TMX route change leads to question about Liberals’ commitment to reconciliation

TMX route change leads to question about Liberals' commitment to reconciliation
Workers lay pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.

Trans Mountain Corp. insisted Tuesday it is committed to “meaningful engagement” with Indigenous communities, after it was given the green light to move its pipeline route despite the objection of a First Nation.

The Canada Energy Regulator approved the route change Monday a week after the corporation said the original route was going to take an extra nine months and cost $86 million more to build.

The regulator has not yet issued the reasons for the decision.

The pipeline crosses the traditional territory of the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, and it opposes the change. It has not yet spoken publicly about the regulator’s decision.

The First Nation’s filing with the regulator said the area has “profound spiritual and cultural significance” to its people, and it only consented to the pipeline’s construction with the understanding that Trans Mountain would minimize surface disturbances by implementing specific trenchless construction methods.

The affected portion is a stretch 1.3 kilometres long near Kamloops, B.C.

The Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation argued that the corporation’s application to move the route did not demonstrate that the original route was impossible — just that it was going to take longer to complete.

Trans Mountain Corp. had said it ran into engineering difficulties in the area related to the construction of a tunnel, requiring the route change.

But Greenpeace Canada energy strategist Keith Stewart said if the original route was possible, then deciding to move it against the wishes of the First Nation is contrary to reconciliation.

He said the reality is that reconciliation is only happening “if, and only if, it is convenient.”

Federal ministers refused to weigh in Tuesday, with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland directing reporters to the regulator and the company and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree refusing to answer a question about it at all.

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said he hadn’t seen the decision but the Liberals are firmly committed to reconciliation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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