'Our interests need to be heard': Indigenous leaders want to be part of Trans Mountain talks
While they might have polar opposite views on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, two prominent First Nations leaders can at least agree on one thing: Indigenous voices are not being sought or heard in talks about the controversial project’s future.
“Without question, it represents a very stark contradiction to the commitments made by Prime Minister Trudeau with respect to a nation-to-nation relationship,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, who serves as the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told CTV Power Play from Vancouver. Phillip is a staunch opponent of the pipeline’s expansion.
“I think it’s imperative -- imperative -- that the federal government include us going forward,” Indian Resource Council president and pipeline proponent Stephen Buffalo added from Edmonton. “Nation-to-nation is what Justin Trudeau said. You’d think that the premiers of the provinces would recognize that as well and open those doors.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be meeting with Alberta and B.C. Premiers Rachel Notley and John Horgan in Ottawa on Sunday to discuss the project, which Trudeau and Notley support and Horgan vehemently opposes. No Indigenous groups have been invited.
“In regards to this meeting coming up on Sunday… we’re not participating,” Buffalo stated. “They’re going to try and make a decision for us. So how do I get in the door?”
“There are three jurisdictions in this country: federal, provincial and Indigenous,” Phillip added. “The issue of consent… (should) represent a normal part of the approval processes with respect to major development projects, and yet we have a government that is saying that this in the national interest and we’re going to ram this project through.”
Phillip is against the pipeline’s expansion because of environmental concerns while Buffalo supports it for the potential economic benefits it could bring to First Nations communities.
“I think the key to this issue is to know and understand that Indigenous jurisdiction, Indigenous land rights and consent is at the heart of this issue,” Phillip said.
“We’re being kind of ignored,” Buffalo said. “Our interests need to be heard as well… It’s important that we continue to be heard.”