The Canadian government has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change and pledged its support to limiting global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Yet, by their own acknowledgement, current and planned climate action measures (as outlined in the Pan-Canadian Framework) are insufficient to achieve the emission reductions required to meet Canada’s 2030 target – to say nothing of the Paris temperature goals. At the same time, Ottawa has committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples and promised to respect Indigenous rights. In the current debates around pipeline development – specifically the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project – the federal government has preferred to sidestep its commitment to both reconciliation and the development of a low-carbon economy.
Our economy, ecology, and society are all wrapped up in one another. If the health of one relies on the destruction of the other, then we have failed. Climate change is an urgent concern that requires a holistic response. Indigenous rights have long been cast aside in the pursuit of economic gain; this must change. It is time to reorient the Canadian energy economy.
CPJ joined with friends and colleagues from community groups, environmental organizations, coastal businesses, and Indigenous networks to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step away from the contentious Kinder Morgan pipeline project. The letter was signed by over 70 civil society organizations from across Canada.
Re: 70+ CSOs from across Canada call for halt to Kinder Morgan pipeline project
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We are a group of more than 70 organizations representing citizens from all walks of life and from communities throughout our country.
We are deeply concerned by the threat the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion poses to B.C.’s rivers, coastal waters and vibrant coastal economy, as well as Canada’s commitment to take responsible action on climate change and start a meaningful path to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
We stand with the vast majority of people in Canada who care about taking bold action on climate change so future generations have safe and prosperous lives. Our children have a right to live in a healthy environment and a world safe from extreme weather.
The current Trans Mountain pipeline has spilled 82 times since 1961, according to the company’s own reports. The likelihood of an oil spill from expanded bitumen shipments in the Burrard Inlet over 50 years is estimated at between 79 to 87 per cent. As research from the Alaska Valdez oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and others shows, a spill causes long-term irreparable damage to coastal and marine environments, costing billions to try to clean, with just 10 to 15 per cent of spilled oil ever recovered. Unfortunately, the National Energy Board chose not to hear this evidence during its Trans Mountain expansion project review.
The Royal Society of Canada’s 2015 expert panel report identified seven major research gaps regarding scientific uncertainties on bitumen. A U.S. National Academy of Sciences study, considered the most authoritative assessment on diluted bitumen undertaken, was refused by the NEB as evidence during the Trans Mountain review. Moving ahead with the project without having thoroughly understood the implications is premature at best and possibly negligent.
The NEB’s review did not assess the effects of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic on the 76 remaining critically endangered southern resident orcas in the Salish Sea as part of its environmental assessment of the project. These orcas are endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the tanker route transects critical habitat they need to survive and recover.
The federal government’s insistence that approval of the pipeline is based on science rings hollow on the climate front too. While strong steps have been taken to phase out coal and bring in a carbon market, all accounting estimates show Canada is at risk of missing its international climate commitments.
A spill would also have a disastrous effect on key industries such as tourism, film and fisheries.
The City of Vancouver commissioned an economic study for the NEB review that looked at just five ocean-dependent activities: commercial fishing, port activities, inner-harbour transportation, tourism and recreation. For Vancouver alone, these five industries generate more than $6.7 billion in economic activity and support more than 36,000 jobs. They estimate that a single spill could wipe out more than $1.2 billion in economic activity and result in the loss of more than 12,000 jobs.
According to Destination BC, the province’s tourism industry generates $17 billion a year in revenues and employs more than 130,000 people in communities throughout the province. Jobs would be lost and lasting damage would be inflicted on B.C.’s status as one of the world’s greatest destinations for outdoor recreation in the event of an oil spill.
British Columbia’s fishing and seafood industries contribute more than $660 million to the economy. The wild salmon industry alone employs approximately 9,500 people. These are well-paying jobs recklessly put at risk by this heavy oil pipeline.
In contrast, the Trans Mountain pipeline is not the job creator many people think it is. Proponents claim it will create 15,000 jobs during construction phase, while prominent economists have pointed out that a more realistic estimate is closer to 20 per cent that figure. Direct long-term job projections are as low as 50 per year. Compare that to the huge possibilities for growth and well-paying jobs in Canada’s renewable energy sector.
Project proponents also claim that approval of this project stemmed from “unprecedented Indigenous engagement”. But nations whose territories cover the pipeline route, the terminus and tanker route have not consented to the project. These Indigenous communities would be on the receiving end of this project’s worst environmental impacts. They have expressed strong opposition and noted the approval process did not include meaningful or adequate consultation with them, as required by Canadian law. The federal court of appeal that quashed the NEB’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project for inadequate First Nations consultation is expected to rule on similar challenges for Kinder Morgan in the coming months.
Pushing the pipeline through in the face of strong Indigenous opposition runs counter to Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and undermines conclusions that this project is in the national interest and the laudable reconciliation efforts so recently undertaken. In an age of reconciliation, we must respect all nations in opposition and leave judgments to the courts.
In the midst of a deeply divided moment that has pitted sectors and governments against one another, we hope you hear these concerns and step away from this contentious project, making the long-term well-being of all citizens your top priority.
See all 74 signatories here.