Squamish nation councillor, Khelsilem, writes in The Guardian
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is no ordinary pipeline. This project, which the government of Canada has just decided to nationalise, will travel more than 1,000km from northern Alberta through unspoiled wilderness to end at the port of Vancouver. The port is on the Salish Sea, part of the hereditary territory of the Squamish People. The Salish Sea is home to some of the world’s largest wild salmon runs. Majestic orcas swim in the waters and feed on the abundance.
...The decision by the government of Canada to take over the Trans Mountain pipeline Expansion Project is yet another example of indigenous rights being ignored in Canada. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, promised to do things differently than his predecessors. He promised indigenous peoples that our rights would be respected, and he has broken that promise, yet again. He promised us he would put pipeline expansion through a brand-new review, and instead the government is spending billions of dollars to buy it and, if necessary, complete and operate it over our objections.
By the way, the original pipeline carried 150,000 barrels of oil per day, which was primarily for domestic use. Today it carries 300,000 barrels, achieved by adding more pumping stations and pushing through more oil. So when the megapipe, with an estimated daily load of 800,000 barrels, is built, that capacity is only the beginning: it could double in capacity, with very little anyone could do about it.
If this pipeline is completed, these pristine waters will become the sailing grounds for more than 21,000 huge oil tankers over the next 50 years, carrying the world’s most toxic oil – diluted bitumen – from the Alberta tar sands. That is the minimum number of oil tankers; it could be more. A single incident would render the beautiful beaches of the city, surrounding islands and Vancouver Island uninhabitable. It would kill the Salish Sea and destroy our Squamish territory. All it takes is just one incident – and no one, from industry experts to the government, can guarantee that won’t happen.
Why risk it? We are told that “world-class” measures will be in place to prevent a spill and deal with one if it happens. A “world-class” standard for oil spill cleanup is that 10% to 15% is successfully recovered from the ocean. Of the remaining 85% to 90%, what doesn’t evaporate will destroy the beaches or sink to the bottom of the ocean to kill everything that now lives there, forever. That is the reality no one wants to talk about. It will destroy the Salish sea.
...We know that financial constraints could make government or companies cut back on spill mitigation or prevention. In Canada we have seen cash-strapped governments close coast guard bases, lighthouses and weather stations, and allow search and rescue fleets and aircraft to age without being properly replaced. Governments cut back on oversight of all industries on a regular basis, only to express surprise when something goes wrong. And those are just the things we can control. What about the quality of the mega-tankers which will now enter our port? Will they be in top mechanical order? Who knows? Certainly, the Canadian government will never inspect them.
If you know this port, it has a very narrow opening, aptly called First Narrows. Medium-sized cruise ships barely fit. The current is powerful and unpredictable. For a mega-tanker it is exceedingly tight – and then they have to go through the [even more treacherous] Second Narrows before arriving at the terminal.
The decision to risk billions of taxpayer dollars and to pursue completion of a pipeline that threatens Squamish Nation territory and our people is appalling, and a continued betrayal of promises made to us by Trudeau. He told Canada’s indigenous people that our rights would be respected and upheld. He has broken that promise. He promised us he would put the pipeline expansion through a brand-new review. He has broken that promise as well. And this same government promises it will have our best interests in mind if the pipeline proceeds. You can see why we don’t trust them.
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