Wet’suwet’en and Otomi land defenders unite against the TC Energy Coastal GasLink and Tuxpan-Tula pipelines
Over the past four days in Ottawa and Toronto, PBI-Canada, along with allies including Above Ground and the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, have accompanied and sought to amplify the resistance of Wet’suwet’en and Otomi land defenders to the Coastal GasLink and Tuxpan-Tula fracked gas pipelines being built on their territories without consent by the Calgary-based Canadian transnational TC Energy.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline route traverses about 190 kilometres of Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia, crossing wetlands, cultural sites and the Wedzin Kwa river. The Tuxpan-Tula pipeline is a 287-kilometre project (of which 58 kilometres has not yet been constructed) that crosses Indigenous lands and communities beginning in Tuxpan, Veracruz to Tula, Hidalgo northwest of Mexico City.
Saturday October 14
March in Toronto
We participated in a march in Toronto that included stops at TC Energy (200 Bay Street, 24th Floor, Royal Bank Plaza – North Tower) and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation/AIMCo (First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West).
In December 2019, almost a full year after the first militarized RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, AIMCo, “on behalf of certain of its clients, and in partnership with KKR”, acquired a combined 65 per cent equity interest in the Coastal GasLink pipeline from TC Energy.
Outside the TC Energy office, Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’ told the hundreds gathered on Bay Street: “Seeing all of you here today is inspirational to me. It helps us keep going, even in the face of the kind of repression that we are experiencing in our own territories, in our own homes, in our own ancient village sites. We have to stand with our relatives across Turtle Island and around the world. An attack on one is an attack on all.”
Monday October 16
Meeting with Export Development Canada in Ottawa
Then in Ottawa, we accompanied with Georgina Alonso of Above Ground and Anna Zalik from York University, Otomi land defender Don Salvador Aparicio Olvera, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, Wet’suwet’en land defender Eve Saint, along with Dr. Eliana Acosta Marquez and Clarissa Torreblanca of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to a meeting with Export Development Canada (EDC).
An analysis by The Globe and Mail newspaper found that EDC, a Crown corporation wholly owned by the Government of Canada, has provided TransCanada Pipelines (now TC Energy) with a minimum of $1 billion in funding between 2001 and the end of 2020.
Notably, EDC signed an agreement with TC Energy to lend between $250 million and $500 million for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. At that time, EDC spokesperson Jessica Draker said that the loan was approved after a “rigorous due diligence review.”
EDC also approved the financing despite acknowledging “the project continues to be opposed by a group of hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who claim to be the legitimate decision-makers of this nation, not to have been duly consulted and not to have consented to the project.”
EDC also stated: “[EDC believes TC Energy] has demonstrated a great ability to manage environmental and social risks.”
Subsequently, TC Energy has been fined by provincial authorities more than $800,000 for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Most recently, TC Energy was fined $340,000 was issued for “deficiencies with erosion and sediment control measures” and $6,000 for “providing false and misleading information”.
Despite this, EDC continues its relationship with the company.
Meeting with the CORE
That afternoon, the delegation also met with two representatives from the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE).
The CORE says: “We review complaints about possible human rights abuses by Canadian companies when those companies work outside Canada in the garment, mining, and oil and gas sectors.”
The situation with the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline was raised in the meeting, as was the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory (within Canada, but a sovereign nation).
The Canadian Network on Corporation Accountability has advised impacted communities to “approach with caution” the CORE (which the delegation did).
And Tavia Grant from The Globe and Mail recently reported: “In seven of the eight preliminary reports the CORE has released so far – all of which focus on the alleged use of forced labour in China – the assessments show the companies in question have either given incomplete answers, not responded, failed to respond to meeting requests, or stopped engaging in the process altogether.”
That article quotes Georgina Alonso from Above Ground who comments: “We know that voluntary regulatory mechanisms don’t really work in the pursuit of corporate compliance and accountability.”
And that evening, the delegation spoke at a public forum that took place at the University of Ottawa. Close to 100 people had pre-registered for the in-person event, with another 75 people registering for the online Zoom presentation of the forum.
The event included an opening by Algonquin Elder and University of Ottawa Chancellor Claudette Commanda who shared the struggle of her people against a radioactive waste disposal site proposed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to be located 190 kilometres northwest of Ottawa on Algonquin territory.
Video clips shown at the forum included excerpts from Invasion and La Lucha de la Sierra Norte de Puebla Ante el Gasoducto Tuxpan-Tula.
Tuesday October 17
Meeting with Global Affairs Canada
In the morning, the delegation met with two representatives of the Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) unit at Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
GAC RBC liaises with the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.
And yet when the Mexican government raised concerns in August 2019 about seven pipelines, including the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, former Canadian ambassador Pierre Alarie commented: “I am deeply concerned by the actions of the CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) and the signal they send that … Mexico will not respect the gas pipeline contracts.”
The Canadian Embassy in Mexico has also been implicated in the assassination of land defender Mariano Abarca on November 27, 2009.
Abarca had led peaceful protests against the environmental impacts of a barite mine in Chicomuselo, Chiapas operated by Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration Ltd.
MiningWatch Canada says: “The Abarca family believes that the role of the Canadian embassy in Mexico, including to pressure Chiapas authorities on behalf of Blackfire to quell protests when Canadian officials knew that Mariano was being criminalized and threatened, put his life at greater risk.”
Furthermore, Canada has exported more than $18.9 million in military goods to Mexico over the last five years (2018 to 2022). This is in a context where there have been 322 attacks against human rights defenders in Mexico between January 2015 and December 2022 and where 31 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2022 alone. Mexican security forces have been implicated in violence against human rights defenders.
Meeting with Mike Morrice, MP
And that afternoon, the delegation met with Green Party Member of Parliament Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre) on a picnic bench outside his Confederation Building office just next to the Parliament Buildings.
Morrice was familiar with the Wet’suwet’en struggle and asked for more information about the resistance to the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline. We will be sending him a package of information, that will include this 7-minute video “La Lucha de la Sierra Norte de Puebla Ante el Gasoducto Tuxpan-Tula” (with English narration).
We will continue to follow closely the resistance of the Wet’suwet’en and Otomi (and Nahua and Mixtec) to TC Energy pipelines on their territories.
For more, please see:
United Against TC Energy: Hundreds in Toronto Stand With Wet’suwet’en, Nahua, Otomi and Mixtec Land Defenders Resisting Colonial Violence (World Beyond War, October 15, 2023)
Wet’suwet’en and Otomi land defenders to speak in Ottawa about their resistance to TC Energy pipelines (PBI-Canada, September 30, 2023)
Social media overview
We gratefully acknowledge the work of everyone in organizing this advocacy intervention, notably Anna Zalik who initiated this collaboration.