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First Nation band has no faith in new Kinder Morgan review panel

The federal government's newest plan to legitimize how pipelines are approved is already stirring up doubt among some First Nations.

Tsleil-Waututh Nation staunchly opposed to expansion, prepared to launch legal action if necessary

The federal government has appointed a new three-person panel to evaluate Kinder Morgan's proposal, with a mandate to "meaningfully consult" with the Indigenous peoples affected. 3:50

The federal government's newest plan to legitimize how pipelines are approved is already stirring up doubt among some First Nations.

On Tuesday, Ottawa appointed a special three-person panel to conduct an environmental review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain proposal and "meaningfully consult" with Indigenous peoples along the pipeline route.

But one First Nation chief says that term means nothing to him.

"That's their processing," said Sundance Chief and Tsleil-Waututh member Rueben George. "Our consultation is called nation-to-nation."

He said he would not be surprised to see the pipeline approved, despite staunch opposition from his and other Indigenous communities on the basis of environmental and health concerns. 

'It's hard to unscramble an egg'

George said he is "always hopeful" and is looking for ways to work with the government, but he does not believe that this panel will be able to carry out its mandate. 

"It's hard to unscramble an egg," said George.

"What you have is 24 months of the NEB and their processing, and now you have this new group coming in that are gonna try to do what they couldn't do in 24 months, and they're gonna do it in four months."

George said his band is prepared to take the government to court if necessary.

"The problems that it's going to cause is unacceptable," said George, referring to a potential oil spill. "We can't take the risk."

Indigenous rights

If completed, the pipeline expansion would twin an existing line and carry nearly 900,000 barrels of crude per day from Edmonton to the heart of B.C.'s heavily populated Lower Mainland.

But George doesn't think it will come to that. 

"We're pretty confident with the Canadian Constitution protecting our Indigenous rights," he said.

The panel is comprised of:

  • Annette Trimbee, the president of the University of Winnipeg and a former deputy finance minister in Alberta. She served on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's royalty review panel last year.
  • Tony Penikett, the former premier of Yukon and the author of Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia.
  • Kim Baird, former elected chief of B.C.'s Tsawwassen First Nation, who now runs her own consulting firm specializing in indigenous policy, governance and development issues.

It will begin its work in June and report its findings in November, one month before the federal cabinet must make a final decision on whether to approve the proposed twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline.