Trudeau talks Keystone XL in first call with Biden despite Native American opposition to the pipeline

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On Monday November 9, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called President-elect Joe Biden to congratulate him on his win and to talk about key issues including the construction of the Calgary-based TC Energy Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Biden has said he opposes the pipeline, Trudeau supports it.

The day prior to the call, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said protecting Keystone XL is a top priority for the Canadian government.

The 1,947-kilometre pipeline would move 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska where it would connect with existing infrastructure to refineries in Oklahoma and down the line in Texas on the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline route runs for 529 kilometres in Canada through Alberta (Treaty 6 territory) and Saskatchewan (Treaty 4) where it would cross the border at Montana, then proceed through South Dakota and Nebraska.

This past May, TC Energy built a 2-kilometre section of Keystone XL across the Saskatchewan-Montana border and started work on camps in Montana and South Dakota.

The Associated Press has reported that members of several tribes in Montana and South Dakota travelled to the border to protest this.

That article adds that the Governor of South Dakota was trying to force two tribes – the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes and the Oglala Sioux Tribe – to remove coronavirus checkpoints they have set up on highways that connect to pipeline construction sites.

There are at least 16 Native American nations in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.

In late June, the Indigenous Environmental Network highlighted: “For over a decade, Indigenous nations and communities have continuously denied consent to the KXL pipeline from crossing their territories, citing environmental concerns, the desecration of sacred sites, treaty rights violations, and the risks of sexual violence connected with man camps.”

Faith Spotted Eagle, a Yankton Sioux Elder, has highlighted: “We are worried about man camps that are coming to our territory. We have seen our women suffer. One out of three women in our nation have been sexually assaulted by non-native people.”

By August, it was reported that the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation were leading pending challenges against Keystone XL in US District Court in Montana.

It has been repeatedly argued that Keystone XL lacks the free, prior and informed consent of Native American nations, a right upheld in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Construction of Keystone XL in Canada was approved by the National Energy Board in March 2010. By early October of this year, about 90 kilometres of the 269 kilometre pipeline route in Alberta had been constructed.

The Canadian government is lobbying to stop Biden from cancelling the pipeline before the start of the construction season in the summer of 2021.

If completed, Keystone XL would allow for a 36 per cent increase in production in the tar sands and increase greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 22 million tonnes a year. It would also cross waterways and put the human right to water at risk.

The scheduled in-service date for the pipeline is 2023.

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