“So no, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project is not dead and will be continued stronger. There is too much at stake for the government to let it go now, and they've shown time and time again that the evidence doesn't matter. They have already had countless opportunities to cancel the project on solid grounds with even less political consequences than there would be now.” - No TMX Pipeline Expansion, Not Now, Not Ever! (Fire This Time. Volume 12, Issue 9)
Last month we reported on another big development in the fight against the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. A Federal Appeals Court had “quashed” the government approval of the controversial Tar Sands pipeline project from Edmonton to Burnaby. The decision was based on a flawed National Energy Board (NEB) process which had not considered the marine impact of increased tanker traffic, and the government's failure to fulfil its constitutional requirement to “meaningfully consult” with Indigenous Nations.
It was an important win in a decade-long battle, but it was just as important to emphasize that the project wasn't dead. One month later and it's clear the government of Canada is still committed to building the pipeline, regardless of clear environmental, political, economic and Indigenous rights concerns. It's also clear that it's committed to using the same travesty of a process to address the two areas of Federal Appeals Court concern. There has been no change of heart. There has been no soul-searching.
NEB – Built to Fail
Don't believe us? Check out the NEB marine impact review process. They will have only 22 weeks to finish their review. They also gave members of the public and intervenors less than a week to apply for comment and register for an upcoming public hearing.
Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band sat through the last public hearing held by the NEB. She heard the news about the new timeline from a phone call from a National Observer reporter. "I'm frustrated. I haven't heard from any federal representatives from Canada whatsoever," Spahan said. "We won a court case and still can't get them to the table. Are they giving people less than a week to comment and register? Why would they give such a short timeline?"
According to lawyers from EcoJustice who won the recent Federal Appeals Court case, “Southern Resident killer whales already face imminent threats to their survival and recovery. After the death of J50 earlier this month, there are just 74 whales remaining — down from 82 at the time of the original NEB assessment.
We know from the uncontroverted evidence our clients presented during the NEB’s review of the Trans Mountain project that this pipeline expansion has a greater than 50 percent chance of dooming these endangered orcas to extinction.”
Unfortunately, the ones who are to consider this compelling evidence and issue an unbiased report don't inspire any confidence. All were appointed by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Alison Scott oversaw the initial flawed review of the pipeline. Lyne Mercier was previously forced to recuse herself from the 2016 review of the Energy East pipeline project following an exposed private meeting with an industry representative, and according to Murray Lyttle's NEB bio he has “held a series of senior positions in the oil, gas and mining industries” with “nearly 40 years’ experience in the energy and mining sectors spanning North America, South America and Asia.”
Does anyone want to bet what kind of decision this group is going to come up with?
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued a blistering response to the situation. “If the final assessment says anything less than that this project is dangerous for our waters and marine ecosystems, it will be made remarkably clear that the NEB has become the official mouthpiece of Justin Trudeau’s fanatical determination to build an expensive, disastrous, unwanted pipeline. Unbiased facts born out of science and proper consultation that lasts for longer than a week will not yield the response the Trudeau government wants, and this is not a secret to them.”
No Consent, No Pipeline
All signs point to the Federal government trying to find a retired Supreme Court Justice to organize the “meaningful” consultation. However, given that they have already announced their intention to build the project (especially after buying it for 4.5 billion) how meaningful can the consultations be? Especially when the government also cannot mention the word “consultation” without quickly adding, “But they can't veto!”
Keith Stewart, the senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, had a good summary: "It’s not true consultation or science if you’ve decided on the answer before asking the question.”
The other important consideration is that the true standard is not consultation, but “free, prior and informed consent” as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was something PM Trudeau promised to uphold if elected.
September 8 Rise for Climate
Fortunately, the 2000 people came to the “Build Our Future, Not a Pipeline” action in Vancouver on September 8 understand that they can't rely on the government for leadership when it comes to standing up for the environment and stopping the pipeline. The march and rally, which was part of the worldwide “Rise for Climate” Day of Action was an important demonstration of the continuing grassroots opposition to the project.
The event was organized by the grassroots Climate Convergence coalition, as well as UBC 350, UBC Common Energy, the UBC Social Justice Centre and 350 Vancouver. Speakers included Indigenous leaders and organizers, high school and university students, city councillors and those who had been arrested for blocking the Kinder Morgan Tank Farm. While everyone had a different perspective and experience, the unifying message was that the struggle to defend the planet and stop the pipeline needed to continue full force.
Even as the skies opened with the first rains of the transition from summer to fall, the crowd marched through downtown, growing as people walking by joined in the chanting. The lead banner declared, “Not Trudeau Pipeline! Not Now, Not Ever!”
Every step of this process has involved lies and coverups by the government of Canada. It has also involved a continuing movement of people which has failed to be demoralized by the absolute lack of political or moral leadership by our so-called leaders. Without the real leadership of Indigenous Nations and the grassroots climate justice movement, this project would already be well away under construction. The Trudeau government is now forced to take increasingly drastic and desperate measures which further expose their lies and hypocrisy. This is an opportunity we must take advantage of. What happens with this pipeline will be truly decisive. This project will never be in the interests of the majority of poor and working people in Canada, and we need to be on streets making that case and showing the power of united action. Build Our Future, Not a Pipeline!
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
Follow Climate Convergence on Twitter: @Climate604
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