Saskatoon

Former Sask. Chief says First Nations ownership would aid Trans Mountain pipeline

A well-known First Nations politician in Saskatchewan has formed a company called Project Reconciliation to put a bid forward to buy the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.

Delbert Wapass founded Project Reconciliation to move project forward

Delbert Wapass has formed a company to organize a bid to buy the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. (Jason Warick)

A well-known First Nations politician in Saskatchewan has formed a company called Project Reconciliation to put a bid forward to buy the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.

Former Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass says the company will lead the way in purchasing the line.

"Project Reconciliation is a direct call to action to the federal government," he told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "We hear a lot from the Prime Minister how his number one priority is First Nations people, and he coined that by saying reconciliation, and I wanted to meet that challenge."

Wapass is not alone in his interest in First Nations purchasing the pipeline. This week, 134 First Nations met during a meeting of the Indian Resource Council (IRC), a group of bands interested in oil and gas exploration. A majority of the First Nations said they would be interested in purchasing the line.

"It's high time that First Nations be allowed into the market," said Wapass, an IRC board member. "Gone are the days where First Nations sit on the sidelines and watch all the investment go on. We're ready."

He said First Nations ownership would help the controversial pipeline's progress across the country. Some First Nations along the pipeline's route have expressed their concerns about the expansion, which would stretch from Edmonton to Burnaby.

"I think it makes a huge difference," he said. "It's a matter of how are you engaging, meaningful engagement, meaningful consultation, how are you ensuring that the environment, our marine life is paramount."

A map of the proposed route for the pipeline. (Scott Galley/CBC)

Wapass said he is well-versed in traditional First Nations teachings and concerned with preserving the environment.

"I come from a First Nations worldview of teachings from our elders and so on," he said. "I'm also taught of the negotiations of treaty and the interpretation of that." 

The company now plans to reach out to the other interested First Nations and get them on board.

"Project Reconciliation is going to be a coalition of those that need to be at the table," he said. "And we are taking an all-inclusive approach to ensure that all First Nations in B.C., all First Nations in Alberta are part of this team and they're at the table, having a say."

The federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion in an attempt to save the project. In August, the Federal Court of Appeal stalled the project after ruling there needed to be more consultation with First Nations.