path have also been a vocal source of resistance.
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is one of those voices.
“Kinder Morgan cannot proceed without the consent of the First Nations along its path, so many of which oppose it,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC, in a press release from February 8.
Phillip told CBC Sunday that he was “greatly encouraged” by the news that Kinder Morgan was halting non-essential spending on the pipeline project.
Bellegarde said that voices like Phillip’s hold more weight than the average stakeholder might carry.
“First Nations are not stakeholders,” Bellegarde said.
“First Nations are rights holders and title holders and we must be involved from the outset and throughout the decision making process.”
NDP MP Romeo Saganash took to Twitter earlier in the day to express his frustration that those who hold title over the land in the pipeline’s path have been left out of the discussions.
In an interview with iPolitics Thursday afternoon, Saganash elaborated on his concerns.
“If we decide to exclude them, like what is being proposed right now, then that’s a huge mistake and I think Trudeau will regret that — and both premiers as well,” he said.
Saganash recommended that Trudeau hit reset on the discussions to bring Indigenous peoples into the fold and said that including the AFN isn’t enough.
“My tweet does not refer to the assembly of First Nations,” said Saganash.
“My tweet refers to the title holders in that area.”
A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said that Carr speaks regularly with Bellegarde and insisted that Indigenous people have not been left out of pipeline discussions.
“Our decision to approve the project was made after extensive consultations with Indigenous groups, many of which continue to be directly involved through the Indigenous Advisory Monitoring Committee,” the spokesperson said.
“The B.C. Government’s actions not only threaten this project, and the Canadian economy, but also the Indigenous nations who have signed impact benefit agreements on the project.”
While some Indigenous groups have signed benefit agreements for the project, Saganash said that those groups do not represent all the title holders in the pipeline’s path.
“You’re dealing with different territories and different Indigenous groups… and they all have a say in what happens to their lands, territories and resources. (Impact Benefit Agreements) are not free, prior and informed consent,” he said.
Trudeau, however, has been staunch in his support of the project. He has repeatedly insisted that the pipeline “will be built.”
to continue reading this article, click here