ECOLOGICAL JUSTICE Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

Declarations and Statements

KAIROS was honoured to have been invited by members of Tsleil-Waututh to stand alongside them and other faith leaders and people of faith in defence of the lands, waters, and climate we all share. KAIROS released a statement on April 25, 2018 to affirm its support of First Nations peoples and opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline.


The Trans Mountain Pipeline has been in operation since 1953 for the transportation of products from the tar sands in Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. Kinder Morgan acquired the pipeline in 2005 and it currently transports refined products, crude oils, and light crude oil. In 2012, Kinder Morgan announced plans for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, which would involve the construction of a second pipeline running parallel to the existing pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. This would triple the capacity to 890,000 barrels a day of heavier oils and also allow for transport of light crude oil.

The project proposal underwent a 29-month review process with the National Energy Board (NEB) and it was recommended that the pipeline be approved because it was in the Canadian public interest. The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project was approved by the Government of Canada on November 29, 2016.

Multiple legal challenges arose from municipalities and First Nation groups saying that the consultation process was inadequate and did not respect the international standards for free, prior, and informed consent. These legal challenges were launched by, among others, the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation, the Sto:lo collective, the City of Burnaby, and the City of Vancouver. In the summer of 2017, the B.C government lost a no-confidence vote due to its support of the project and the new government sought intervener status in the legal challenges against the expansion.

The timeline from that point on:

  • In December 2017, Kinder Morgan obtained permission to begin work on the expansion despite the absence of municipal permits from the City of Burnaby.
  • On January 30, 2018, the new provincial government of British Columbia proposed restricting any increases to diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta until further research into mitigating spills could be undertaken. The B.C government also wanted to consult with local communities and First Nations groups.
  • On April 8, 2018 Kinder Morgan suspended all non-essential activity on the pipeline due to the economic costs of delays caused by opposition to the project.
  • On May 29, 2018, the federal government announced they would buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. The sale was approved on August 30, 2018. On the same day, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government’s approval of the expansion project because it had not sufficiently fulfilled its constitutional duty to consult local First Nations groups, and because it lacked an environmental assessment of increased tanker traffic on endangered southern resident killer whales.
  • On November 19, 2018, the federal government began another phase of consultations to re-assess the impact of additional oil tankers off the coast of B.C, with a specific focus on the risks to southern resident killer whales.
  • The NEB final report on February 22, 2019 recommended approval of the project, despite its acknowledgement that impacts from an oil spill would be significant.
  • On June 18, 2019, the construction and operation of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project was approved by the federal government for a second time. The approval came with the stipulation that all generated revenue be reinvested into clean energy and green technology. Multiple lawsuits were filed due this re-approval.

As of July 22, 2019, hundreds of landowners had not yet signed agreements for the pipeline expansion. Pipelines regulated by the NEB are allowed legal access to privately owned land through a land acquisition agreement where owners are compensated, or a right of entry order. If landowners refuse to sign a land acquisition agreement, the company can go through the NEB for a right of entry order.

The federal government’s position on this pipeline expansion has profound implications for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada, as it violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The federal government’s position contradicts the Prime Minister’s promise to work towards “a renewed nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

The project will endanger Indigenous peoples and their territories. The Kinder Morgan expansion project will increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet from 60 to 408 vessels a year, significantly increasing the risk of oil spills. Unlike other oil, the bitumen from the tar sands is mixed with a diluent to make it transportable by pipeline to the coast. This diluted bitumen (or dilbit) is heavier than conventional crude and can sink to the bottom of the ocean and mix with sediments, making clean up significantly more challenging. From Burnaby to the open ocean, there are 148 km of narrow waterways for  supertankers to navigate, with multiple points of collision highlighted in the risk assessment done by Kinder Morgan. In a written submission to the NEB, the City of Vancouver assessed that the chance of a marine oil spill during the 50-year life of the project is between 16-67%. The increased tanker traffic threatens First Nations and other communities’ access to cultural, spiritual, and economic resources. The traffic also impacts the endangered southern resident whale population.

The unintended impacts of resource development projects are disproportionately borne by Indigenous communities, particularly Indigenous women and girls. A 2016 study by Amnesty International found that threats to the safety of Indigenous women and girls are more acute in regions where there is intensive resource development with temporary workforces. These findings are echoed in the June 2019 report, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The influx of industry workers in temporary accommodations, or “man-camps,” has been associated with an increase in incidents of sexual harassment and violence against Indigenous women and girls from nearby communities. There is a serious risk that the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project will increase violence against Indigenous women and girls in the region.

Furthermore, the pipeline expansion severely undermines Canada’s commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) under the Paris Climate Agreement. With an increase in pipeline capacity from 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 890,000, the upstream GHG emissions could increase from 15 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to between 21 and 26 megatonnes.

Take Action

  • Respond to the call from Coast Salish peoples to stand with them in defense of lands and waters. Follow Protect the Inlet to learn about upcoming actions. Consider visiting or supporting the Watch House (“Kwekwecnewtxw”) on Burnaby Mountain.
  • Can’t make it to Burnaby Mountain? Consider hosting a solidarity vigil or public action in your community.
  • Support the work of Salal + Cedar, a ministry of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, who are present on the ground and have been organizing people of faith and making connections between faith groups, Indigenous, grassroots and environmental organizations.
  • Write your MP to share your opinions and concerns. Find the name and contact information for your MP here.

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