British Columbia

Indigenous-led group makes pitch at B.C. Legislature for majority ownership of Trans Mountain pipeline

An Indigenous-led group calling itself Project Reconciliation and represented by former Tk’emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson says buying a majority stake in the pipeline would bring prosperity to Western Canadian First Nations.

Pro-pipeline group, calling itself Project Reconciliation, spans groups in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan

Shane Gottfriedson, the former chief of Tk'emlups First Nation in Kamloops, is the B.C. director of Project Reconciliation. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

An Indigenous-led pro-pipeline group made its pitch in the B.C. Legislature Wednesday for a majority stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The group, which calls itself Project Reconciliation, was represented by Shane Gottfriedson, the former chief of the Tk'emlups First Nation in Kamloops, who is the B.C. director of the group.

"It is high time that First Nations look at economic sovereignty, look at economic reconciliation," said Gottfriedson at the legislature.

The 1,150-kilometre-long Trans Mountain pipeline starts at a terminal near Edmonton, Alberta and ends in Burnaby, B.C. (Scott Galley/CBC)

The group aims to get Indigenous groups in Western Canada — defined as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan — to sign up as majority shareholders for a 51 per cent stake in the pipeline project.

"[This] is about making real change for our people, creating real jobs and creating real wealth for our people and real streams of revenue, stepping out of the status quo of programs and services that currently exist and looking at creating our own wealth creation through owning the Trans Mountain pipeline," Gottfriedson added.

Project Reconciliation says there are more 300 groups in the three provinces eligible to sign on as stakeholders. Under the scheme, every signatory would receive dividends it can use in their communities. Eighty per cent of the profits would go into a Sovereign Wealth Fund. 

The group is not the only Indigenous-led group seeking ownership of the pipeline project. 

Another group, the Indian Resource Council (IRC), which represents 134 First Nations that have oil and gas resources on their land, is also supporting Project Reconciliation's efforts to buy a majority interest in the pipeline.

Several B.C. First Nations, including the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, have opposed the pipeline project.

Final decision expected in June

The project, the twinning of the 1,150-kilometre-long Trans Mountain pipeline, will nearly triple its capacity to an estimated 890,000 barrels a day and increase traffic off B.C.'s coast from approximately five tankers to 34 tankers a month. 

The Liberal government purchased the project for $4.5 billion in 2018, but then the Federal Court quashed initial cabinet approval of the expanded pipeline. This forced Ottawa to start over on Indigenous consultation and marine-related environmental assessment, two key issues.

The federal government is expected to announce a decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline by June 18. 

With files from Tanya Fletcher