Secwepemc land defenders struggle against $21.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline on their territory

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Screenshot from 13-minute AJ+ video.

There are many costs associated with the Government of Canada-owned Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline being built on unceded Secwepemc territory.

There is the cost of violating the Secwepemc right to free, prior and informed consent. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to halt this project until that consent is secured.

There is the cost of building an 890,000 barrel per day pipeline when the global temperature increase is now at 1.1 degrees Celsius and the UN warns limiting that to 1.5 or even 2 degrees Celsius “will be beyond reach” without immediate action.

There is the cost of the risk to the more than 1,300 rivers (including the Fraser River), streams and other bodies of water the pipeline crosses.

And there is the cost of the harmful impacts once the oil is put on ships for export on the Southern resident killer whales that Trans Mountain says “are justified” because of the pipeline’s “important benefits to Canada.”

There are also financial costs.

The CBC reports that the price tag to build the pipeline has increased from $7.4 billion – when the Trudeau government purchased the project in May 2018 – to $21.4 billion. This price tag was first reported by the Canadian Press on February 20.

Notably, Trans Mountain says that only 20-25 per cent of TMX’s total cost increased would be passed on to oil companies booking space on the pipeline.

Robyn Allan, an independent economist, has stated: “The Trans Mountain expansion is not commercially viable. It is not going to return to Canadians as if it was a sound investment. This is a huge taxpayer burden that we’re facing.”

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has told reporters that the government has engaged BMO Capital Markets and TD Securities for financial advice on the project and have been assured the project remains commercially viable.

Oil companies continue to back the project.

Suncor Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Little says: “We remain fully supportive of this world-class infrastructure project which is vital to Canada’s long-term economic success and energy security.”

Cenovus Energy Inc. CEO Alex Pourbaix also comments: “While no one wants to see cost increases, they are often a fact of life with projects of this size and in this case were largely beyond Trans Mountain’s control.”

As of February 2020, the expansion was close to 50 per cent complete. According to TMX, the pipeline will be completed by June 30, 2023.

Last week, Secwepemc land defender Kanahus Manuel stated: “We’ll continue to fight tooth and nail by any means necessary to stop it.”

She has also commented: “I really like what Amnesty International and some of those international organizations do by providing security for Native land defenders in South America. They don’t have that here, but we need to be able to provide it for our own land defenders to be able to have security.”

Manuel further notes: “[We need this] because violence comes to us. We’re not asking for it, but it’s coming from the police, it’s coming from the Crown, it’s coming from the corporation, their workers, it’s also coming from just regular civilians that are just white supremacists who want to come with their hate.”

This video can also be watched with Spanish subtitles. (Click on the CC icon at the bottom, then the Settings icon and use the auto-translate option.)

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