The leader of a Canadian indigenous group seeking a stake in the government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline said First Nations organizations should work together on a single proposal to take over the conduit, but doing so won’t be easy.
So far, at least three different groups in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are seeking full or partial ownership of the controversial pipeline, which carries crude from Alberta to Canada’s Western coast, but the government hasn’t made any decisions yet.
“I don’t think the government is going to look at any group and pick one over the other,” said Delbert Wapass, former chief of Saskatchewan-based Thunderchild First Nation and head of Project Reconciliation, an early and aggressive participant in the effort to acquire a stake in the project.
The groups competing for the project have different notions of who should benefit from it. Alberta-based Iron Coalition sees ownership reserved for First Nations and Metis communities in B.C. and Alberta, where the pipeline and a planned expansion would be located.
The Western Indigenous Pipeline Group in B.C. believes the 55 communities along the pipeline route should have first rights to ownership, Michael LeBourdais, chief of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band near Kamloops, said by phone in August.
“We are the ones that bear all the risk,” he said.
Bringing the groups together may require government intervention, Wapass said at an Indigenous energy conference Tuesday. “I am all for whatever is going to help us decide because I don’t want the opportunity squandered because it’s too big,” he said.
The government conducted initial engagements with indigenous communities in July and August, exploring ways that the groups could benefit from the project including through equity ownership or revenue sharing, Pierre-Olivier Herbert, finance ministry spokesman, said in an email. Work is ongoing and “we are currently developing the approach for subsequent engagement steps.”
Yet, other B.C.-based indigenous groups including Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish oppose the pipeline, which was purchased by the government last year after developer Kinder Morgan Inc. threatened to cancel expansion plans amid opposition from environmental groups and the B.C. government.Those groups argue the project is an environmental threat and have vowed to fight it.
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