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If he thought “there was a danger to the beautiful British Columbia coast” Justin Trudeau would never have approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
At least that’s what the prime minister said when he was questioned on his approval of the 890,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline during a Winnipeg town hall a few weeks ago.
He’s said similar things about the pipeline when questioned on climate change and Indigenous rights. Even though science tells us the pipeline will have the climate impact of adding millions of cars to Canada roads, and building it would mean abandoning any hope to meet our Paris climate commitments, Trudeau claims he has that figured out.
And, despite the project approval’s being challenged in multiple courts for failing to properly consult Indigenous peoples, Trudeau – Canada’s self-styled reconciler in chief – is confident this pipeline can be built. This is despite the fact that his government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) should enshrine the right to free prior and informed consent for Indigenous peoples fighting Kinder Morgan.
The thing is, I live on the West Coast and when I take stock of the community members, Indigenous leaders, and even politicians where I live, very few of them share Trudeau’s level of certainty that Kinder Morgan is spill proof, climate safe and UNDRIP-compatible. In fact, we’ve seen a litany of scientific, economic and legal reports that argue exactly the opposite of what Trudeau seems to believe.
So I have a simple question for the prime minister: where’s the evidence that backs up his claim that Kinder Morgan poses no threat to B.C.’s coast, to the climate or to Indigenous rights?
The prime minister and his cabinet insist that Kinder Morgan fits within Canada’s international climate commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. I haven’t seen any evidence to back this up either. On the contrary, all that I’ve read suggests that our climate can’t afford for Canada to expand the tar sands.
The government also claims Kinder Morgan is in line with their commitment to implement UNDRIP. This declaration guarantees, at a minimum, that Indigenous communities have the right to free, prior and informed consent. Given Trudeau’s own admissions about the failures of the National Energy Board’s Kinder Morgan review in adequately consulting Indigenous peoples, and reports that he made the decision to approve the pipeline before his ministerial panel conducted additional consultations with First Nations, how is his government squaring this circle?
And, when it comes to B.C.’s coast, all we know right now is that we don’t know enough to be adequately prepared for a tar sands spill, especially into the ocean. Both Canada’s Royal Society and the United States’ National Academy of Sciences have raised serious questions about the feasibility of cleaning up a marine tar sands spill. With reports that Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has an 87 per cent chance of spilling, how can Justin Trudeau be so confident in the safety of the B.C. coast?
I’ve taken quite a few exams in my life and one thing’s always been the same: having the answer isn’t enough — to pass the test, I had to show that I did my work. It’s a measure that Trudeau himself, once a math teacher in Vancouver, should understand.
If he wants people to listen to him on Kinder Morgan, he has to show his work. He has to show us the science behind his proclamation of a climate safe, spill proof and Indigenous rights compatible pipeline. If he and his government can’t, then they’re clearly putting the coast, the climate, thousands of jobs, and our path to a just and renewable future in jeopardy for their own political aims.