Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Planned completion for Trans Mountain pipeline another blow for Tsleil-Waututh Nation

The Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative has rallied against the controversial pipeline project for more than a decade
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative has rallied against the pipeline expansion project since 2012. | North Shore News files

It’s been a decade of campaign from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust initiative, but no amount of protest, it seems, was ever going to be enough to halt the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

On Wednesday Trans Mountain Corp. announced the oil pipeline expansion will go into commercial service May 1, marking the completion of a four year, $34 billion construction project.

“We wanted to stop it, of course we wanted to stop it,” said Reuben George, manager of the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative. “This is devastating for our country. They have had so many opportunities to stop this over the years, we just wanted to protect the city we love.”

Since 2012 the initiative has been publicly opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, which involves twinning an existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline to transport oil products from Edmonton to Vancouver.

In 2015, an assessment carried out by the Nation, spanning a year and comprising six separate reports, found the project would have a detrimental impact on the environment and culture of the local First Nations.

The report found the pipeline would increase the threat of oil spills, threatening the health of humans and wildlife. George said the pollution from a spill could also greatly interfere with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s spiritual and historical connection to the water, and would worsen the province’s already alarming rate of natural disasters.

“The snowpack for British Columbia and Alberta is the lowest that it’s ever been. The floods, droughts and fires, all of this is going to get progressively worse, and it’s all directly related to the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “Vancouver has been voted consistently as one of the most beautiful places to live. Look at the North Shore mountains, look at the water. All that is at risk. It’s a mess, that’s what we have to look forward to.”

If there is no concern over environmental impact, there should at least be fears over the financial implications of the $34-billion project, said George. Initially given an estimated cost of around $7.4-billion, the project jumped to $30.9 billion in 2022 – a move which led the Nation to plead with local banks to stop giving it funding – before rising once more last year. 

The public funds funnelled into the pipeline leave other climate solutions out of pocket, said George, bringing even further detriment to the environment.

“We have rehabilitated the inlet where we live to the degree that for the first time in 45 years we have done a clam harvest. Oysters are coming back, and clams, and eelgrass and herring, because we are cleaning this very dirty inlet,” he said. “A little Nation did all of that. Can you imagine what more we could do with close to $40 billion? We can enhance what we have and make a better future for our next generations.”

While there is distress over the project pushing on ahead, the Sacred Trust will not be deterred from its mission of protecting the local land and waters, said George.

“Since time out of mind we’ve been protecting our waters, and this doesn’t change our stance,” he said. “It doesn’t stop how we live and how we feel about the land we live on. We will always protect it, we will always love it and we will always take care of it.”

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

[email protected]