The Current

Indigenous ownership won't solve problems with Trans Mountain pipeline, says Squamish Nation councillor

A group of Indigenous leaders are meeting in Calgary this week with the oil industry to discuss options for purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline. We hear from those on both sides of the debate.

Proposal to buy pipeline being discussed by Indigenous leaders

Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem says who owns the pipeline doesn't change anything. (Blaire Russell)

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More than 100 First Nations are considering a plan to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline, but not all Indigenous leaders affected by the expansion are convinced.

"For us, it doesn't change anything, who owns it," said Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation councillor.

"Whether it be a Texas-based oil company, whether it be the federal government or whether it be the Indian Resource Council, the issues on the ground remain," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

The federal government announced it would buy the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion in May, in an effort to quell uncertainty around the expansion project. However, in August, the Federal Court of Appeal halted construction when it nullified licensing for the $7.4-billion project, citing inadequate consultations with Indigenous peoples.

Steel pipe to be used in the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project sits on rail cars in Kamloops, British Columbia. The authors believe the most productive and cost-effective thing that the federal government can do is sell a majority interest in the pipeline to a coalition of western Canadian First Nations. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

The planned expansion would allow bitumen to be transported from Alberta to the B.C. coast, where it can be shipped to international markets, but the project has been the subject of environmental and safety concerns.

Khelsilem said the jurisdiction of the Squamish Nation was not respected throughout the process.

"Any project that's coming through our territory, depending on the scale and scope, needs to be fully assessed by our own nation," he said.

Ownership could provide revenue, says leader

The proposal to buy the pipeline is being discussed in Calgary, at a conference organized by the Indian Resource Council of Canada. It represents more than 130 First Nations with oil and natural gas resources on their land.

Stephen Buffalo, president and CEO of the organization, said that ownership would provide revenue for those First Nations, but also address environmental concerns.

Stephen Buffalo is president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council. (CBC)

"If we have First Nation ownership, it's our people who are going to be doing the monitoring," he told Tremonti.

"The pipeline regulations in Canada are already world class — it's our job to continue to build that capacity."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Imogen Birchard and Ines Colabrese.