By Charlie Carey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As the Trans Mountain Pipeline’s construction across Indigenous territories and B.C. faces cost blow-outs and delays, Tsleil-Waututh’s Sacred Trust said now is the time to make their voices heard, as the group organizes a rally this weekend.
Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday (April 9), the rally will be held at ?x????n?q Xwtl’e7en? Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver, and feature speakers and presenters from across Turtle Island (North America), including UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Philip and Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief NaMoks.
“Now is a pivotal time to make our voices heard,” Tsleil-Waututh Nation councillor and Sacred Trust spokesperson Charlene Aleck said. “This pipeline is not a wise investment. It’s dangerous and environmentally irresponsible. And the opposition is stronger than ever.”
Speaking to the North Shore News, Aleck said since Day 1, TWN and Sacred Trust said they would find legal pathways to stop the construction of the pipeline.
“Visiting the banks, when it was up for sale, and meeting with investors. ? We would find ways like that to just let them know how much risk that we are being asked to bear,” she said.
Aleck explained that with the court action, and subsequent pipeline construction continuing, people feel like the pipeline “will be pushed through anyway.”
“But there’s been so many setbacks; financial setbacks, construction setbacks, 1/8and 3/8 the time is now to make our voice be heard again.”
With the Sacred Trust not organizing a rally since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Aleck said while we “were all sent to our rooms” to isolated from COVID-19, “construction just went haywire.”
“Spawning beds were disrupted; nesting bird habitat was taken away and destructed. Seeing that they were allowed to push through all of that, I think was very intentional for that construction to happen, especially right in the inlet, right in our face.”
The rally comes as the federal government announced in February that it would not provide additional funding for the expansion project, which Sacred Trust has previously said infringes upon the rights, titles and interest of the Nation.
The announcement from the federal government came after a construction cost update from Trans Mountain showed the estimated cost of the project had blown out to $21.4 billion, a four-fold increase in cost since the project was purchased by Canada in 2018 for $4.5 billion.
“Sacred Trust is calling on those who oppose the pipeline, those who support Indigenous rights, and everyone fighting to stop climate change to gather and make sure our voices are heard by potential investors,” the Nation wrote in a release.
Aleck said as construction of the pipeline continues, society “as a whole, Canada as a whole,” want to do something and want to stand behind in support of Indigenous people.
“There was the apology for residential school survivors from the Pope the other day, and it’s left people a little bit uneasy, both native and non-native. ? We’re honoured and we feel honoured that representatives from, you know, Mohawk and Haida and Mi’kmaq are all coming to be with us.
“And it’s a great way to get out and see what’s important for First Nations locally; this is a great opportunity.”
Charlie Carey is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.