Just a week after environmentalists in Canada celebrated the decision by Kinder Morgan to halt most work on an expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, citing mounting opposition from activists and regional leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to provide financial and legislative assistance to enable the project to proceed.
"If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground."
—Mike Hudema, Greenpeace
"The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada," Trudeau said after an emergency summit with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia on Sunday. "It will be built."
"I have instructed the minister of finance to initiate formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan, the result of which will be to remove the uncertainty overhanging the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project," he added.
"We are actively pursuing legislative options that will assert and reinforce the government of Canada's jurisdiction in this matter," Trudeau also said.
His comments were met with strong contempt from the environmentalists and First Nations who have come together to protest the pipeline expansion.
"The Prime Minister is saying they are in negotiations with Kinder Morgan to ensure an end to uncertainty. What he is ignoring is that we are the uncertainty. We will not be bought and we will block this pipeline," responded Will George, one of the organizers of the Indigenous-led "Protect the Inlet" or Kwekwecnewtxw initiative.
In a statement on Sunday, the group detailed the growing opposition to the project, noting that critics include: the Province of British Columbia; the state of Washington; the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria; 19 other B.C. municipalities; 250,000 petition signers; and more than 24,000 who have pledged to do "whatever it takes" to stop the project.
"If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground," declared Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema.
"Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignorning their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making," Hudema added, "are ways to create a crisis, not solve one."
Supporters of the pipeline have largely blamed the delays on B.C. Premier John Horgan, who opposes it and attended the emergency summit on Sunday.
However, as VICE News outlined, citing Canadian legal experts, "the biggest threat to the pipeline's construction through B.C. comes not from Horgan's NDP government, but from members of coastal and interior First Nations along the pipeline route who oppose it."
"They stand on unceded land and have signed no treaties with the Crown that could undermine their legal position," VICE explained. "They can point to previous Supreme Court wins regarding First Nations title to land in B.C. And they are willing to erect barricades to stop construction of the pipeline through their territory."