Protesters greet PM at meeting with Trans Mountain pipeline's Indigenous-led oversight committee

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was greeted by dozens of protesters as he arrived at the Cheam Multiplex in the B.C. Fraser Valley for a meeting about the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Stó:lō community of Cheam

Chief Ernie Crey sits next to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting about the Trans Mountain pipeline in the B.C. community of Cheam. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was greeted by dozens of protesters as he arrived at the Cheam Multiplex in the B.C. Fraser Valley for a meeting about the Trans Mountain pipeline.

He arrived in the Stó:lō community of Cheam early Tuesday to meet with members of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee.

The Indigenous-led committee was struck following the approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.

It was designed to be a collaborative group, comprising 13 Indigenous representatives and six federal representatives.

"This committee has been set up so that all the different communities along this Trans Mountain expansion pipeline route … are able to weigh in and participate in decisions that are made that will affect them as we move forward with this project," said Trudeau in his opening remarks before the media were asked to leave.

He sat next to Cheam First Nation Chief Ernie Crey, who is the co-chair of the pipeline committee.

"I know there are folks around this table and certainly around this country that go from strongly opposed to somewhat opposed, to kind of neutral to somewhat supportive to strongly supportive," Trudeau said.

"I think that it's really important that we continue to talk, listen and dig into the concerns and the issues that underlie all of those positions."

Crey is among the most vocal First Nations proponents for the project and has expressed interest in purchasing a stake in the pipeline following the news that Ottawa was buying the project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.

He made clear on Monday evening, on Twitter, that he was attending the meeting not in his role as chief of the community, but as the co-chair of the pipeline committee.

"The prime minister is not coming to the Cheam Indian Band to meet with me. He will be attending a meeting of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee," he wrote.

'It really hurts,' says pipeline opponent

Band members from Cheam were among the dozens of people who stood outside the multiplex for hours while the meeting took place, voicing their opposition to the expansion project.

Trevor Victor, also known as Maytomexw, said he was awakened by the sound of the drums as the protest began.

The 23-year-old kitchen manager said he is one of many people in Cheam who are against the expansion. Victor said his concerns are primarily about the disruption of the land that he's grown up on and gathered foods from, and of the waters that he fishes. 

Denise Douglas, a member of the Cheam band, speaks to the media through a window. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Victor said he wasn't impressed that the prime minister was in his community. He said he voted for Trudeau in the last federal election largely because of his campaign promises about an improved relationship with First Nations people.

"It really hurts to see someone have such a fake platform and not fulfilling their terms," he said.

"He truly disappointed me as a voting member of Canada."

Victor said he's also disappointed in his community's chief, for whom he also voted.

"Chief Ernie Crey likes to say that Cheam is all for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project, but half of the membership said no and half of the membership was very upset when they learned that Cheam had signed on with Kinder Morgan," said Victor, referring to the community's mutual benefit agreement with the company. 

'No means no' chanted by protesters

Victor stood back from the crowd, chatting with family, while people holding placards and children in their arms chanted "No means no" and other anti-pipeline slogans .

Denise Douglas, another Cheam band member, led the group of protesters as they arrived at the multiplex. She spoke to the media through a window, as journalists sat inside a boardroom after clearing security for the prime minister's arrival.

"Kinder Morgan signed a deal with our band council after we overwhelmingly said no, and then they came in and swooned our band council and got a yes vote," she said.

"We have not given consent."

Not everyone was unhappy to see the prime minister. Trudeau posed for photos with a group of Cheam youth on his way out of the meeting.