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Climate justice movement exposes Liberal complicity with Kinder Morgan

Bradley Hughes

May 21, 2018

Last Wednesday Canada’s Finance Minster, Bill Morneau, reaffirmed his government’s commitment to oil company profits by promising to compensate Kinder Morgan or any other company willing to build their pipeline for any financial loss due to “unnecessary political delays.” In response to the climate justice movement’s challenge to pipelines, the colonial state has revealed how far it will go to back up capitalist corporations.

The Indigenous-led climate justice movement stopped the Northern Gateway pipeline in 2016, stopped the Energy East pipeline in 2017 and has so far stopped the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. One focal point for recent protest was the building of a traditional Watch House in Burnaby’s Forest Grove Park. This Watch House, built by Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) members, currently serves as a rally point for protesters heading up to Kinder Morgan property. The watch house was opened with a rally and march involving 10,000 people in Burnaby in March. More recently hundreds rallied when the Prime Minister was in Vancouver in April, and again early in May another protest brought several hundred into the business area of downtown Vancouver.

Colonial state and capitalist corporations

The movement has pushed the BC NDP government to speak out against the pipeline—though it has not sided with the Indigenous nations whose sovereignty precedes oil company profits, but merely asked the colonial courts if the province has the authority to block the expansion of the pipeline. Fearing another pipeline defeat, Kinder Morgan announced they were suspending all work on the pipeline project unless they can get assurances by May 31 that they will be allowed to complete the project.

In response the federal Liberals leapt to the defense of the oil corporations. The Finance minister refused to put a price tag on the cost of this promise, but two weeks earlier Hal Kvisle, former chief executive of TransCanada Corp, told BNN Bloomberg, “The only way [the Trans Mountain expansion project] could go ahead is if the government was to indemnify Kinder Morgan against a failed project halfway through… That’s a $10 billion dollar indemnity.” The Liberals have stood by while tens of thousands of tar sands workers have been laid off, refusing to support a just transition to climate jobs, but have now jumped to offer billions to sustain oil company profits—which continues a long history of government intervention to prop up the “free market” in the tar sands, and in the capitalist economy in general.

But it’s not only the Liberal government that supports the oil companies. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley continues to maintain that provinces, especially BC, do not have the right to regulate the shipment of oil and gas by pipeline since this is an area of federal jurisdiction. To make her point, Alberta’s NDP government has put forward legislation to regulate the shipment of oil and gas by pipeline. The premier intends to use this legislation to reduce or stop shipments to refineries in BC. Presumably Premier Notley is hoping to raise oil and natural gas prices for working class people in BC in order to drive them to supporting oil company profits with the same dedication that she has.

Indigenous sovereignty and just transition

During all of the back and forth between colonial governments in BC, Alberta and Ottawa, Indigenous-led opposition to Kinder Morgan is getting the least of the media’s attention. Commenting on the Finance Minster's statement, Chief Bob Chamberlin, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and Vice-President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs pointed out that, “In 2014 the SCC made a landmark decision recognizing Tsilhqot’in Title in William and provided a critical direction to the Crown and proponents to shift from consultation and accommodation to consent-based decision making.” Further, “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly articulates the need to secure the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples on any project that directly impacts them.”

Let’s make the movement against Kinder Morgan the beginning of the fight for a better world of Indigenous sovereignty and a just transition for workers.

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