An Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau
Dear Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
I am writing you as the Spokesperson of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) and a member of the Secwepemc Nation in regard to the Kinder Morgan Expansion through Secwepemc Territory. Secwepemcul’ecw, the land on which we live, eat, sustain our culture, practice our ceremonies, and exercise our rights, is the largest Indigenous territory that the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Pipeline expansion would cross, passing through 518 km of our territory.
I would like to remind you that this pipeline requires the consent of the Secwepemc people. We do not accept that the federal government can make this decision unilaterally and without the prior informed consent of the Secwepemc people as the rightful titleholders. Kinder Morgan has signed deals with a few Indian Band Councils’ but neither the band councils nor Kinder Morgan have engaged with the Secwepemc people as the rightful titleholders. These agreements can only be made on behalf of their status as federal Indian Bands and do not represent the rightful titleholders. In fact, the agreements are made with Bands whose reserves cover less than 1% of the Secwepemc Territory along the existing Kinder Morgan Pipeline and they appear to be little more than cynical attempts to divide and conquer our people – as we have seen on so many other occasions.2
In response, INET, along with a group of concerned Secwepemc people, has undertaken to organize a broad based action we are calling STOP for “Secwepemc Trans-mountain Oversight Plenary”. The purpose of this Plenary is to gather on the land in the spring of 2017 to discuss and decide on Kinder Morgan expansion through the Secwepemc Territory and then to collectively determine on a course of action.
It deeply concerns us that the Kinder Morgan Expansion would be along the North Thompson River Valley and would pass under the winding Thompson River at several points. Any leakage would immediately threaten the pacific salmon who spawn in the Thompson and Fraser River basins. It is not surprising that most Secwepemc people are in complete solidarity with the Water Protectors from Standing Rock North Dakota. Our waters are also sacred. The salmon and the rivers they inhabit have taken care of our people for centuries and we are obligated as Secwepemc people to protect the Thompson River system for future generations.
We also take seriously the issue of climate change and wonder how you could possibly give approval to this pipeline if you yourself are serious about transition to a low carbon industry. Canada cannot afford and does not need any expansion in pipeline capacity and further GHG emissions if we hope to reduce the current damage to the planet.
I am attaching a map outlining the boundaries of Secwepemc Territory which the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline bisects, with the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion along the same route. It is important to point out that the first Kinder Morgan pipeline was not approved by the Secwepemc people because we were outlawed under the Indian Act from organizing around our land rights from 1926 – 1951. Canada appears to want to ignore us again. Nevertheless, Canada is obliged to seek the consent of Indigenous Peoples on the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion under its international human and Indigenous rights obligations.
The Secwepemc people convening the Plenary on Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion will keep your office apprised of our decision after we gather together on the land in the spring of 2017. We expect Canada not to proceed with any approvals or decisions regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion until hearing from the Secwepemc people on this matter.
1 With the of: the Simpcw, the Tk’emlups to Secwepemc and Whispering Pines Indian Bands. The only consultations with the Secwepemc people have been through the NEB process and the ministerial panel, both fatally flawed processes that failed to properly take into account our collectively held Aboriginal Title and Rights
2 This tactic that has been condemned by the world. Most recently, Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) who questioned Canada in a October 3, 2016 letter about using “divide and rule strategies” within the Secwepemc Nation when attempting to negotiate a land claims agreement through the British Columbia Treaty Process.