'Enough is enough,' when it comes to oilsands emissions, chief responds to Alberta premier's speech

First Nations chiefs opposed to tar sands development are decrying Premier Rachel Notley’s promises to incorporate climate-change commitments while pushing for more pipelines to be built.

Rachel Notley advocated expedited building of pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is advocating for the expedited building of pipelines like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion in B.C. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

First Nations chiefs opposed to oilsands development are decrying Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's promises to incorporate climate change commitments while pushing for more pipelines to be built.

Notley advocated for the expedited building of pipelines like Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion in B.C. during a speech at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday.

She proclaimed the success of carrying out the most aggressive greenhouse gas emission policy in North America and encouraged all political parties to get on board with building pipelines to help save Alberta from economic ruin.

But Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, who recently celebrated the cancellation of TransCanada's Energy East pipeline that would have crossed through his traditional territory, said he will continue the fight to stop the expansion of oilsands operations.

Serge Simon, Grand Chief of Kanesatake, holds up a treaty First Nations are signing to fight the development and distribution of oilsands crude from Alberta. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

"The never-ending expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands is responsible for half of the rise in emissions in Canada since 1990. Enough is enough," said Simon.

He said emissions from Alberta's oil industry is an issue that affects all of Canada and it's time to hold Alberta to account.

"The Alberta 'cap' on tar sands emissions still allows a roughly 50 per cent increase in tar sands emissions. And that's why the industry wants to build these pipelines – to increase production. That is just crazy with everything we know today about the climate crisis."

He said the measures that Notley's government has in place to phase out coal-fired power, regulate industry's methane emissions, cap greenhouse gases from the oil industry and impose a carbon price isn't going to offset the oil sands industry.

A hydraulic shovel loads a heavy hauler at an oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (Adrian Wyld)

"Canada's greenhouse gas emissions need to go way down and all of Alberta's green policies will still have Alberta's emissions going up until 2030," he said.

During her speech on Tuesday, Notley encouraged the Liberal government to help convince B.C. residents who are leery about the Kinder Morgan pipeline that it's good for both the economy and the environment to move forward on the project.

Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stuart Phillip said he is tired of the rhetoric.

In an email to CBC News, Phillip said Notley needs to "mind her own business" and begin to clean up her own backyard.

"B.C. is not Alberta's doormat," he said.

"As Indigenous peoples and British Columbians, we have a fundamental right to protect and defend our lands and waters from the imminent threat of highly toxic dirty tar sands oil spills."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs remains opposed to Alberta’s oil being transported through traditional First Nations territory through to the west coast via Trans Mountain pipeline. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Simon and Phillip represent two of 150 Indigenous nations and organizations who are signatories to a treaty to stop all pipelines, trains and tankers that would allow the Alberta oilsands to expand.

There is just one signatory to the treaty from Alberta, the Piikani Nation in the south. Simon said he isn't surprised that there aren't more First Nations on board with the treaty from Alberta.

"They're trying to make the best of the situation," he said.

"No one asked whether they wanted this super dirty and ever-expanding industry to set up shop in their territory. But it's here now and they have had to live with it."

CBC News reached out to Alberta's Indigenous Relations office for comment, but has not yet received a response.


Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News.