Youth leaders encourage AFN, candidates to stand against Kinder Morgan pipeline

As chiefs in Vancouver prepare to elect a national chief, the National Youth Council of the Assembly of First Nations is urging the chiefs and the assembly to take a stand against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

AFN National Youth Council member says they're trying to change the culture within the AFN

Darian Lonechild is the female co-chair of the AFN National Youth Council. She said "it's our duty to work and speak in the best interests of our young people." (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

As chiefs in Vancouver prepare to elect a national chief, the National Youth Council of the Assembly of First Nations is urging the chiefs and the assembly to take a stand against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

"We are calling on the executive of the AFN and the chiefs of the assembly to show some support in the dedication that the young people have made on the front lines here on the Kinder Morgan pipeline," said Darian Lonechild.

"I often hear that our young people are the leaders of tomorrow," said Lonechild, who's from White Bear First Nation, Sask., and the female co-chair of the youth council. "But we are the leaders of today and we are the ones who feel [the issues] at home."

The AFN National Youth Council is made up of a 20 members, with one male and one female representative from each of the 10 AFN regions.

On Sunday, the youth council and members from across the country went to visit the Coast Salish Watch House camp in Burnaby, where they heard why protesters oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Lonechild knows how an oil spill can affect Indigenous people's traditional territories.

"I know, coming from Saskatchewan, in 2016 we had the Husky oil spill and it leaked over 225,000 litres into our Saskatchewan rivers," said Lonechild.

The July 2016 Maidstone-area spill saw 225,000 litres of oil leak from a damaged pipeline; around 40 per cent of that made its way to the North Saskatchewan River.

"That was really devastating to our wildlife. I can personally relate to what these young people and the protesters are doing, and the fear that lies there in in potential spills," Lonechild said.
The letter written to the chiefs in assembly is unanimously supported by the Assembly of First Nations National Youth Council members. (Submitted)

Ronald Gamblin, of Cross Lake, the male representative from Manitoba, helped draft a letter to the chiefs about the pipeline. He hopes chiefs will consider the futures of Indigenous youth who oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

"It's things where they will put their lives on the line to protect what they believe in," said Gamblin.

"They need to realize as leaders that they need to try and prevent that by supporting the youth. The idea is that we are going to try and change the culture within the AFN, change the culture within the chiefs in assembly."

A news release from the youth council says they recognize the complexities that come with First Nations wanting to have resource-related economic development, but it shouldn't put the futures of Indigenous youth at risk.

They are asking the AFN for three things:

1. Refocus efforts on the sacred duties of protecting our lands and waters, ensuring a future for our young ones, and respecting our teachings.

2. Prioritize the safety and health of our young peoples, and those yet unborn, over the supposed monetary gain.

3. Support the young peoples and the direction they want to take when looking for alternative solutions.

AFN election

Members of the youth council are usually given time to speak and address the chiefs at the annual general assemblies, but because there is an election for national chief taking place this year, they were told there wasn't enough time to speak.

Kiana Cardinal, of Alexander First Nation, the executive member of the AFN youth council, said the letter comes from a place of understanding; the council's members are from across the country, and they have seen the harm done to their lands and waters in their home communities.

"We are calling on our leaders … to remember, to look ahead and think of those seven generations to come and how this will affect them," said Cardinal.
The Assembly of First Nations National Youth Council visits the Coast Salish Watch House camp in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday. (Ronald Gamblin)

The AFN Youth Council letter was partly inspired by members from the prime minister's youth council, who last week urged the Liberal government to reverse its decision to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Lonechild said the letter written by the prime minister's youth council aligns with Indigenous values.

"It's our duty to to work and speak in the best interests of our young people," she said.

First Nations chiefs and their proxies will vote for the AFN national chief today.

About the Author

Lenard Monkman

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of independent Indigenous media:Red Rising Magazine. He is currently employed as an Associate Producer for CBC Indigenous.