Indigenous Chiefs enter battleground to stop Kinder Morgan pipeline

Jan 1, 2018  Battleground year for Indigenous chiefs  by Jon Manchester

The head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says First Nations are entering a battleground in 2018. In a New Year’s Day statement, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of Penticton, president of the UBCIC, says there is a “smoldering, undiminished sense of determination, inspiration and hope” as the group rails against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion….


West Coast Tells Ottawa: Reject Trans Mountain Expansion

The West Coast brought fighting words to Ottawa today, asking the federal government to deny final approval of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

A delegation from Vancouver said it came to Ottawa to urge the government to “say a definitive no” to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin its existing line from Alberta to British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she would be seeking a judicial review of the National Energy Board’s approval process.

The regulator recently approved the project, and it now waits final approval from Ottawa.

The delegation composed of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chief Maureen Thomas from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Chief Ian Campbell from the Squamish Nation, and Councillor Howard Grant from the Musqueam Nation.

All the First Nations are located near Vancouver, and their representatives said the Liberal government’s actions on the pipeline would prove to be a test of its sincerity in reconciliation with First Nations.

“We are here representing our citizens on the West Coast; our consent is required on this project,” Robertson said. “The vast majority in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland do not support the Kinder Morgan expansion pipeline project.”

Read full article here

Kwantlen Nation stunned to learn of Kinder Morgan drilling

Members of Kwantlen First Nation in Langley were surprised to discover that Kinder Morgan had just wrapped up one week of Burnaby-Mountain-style borehole drilling on their traditional territory.

The southwest B.C. aboriginal community, an hour’s drive from Vancouver, held a press conference to raise alarm about the drilling activity, that appeared to come without notice.

“”There was absolutely no communication whatsoever,”” said band member Brandon Gabriel on Thursday.

“It’s speaks volumes to how they do business. The fact they keep changing the markers of where they do test drilling speaks volumes to the underhanded nature of their business practice,”” he added.

The lack of communication about the drilling left many Kwantlen believing the Texas-based company is attempting to be secretive to avoid protests.

Aboriginal drummers with the Kwantlen First Nation at a Kinder Morgan protest Thursday near the Belmont Golf Course. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

About 70 people, including the Kwantlen’s chief and band councillors, held the protest just metres from where the borehole drilling took place near the Belmont Golf Course.

Kinder Morgan said Thursday it dug 30-metre-deep boreholes near the Salmon River, and on Rawlison Crescent.

“The sites are both on private property, not municipal lands,” wrote a company spokesperson.

Gabriel told the crowd the band only found out about the drilling through social media and from a salmon conservation group that contacted them to let them know.

The Salmon River Enhancement Society, a non-profit water stewardship charity, noticed the Kinder Morgan drillers in recent days, and took photos. The company work crews appeared to have wrapped up on Monday.

Kinder Morgan said it received permission from the Township of Langley and the private landowners where the drilling took place. But a local resident said the people need to be informed too.

“The township did not make the citizens aware. That’s a problem,” said Shane Dyson, who attended the rally, and lives nearby.

“This will be going on in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope – across the Fraser Valley where they’ll be doing their drill testing.”

“We need to have citizen oversight,” he added.

The company declined to state where else it will conduct further borehole testing, but it is widely believed to be going on throughout the Lower Fraser Valley.

The company is seeking to understand the underground geology all along the 1,000-kilometre-plus pipeline route between Edmonton and Burnaby.

Kwantlen Elder Farley Antone said his people have long been opposed to the company’s incursions into Kwantlen lands and waterways.

“”A few years ago, when we were first introduced to Kinder Morgan…I had four words for them. Over my dead body,” said the Elder, to cheers from the crowd.

Kwantlen members also expressed frustration that the National Energy Board’s recent Aboriginal oral hearing in Chillwack did not allow for any critical questioning of the company’s project.

Kinder Morgan’s lawyer infamously asked the band at that hearing if the community still eats fish.

When Mother Earth Has Nothing Left To Give, We Must Slow Down

When Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project review began in April 2014, it was on a fast track to approval. The 2012 changes to the National Energy Board Act established a truncated process that would have seen a decision on this massive project by fall 2015.

However, the project has since hit multiple snags, including a delay in any approval until spring 2016, unprecedented protests relating to Kinder Morgan’s drilling activities on Burnaby Mountain, and increasing community and First Nations opposition.

One of the drivers of this frustration is the NEB’s continued refusal to hold public hearings in the part of the country that will arguably be most directly affected by the proposal: Burnaby, the pipeline terminus and the point at which the bitumen would be loaded onto tankers to travel through the Salish Sea.

Thus, in 2014, First Nations and indigenous groups that wanted to give oral evidence to the NEB panel about their traditions, their worries, and their way of life were required to attend at other locations in the province.

In late October, representatives of four United States Tribes — the Lummi, Suquamish, Swinomish, and Tulalip Tribes — travelled up the Fraser Valley to Chilliwack to share their history, their concerns, and their worries about the Kinder Morgan expansion with the NEB. This is one of the lesser-told stories of 2014.

The four tribes have lived on the coast and relied on the Salish Sea for their way of life since time immemorial. Like the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation — whose lands and waters are in and around the tanker terminal in Burnaby — they are all Coast Salish nations. While most people recognize the Canada-U.S. border as the political separation between the two countries, for the Coast Salish, that border is simply a line on a piece of paper. Better than most, they understand that the potential environmental and cultural harms Kinder Morgan’s project could inflict won’t stop at the border.

Along with their representatives from Earthjustice — Ecojustice’s sister organization in the United States — these tribes are taking a strong stand with Canadian First Nations to oppose this pipeline. The importance of place is such that these tribes are dedicating time, resources, hearts, and minds to opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposal.

The reason is simple: The way they see it, Mother Earth has nothing left to give.

One by one, indigenous elders, leaders, youth, and fishermen stood before the NEB panel. They spoke of their connection with the sea and its resources and how any expansion of tanker traffic would further harm their lives, their economies, the ongoing practice of traditional ways of life, and the tribes’ continual efforts to protect the health of the Salish Sea. They expressed their deep concerns about increased threats to the Salish Sea, such as the risk of a catastrophic accident and oil disaster — something that seems inevitable with the large-scale pipeline expansion.

The testimonies shared by these Tribes and other Coast Salish Nations are a potent reminder that deep knowledge and connection to land and sea is something that we all need to develop.

From the fur trade, to forestry, to oil and gas development, Canada’s industries have a long history of drawing down resources and moving on — showing little concern for the finite capacity of the natural world or respect for connection to place. But that pattern cannot continue indefinitely. Tar sands extraction is more extreme than previous resource grabs. Not only are we running out of oil to extract and forests to log, the atmosphere is hitting the point where it can no longer absorb our carbon emissions without grave climate impacts.

We must learn from people who have a deep connection to place and accept that the earth has limits that must be respected. We must recognize that the harmful impacts from this pipeline will not respect international borders.

Communities like the U.S. Tribes and Canadian First Nations that have been here since time immemorial remind us that we who live here now have a duty to protect our home. Unless we do, we will continue down the path laid out by multinational energy companies, where nature and the opposition of local communities are seen as mere logistical challenges to be overcome by re-routing pipelines through mountains and writing fat cheques. And eventually we will still have to come to terms with the reality that Mother Nature has no more to give.

This piece was written by Ecojustice staff lawyer Karen Campbell. Ecojustice is one of Canada’s leading charities using the law to protect and restore Canada’s environment. Learn more at

The silence on Bill 22 is deafening: Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act – Alberta

Tim Querengesser
The weekly Peace Pipe low-down on what’s making news

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. He once snowmobiled to the Arctic Ocean to interview a guy in elf shoes about reindeer. Really. Peace Pipe is his critical look at the intersection between Indigenous peoples and industry.

Kinder Morgan files Trans Mountain plans

After much speculation, Kinder Morgan last week filed a 1,600-page application with the National Energy Board to greatly expand (the verbiage being used by the company is “twin,” but that’s somewhat misleading) its 60-year-old Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Edmonton to terminals in coastal B.C. and Washington.

The current 1,150-kilometre, 24-inch Trans Mountain pipe is the only one in North America that transports both refined oil and crude. It currently flows about 300,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Kinder Morgan. But the ‘twinning’ of the pipe, according to The Globe and Mail, will see that flow increase to 890,000 barrels per day. The route the twin pipe will take won’t be identical to the current pipe and instead will require Kinder Morgan to acquire or gain right-of-ways within 150 kilometres of new “greenfield” spaces – short-hand for pipeline being installed in backyards and other settled areas. Stay tuned for how that plays out with affected residents in Edmonton or Vancouver.

Aboriginal groups have already voiced their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans, though. In March, the Coldwater Indian Band, located near Merritt, B.C., requested a judicial review by filing documents in Federal Court, alleging the minister of Aboriginal Affairs, who is now Bernard Valcourt, was planning to approve the Kinder Morgan plan. That plan would allegedly see sections of the new pipe run across the Coldwater reserve. In May, the First Nation filed a second legal action in B.C. Supreme Court regarding right-of-ways for the existing and proposed pipelines.

Kinder Morgan’s director of external relations, Andrew Galarnyk, has been quoted by The Canadian Press as saying that “Trans Mountain has been, and continues to be, open to discussing and resolving outstanding issues with Coldwater or other First Nations as it relates to the indenture or other matters of concern.”

Stay tuned.

Athabasca Chipewyan punk Royal Dutch Shell

Last week, to borrow from the lingua franca of our times, Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second largest publicly traded oil company, saw its annual shareholder meeting ‘punked’ in The Hague, the Netherlands. As the meeting proceeded several protesters from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) confronted Shell board members in opposition to the company’s proposed expansion of two open-pit oil-sands mines in northern Alberta.

“We’ve gone to draw attention that the relationship with the company we had has deteriorated,” said ACFN spokesperson Eriel Deranger, who is part of the protest, during a Tuesday phone interview with Fort McMurray Today. “In the past, we’ve had delegates join us from Ontario and Nigeria. We’re not the only ones frustrated with Shell.”

Indeed they weren’t. Aside from the environmental concerns that the aboriginal groups from Alberta and Alaska raised at the meeting, there was also a growing movement of shareholder activism. About eight per cent of shareholders rejected the company’s executive compensation policy (and a further two per cent abstained).

The silence on Bill 22 is deafening

There has been very little public discussion about Bill 22, the Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act, which is the Alberta government’s sweeping new legislation that, after passing as of today, will control the consultations between industry and aboriginal groups. But emerging details of the proposed legislation suggest that this silence isn’t going to remain.

According to a legal blogger, it appears the act could:

– force proponents to reveal financial agreements they have with aboriginal groups, such as impact benefit agreements;
– block any appeal or review of decisions made by the minister of Aboriginal Relations;

For such a sweeping change to the way industry and aboriginal groups interact in Alberta, the silence on Bill 22 is becoming deafening.

Alberta First Nations band wins right to trial over oil sands’ effect on treaty rights

A small First Nations band in Alberta has racked up a big win against the energy industry, clearing the way for a trial over whether its treaty rights are being infringed upon as industrial development such as the oil sands expands.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation argues the so-called cumulative effects of oil sands and other industries such as mining and forestry violated their treaty rights. The provincial and federal governments grant permits which allow for development. Beaver Lake Cree Nation launched a legal battle five years ago and now Edmonton and Ottawa have lost their attempt to have it tossed out.

The cumulative effects argument is a touchy topic in Alberta and if the Beaver Lake Cree Nation comes out on top, it could force the governments to revamp the way they review and approve industrial projects – namely the oil sands. In short, it could put a damper on a key driver of the Canadian economy.

“This case is about limiting the development of the tar sands,” lawyer Drew Mildon, who represents Beaver Lake Cree Nation, said in an interview.

Energy, mining and forestry projects are typically judged case-by-case, but Beaver Lake Cree Nation argues the overall effect of numerous projects hinders their traditional way of life. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation believes its ability to hunt, fish, and trap have been dented because of roughly 300 projects in which about 19,000 permits have been granted, according to a judgement from the Court of Appeal of Alberta delivered April 30.

Canada, the judgement said, handed out at least seven of these permits, with the remaining falling to Alberta. The land involved covers a “large portion” of northeast Alberta – both inside and outside of any reserve. It includes the Cold Lake Weapons Range.

“The basic question of the case is: Are the cumulative impacts of the tar sands development in their territory risking the treaty rights or rendering them meaningless? Because you can’t do that,” Mr. Mildon, who works for Woodward & Co. and is based in Victoria, said. “They’re constitutionally protected.”

The judgement means the case can go to trial, which Mr. Mildon expects to begin winding its way through the legal system this fall. He believes the appeal judgement demonstrates the Beaver Lake Cree Nation has a viable case.

“Usually in big cases like this that really threaten development . . . . the process is usually to try burn the First Nation out at the early stages by outspending them, and that tends to happen through a bunch of pre-trial motions,” he said.

“It’s big news to get to this stage.”

Originally, the case was even larger in scope as the Beaver Lake Cree sought to revoke the authorizations for past and current developments on lands in northeastern Alberta. But the court shot that down. Mr. Mildon said his clients are now seeking compensation for losing hunting and fishing rights due to those past and current projects.

“But really the question is how does the First Nation get more management control over future infringements?”

The 800-person Beaver Lake Cree are footing most of their own legal bills, Mr. Mildon said, with significant start-up donation from England’s Co-operative Bank and others.

For First Nations, one-size energy policy will never fit all

Since his appointment three months ago as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s envoy for First Nations and energy issues in Western Canada, Doug Eyford has mostly stayed out of the public eye.

He has been spending almost half his days on the road, seeking to identify First Nations concerns about the development of oil and gas pipelines across B.C. Then he will recommend ways to accommodate them.

His report is not due until November, but in an interview with The Globe and Mail, he says one thing is already clear: A one-size-fits-all policy won’t solve the challenges ahead. There is reason for optimism, however. The B.C. government’s work to enlist the support of aboriginal communities on a natural gas pipeline, Pacific Trail, could hold the key to success.

Joe Oliver [Minister of Natural Resources] tells me you are making progress – can you bring us up to speed? I haven’t heard much since your appointment was announced.

That has been deliberate. I’m not holding public meetings with the people I’m seeing. I’m having discussions with First Nations representatives, project proponents and representatives from the B.C. and Alberta governments. I’m able to tell you the dialogue has been respectful and constructive.

Relationship-building is key – it’s an essential element for governments to make progress on First Nations’ issues, and that’s the consistent message I’m hearing.

There was some skepticism when your appointment was announced about whether First Nations would talk to you, because of their suspicions about the agenda of the Harper government.

I’ve certainly encountered very willing participants to sit down and discuss this issue. Everyone that I’ve asked to meet with, has agreed to meet. There have been challenges in setting up the meetings – you can often travel 12 hours for a 90-minute meeting with one group. I’m doing my best. I expect by late summer I will have met with all of the groups that are directly affected on the pipeline routes.

Have there been any surprises, or a single event that gives you a sense of the challenge in meeting your mandate?

The biggest challenge – not for me but for government – will be to address the diversity of views from the various communities. It’s difficult to identify a consensus view among First Nations groups. Each has different perspectives based on geography, traditions, capacity and experience with economic development in their traditional territories. My preliminary view is that trying to address that diversity of views with one government policy is probably not the most pragmatic way for governments to proceed.

Does the B.C. government have a role in moving this file forward?

What the province did on the Pacific Trail Pipeline initiative, to me, is an indication of how governments can, in a creative and flexible way, address First Nations issues and also provide incentives for First Nations to become partners in energy projects. And B.C. has demonstrated with its reconciliation protocols on forestry a different way for governments to involve First Nations communities in economic development.

I’m trying to find a diplomatic way to ask this, but, do they get it in Ottawa? There seems to have been a miscalculation, on the part of Enbridge, at least, on how to proceed in B.C. How does Ottawa view this challenge?

I think there is a general understanding of the nature of the challenge in relation to these projects.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Beaver Lake Cree Judgment: The Most Important Tar Sands Case You’ve Never Heard Of

Sure they’re bad for the environment, for human health, and for wildlife, but we rarely stop to wonder if the Alberta tar sands are in fact unconstitutional.

But the constitutional standing of the tar sands – one of the world’s largest and most carbon-intensive energy projects – is just what’s at stake in a treaty rights claim the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) is bringing against the Governments of Alberta and Canada in a case that promises to be one of the most significant legal and constitutional challenges to the megaproject seen in Canada to date.

Signaling the high-stakes of the whole dispute, it has taken five years of beleaguered fighting just to have the case go to trial. Canada and Alberta – the defendants – fought tooth and nail during those five years to have the claim dismissed outright, saying the case put forward by the BLCN was “frivolous, improper and an abuse of process.”

The BLCN is challenging these governments on the grounds of the cumulative impacts of the tar sands and has indicated some 19,000 ‘individual authorizations’ and 300 individual industrial projects in their claim. The governments of Alberta and Canada tried to have the case dismissed under Rule 3.68, a measure meant to protect defendants from cases that are…well…“frivolous, improper, and an abuse of process.”

But this case isn’t one of those.

Canada claimed the claim was “unmanageable” and “overwhelming,” suggesting the 19,000 authorizations were likely to have fallen within the relevant regulatory framework at the time of their approval and needn’t be bothered with. But, as one judge stated, a claim cannot be dismissed based merely on its scope. The courts agreed, telling Canada that no further “delaying tactics” should be permitted in this litigation lest the entire claim be “stonewalled at an early stage through excessive particularization.”

What is more, the court said Canada’s complaint “flies in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada” and its previous decisions, indicating Canada’s counsel was unsuccessful in its attempts to squeeze out of a tight legal position. Canada even sought to have its portion of the claim whittled down to “limit its exposure” in the case, a position the court said Canada’s “counsel candidly admitted to advancing…for strategic reasons.”

On April 30th, 2013, the courts told Canada and Alberta they’d had enough of the bickering. “The parties will be well-served by returning to their case management judge for the implication plan to advance this litigation through trial,” they wrote.

In other words: get your act together, you’re going to court.

The Rights

The Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the claim against the crown, grants the BLCN the opportunity to argue the cumulative negative impacts of tar sands expansion may constitute a legal breach of the band’s historic Treaty 6 with the Canadian government, signed back in 1876.

And the significance of this judgment cannot be overstated. The BLCN’s claim now stands as the first opportunity for legal consideration of the cumulative impacts of the tar sands on First Nation’s traditional territory and the implications of those impacts on the ability to uphold Treaty Rights.

And First Nation’s Rights – enshrined as Aboriginal Rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 – are arguably some of the most important emerging rights on the Canadian legal landscape and certainly the most powerful environmental rights in the country.

This, in part, has to do with the fact that what section 35 rights actually legally entail, is still being developed through case law. Dozens of important cases – like the precedent-setting R v. Gladstone and Mikisew v. Canada– have been decided by courts over the last 30 years, since the patriation of the Constitution, finding Canada in serious violation of the Constitution when it comes to treaty rights.

Despite the emerging nature of these rights, one thing is clear – First Nations have the inalienable right to hunt, trap and fish in their preferred manner, throughout their traditional territories and the province.

And there’s the rub. If you’ve got a megaproject that is destroying what you might otherwise be hunting, trapping or fishing, you’ve got a serious constitutional gaffe on your hands. The Constitution is the highest law in the land, and cannot simply be ignored.

The Cumulative Impacts

This puts Canada and Alberta in a tough spot. Over the last decade, as they’ve been welcoming a veritable cascade of new projects in the tar sands area, scientists and conservation groups have been raising the alarm as the consequent research began to show devastating effects on caribou populations and fish species especially hard done by the escalating development.

The BLCN’s traditional territories blanket an area about the size of Switzerland. Thirty per cent of tar sands production, or about 560,000 barrels of oil, are produced on BLCN every day. The oil industry has plans to grow this number to 1.6 million barrels a day.

The once-pristine forest and hunting grounds are now covered with 35,000 oil and gas sites, 21,700 kilometres of seismic lines, 4,028 kilometres of pipeline and 948 kilometres of road.

Perhaps it has taken Canada and Alberta by surprise that the cumulative impacts might be considered at a constitutional level. After all, neither the province nor the federal government have been particularly proactive in studying the cumulative effects of development in the area.

True, scientists have been fretting about loss of caribou herds and habitat for decades, even citing the Species At Risk Act as a potential legal cause to slow the pace and scale of tar sands development. But Canada ignored those pleas for caution as long at it could – until another legal action forced them to release the recent Federal Caribou Recovery Act last fall.

And it was only a few months ago that Environment Canada scientists announced tar sands pollution was present in bodies of water up to 100 kilometres from the centre of development. The accumulating toxins, they discovered, disrupt fish embryos at the developmental stage. The federal government worked overtime to downplay the significance of the research last fall, even preventing lead researchers from discussing their findings with the media.

Overall, the federal government has been just as culpable as provincial leaders in keeping these growing environmental effects under-reported, or under wraps. The BLCN’s upcoming litigation may be the change in tide that brings the cumulative impact discussion to centre-stage.

The Cause for Hope

5 years ago Crystal Lameman’s uncle Chief Al Lameman filed the original claim on behalf of the Nation.

“In 2008 I don’t think my uncle knew the attention this litigation would gain,” Crystal said. “His intent and purpose was to protect what little we have left but it has created this movement, this mobilization of a people and it’s a great feeling seeing people mobilize beyond the confines of race, color, and creed. This recent win means our judicial system is clearly standing strong in the law of Canada and it gives me hope.”

And Crystal has much cause for hope, according to Jack Woodward, renowned Native Law expert and lawyer on the case.

“The Beaver Lake case will define the point where industrial development must be curtailed to preserve treaty rights,” he said.

“At issue is the cumulative impact of industry, not each individual project. The court will be asked to say if the level of industrial activity in the hunting grounds has now crossed the line to make it impossible to reasonably exercise the harvesting rights. If the Beaver Lake are successful there will be constitutional controls on development to allow the land to recover and to prevent any further encroachments that might disturb wildlife populations.”

A precedent-setting ruling of that sort would have significance for any other First Nation making similar claims regarding the overall impacts of industrial development. This could have serious ramifications for other First Nation groups living near the tar sands or newly-industrialized zones like British Columbia’s northeast.

“This would be the most powerful ecological precedent ever set in a Canadian court,” says Woodward, “because it protects the entire biological system with a view to preserving its sustainable productivity.”

Other legal protections like the Fisheries Act or the Species at Risk Act, he says, amount to a “piece by piece approach.” The Beaver Lake Cree litigation “is based on protection of the entire ecosystem,” he adds, and determining that crucial point when that system “can’t take it anymore.”

“So the precedent that will be set by the Beaver Lake case is that it will be the first time a court is asked to draw the line defining too much industrial development in the face of constitutionally protected treaty rights.”

The Battle Ensues

Susan Smitten of Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs (RAVEN), a non-profit group supporting the BLCN action since 2009, says just getting the case to trial has been tremendously difficult and expensive.

But the very importance of the case has brought help from all directions.

“We have raised something like $850,000 for the BLCN to cover costs,” she said, “plus we found pro bono lawyers from the UK to assist with the first round on the motion to strike.” People donated, lawyers worked at half-rate, and volunteers gave their time, all to keep the possibility of reaching trial alive.

“Canada and Alberta have done absolutely everything they can to delay and outspend” the BLCN, says Smitten. “This is particularly disappointing with respect to our federal government, which one would hope might support First Nations rights, and honour the promises made.”

However, she says, the tactics of perpetual delay are common practice when it comes to First Nations’ disputes. The government hopes the problem will fade away “because the band can’t keep up with the costs,” she adds.

Smitten estimates the costs could skyrocket up to $15 million once all is said and done.

“With this win, I hope everyone sees the value in assisting this band – morally, financially, emotionally, physically. This is doable. It’s going to trial.”

“I’m always so impressed and astounded that [the BLCN] stay with it,” Smitten said. “The energy it takes to keep this moving forward is incredible.”

The trail represent more than the preservation of First Nation rights and territory, to Smitten. The threat of climate change, she says, is something we all face collectively. Yet, average Canadians don’t have the special constitutional status of First Nations.

“Our Aboriginal peoples will be the ones that rescue Canada from the worst effects of the tar sands,” says Smitten.

“But it’s not fair to rely on the poorest people in our nation to stand alone and be the voice of reason in this effort. They have the power of their treaties to protect the planet, and we have the power of a nation to support them. I just encourage people to get behind the line they’ve figuratively and literally drawn in the tar sand.”


ATHABASCAN CHIPEWAYANS SPEAK OUT ON BITUMEN PIPELINE, by Eriel Deranger and Melina Laboucan-Massimo. Indigenous people living downstream from the tar sands explain why they are saying enough is enough.