Course:CONS200/2020/Implications of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion on First Nations communities in British Columbia

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Map of Transmountain pipeline expansion route.

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) is a proposal to expand the current Trans Mountain Pipeline that runs from Strathcona County, Alberta, to Burnaby, British Columbia[1]. The expansion involves twinning the existing pipeline, increasing the capacity of the system from approximately 300,000 barrels per day of oil and refined products to 890,000 barrels per day[1]. The TMX will run through 15 First Nation Reserve lands and many traditional territories of First Nations people in British Columbia[1]. The 117 First Nations groups potentially impacted remain divided on the project[2][3].


May 2012: Project is announced by Trans Mountain ULC, subsidiary of Kinder Morgan[3].

December 2013: Application filed to then National Energy Board (NEB)[3], since August 18, 2019 called Canada Energy Regulator (CER)[4].

May 2016: NEB submits recommendation report to Minister of Natural Resources[3].

May/June 2016: Environment and Climate Change Canada conducts assessment of upstream greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) linked to TMX project → Main concern: NEB failed to recognize GHG emissions increase caused by expansion of bitumen extraction; Canada’s senior scientists call for moratorium on further oil sands expansion[5].

November 2016: Governor in Council approves TMX project[3].

January 2017: BC approves TMX.

Early 2018: New BC government introduces bill to restrict bitumen shipment; trade war between BC and AB over TMX breaks out (BC disapproves, AB approves).

March 2018: Anti-TMX protests on Burnaby Mountain, 150+ arrests.

April 2018: Kinder Morgan suspends work on pipeline.

May 2018: Trudeau government buys pipeline from Kinder Morgan.

August 2018: Federal Court of Appeal quashes approval because a) NEB failed to consider effects of project-related marine shipping and b) Canada failed to properly consult with Indigenous People [3].

September 2018: Government of Canada instructs NEB to reconsider recommendation and conduct public hearing and submit new report within 22 weeks[3].

October 2018: Government of Canada announces it will re-initiate Crown consultations with 117 Indigenous groups potentially impacted by project[3].

February 2019: NEB releases Reconsideration report still stating that TMX is in Canadian public interest and should be approved under 156 conditions (amongst others: emergency preparedness and response, protection of the environment; consultation with affected Indigenous communities; socio-economic matters; pipeline safety and integrity; commercial support for the Project prior to construction; and financial responsibility on the part of the company). → Main conclusion: Even though negative environmental impact of project-related marine shipping is considered significant, it is justified in the light of the benefits the pipeline will bring to the Canadian public[6].

June 2019: Federal liberal government approves project a second time under the condition that all federal revenue it yields will be re-invested in clean energy and green technology[7].

Summer 2019: Four challenges to federal approval by First Nations in BC (Coldwater Indian Band (main ground: drinking water protection), Squamish Nation (main ground: orca protection), Tsleil-Waututh(TWN) and the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe, encompassing seven Stó:lō villages [8][9].

February 2020: Federal court of Appeal dismisses new appeals in unanimous 3-0 decision. First Nations have 60 days to appeal to Supreme Court[8][9].

March 2020: Tsleil-Waututh announces appeal of Coldwater case to Supreme Court on the basis of a) failure to consider impact of project-related marine shipping b) noncompliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and Species at Risk Act (SARA) c) reliance on outdated economic evidence and failure to include new evidence arguing that the TMX project is uneconomic and d) not recognizing TWN titles and rights[10].

March 2020: Squamish Nation is denied leave to proceed with challenge of decision by Federal Court of Appeal by Supreme Court [11].

April 2020: Tsleil-Waututh Nation appeals to Supreme Court anew[12].

Ever since the Burnaby Mountain Protests, but increasingly since the beginning of 2020, there have been ongoing protests and nation-wide solidarity movements such as blockades of railways, shipping ports and intersections against TMX and the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline.[13]



Municipal, provincial and the federal levels of government have been involved with the TMX. The Trudeau government originally approved the pipeline expansion in November 2016 and then went on to purchase it from Kinder Morgan in May 2018[7], when the company threatened to abandon the project[14][15]. The Alberta government has been a major champion of pipeline expansion, given the importance of the oil sector to the province’s economy[16]. In early 2018, the government of British Columbia appealed a decision that allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass local regulations in constructing TMX[17]. Following, the City of Burnaby[18] had also applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the construction of the pipeline expansion project after lower courts and the National Energy Board rejected its challenge[19]. The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed both applications[20][21]. On June 18, 2019, the Government of Canada approved the project for a second time[22][23][24].

First Nations

File:Ta'ah Amy George.jpg
Ta'ah Amy George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation at protest against pipeline expansion.

Several Coast Salish Nations and individuals have raised concerns against the expansion including the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Ts'elxweyeqw Tribe, Shxw'owhamel Nation, Coldwater Indian Band[25] and Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation[2]. In 2019, these nations filed multiple legal challenges[26], arguing that the federal government failed to engage in a "meaningful dialogue" on concerns about the project[2]. In 2020, the Coldwater Indian Band has submitted applications to the Supreme Court of Canada over the protection of drinking water from diluted bitumen from the close pipeline spatial distance to the reservoir boundaries[25]. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) is the most active first nations group on the extension proposal, whose traditional territory spans the Burrard Inlet, the body of the water that is the terminus for the pipeline in Burnaby[16][27]. TWN and Squamish Nations are particularly concerned with protecting the Burrard Inlet and the southern resident killer whales[11] from increased tanker traffic and potential oil spills have been at the heart of their opposition to the project[28].

Environmental Organizations and Activists

Over 20 environmental and conservational organizations have expressed opposition and concern about the TMX[16]. In 2019, Ecojustice[29], a charity that uses lawsuits as its' primary strategy to defend nature[30] filed a motion, on behalf of the Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation[2]with the Federal Court of Appeal, asking the court to review the pipeline expansion re-approval[2][31]. Raincoast is a team of conservationists and scientists dedicated to using conservation science to protect the land, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia[32]. In several reports and publications, the protection of salmon[33] and endangering killer whales (Orcinus orca)[34][35] have been the forces behind motions and appeals to the TMX re-approval. Additional pipeline concerns include the feasibility of meeting Canada's commitments[36] in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions[15].

Climate activists at a protest


Simon Fraser University[37][38] and the Goodman Group Ltd. questioned Trans Mountain’s financial projections for the pipeline, arguing that the economic impacts of jobs and taxes have been overvalued, while the costs associated with possible spills have been understated[15]

Negative Impacts and Opposition

Concerns about the negative impacts of the TMX on First Nations communities in British Columbia have been raised by First Nations, First Nation individuals, First Nation organizations, environmental conservation groups, scientists, researchers, British Columbia settlers and settler organizations[2][39][15][40]. On July 9, 2019, six First Nations groups, including the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, Shxw'owhamel Nation, Coldwater Indian Band, Ts'elxweyeqw Tribe, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Squamish Nation legally appealed the Government of Canada's June 18, 2019 approval of the TMX, citing a lack of consultation and consent from impacted First Nations communities as well as not properly addressing oil spill risk[2].

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN), who have been opposed to the TMX since 2012, cite the project as being in violation of their law and a serious threat and harm to their people, culture, and land[39]. In 2015, the TWN released an assessment of the impact the TMX would have on their Nation[41].

Violation of Indigenous Law and Sovereignty

First and foremost, First Nations opposing the TMX project appeal to Trans Mountain's obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent. They argue that said was not obtained because Trans Mountain, as well as the risk assessment done by NEB did not properly consider First Nations' concerns, which constitutes a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)[42]. One example in this specific case are the Tsleil-Waututh: Project-related increase in marine traffic is within their waters, which requires the government to engage in "deep conversation" with them, as stated in UNDRIP. But instead of doing that, they seem to be paying no attention at all to what the Tsleil-Wautuths' concerns are.

Their concerns include but are not limited to several violations of indigenous law. For one, they claim a violation of their right to hunt, gather, and fish, which is predicted to be restricted by the expected seven-fold increase in marine traffic related to the TMX project in the Burrard Inlet [42][43]. Furthermore, the project overall will seriously impact First Nations' food sovereignty, defined as "local peoples’ self-determined, inherent, never-ceded right to control their own local food systems, ensuring that gathering practices, ecological resources, and policies for labour and land are appropriate and relevant to their local contexts" [44].


Aside from legal concerns, several First Nations impacted by TMX have voiced cultural concerns. Firstly, the demolition of burial grounds and sacred sites is a common issue in the construction of pipelines as they run across unceded territory and indigenous lands[42]. For the Tsleil-Waututh, also called people of the inlet, traditional food is a big part of their culture. These foods include shellfish and other marine life that will likely be affected by the project-related marine traffic in the Burrard Inlet[44]. Not only as foods do marine animals have cultural meaning for the Tsleil-Waututh: Southern Resident Killer Whales, which are considered at risk in SARA, have spiritual value for Tsleil-Waututh[45]. The marine traffic will likely also negatively affect them.

Another cultural issue is risen by the Cold Water Indian band. Two creeks that go into the aquifer along which the new route part of the Trans Mountain pipeline is supposed to run are used for spiritual bathing and sweat lodges by these indigenous people[45].

Across First Nations the infringement on their constitutional rights to hunt, fish and gather are not only a legal concern, but also a cultural one. These practices are beyond their purpose of food acquisition a way of passing on traditional knowledge, which would likely be lost otherwise. [43]


Expansion of the pipeline may have profound effects on the health of Canadians, and especially vulnerable indigenous communities around pipeline corrdors. The expansion will increase exposure to chemicals that cause respiratory problems and heightens the likelihood of pipeline fires, which alone have a myriad of health implications[44]. Additionally, shipping diluted bitumen exposes workers to cancer causing carcinogens like Benzene and benzo pyrene[44]. Benzo perene also has an impact on foetal development: reproductive, neurological and immunological effects[44].

First Nations groups having to relinquish cultural practices such as traditional foods has shown to result in mental health problems in some cases, including addiction problems and suicide[44]. Further, their loss of medicinal and food plants, as well as wildlife that used to be hunted increases their health risks as a result of the pipeline expansion[43]. An absence of traditional food sources leads First Nations peoples to consume a western diet higher in fats, which their bodies are not accustomed to, thus increasing their risk of cardiovascular diseases[44].

There are also concerns that an increase in GHG's, as a result of increased fossil fuel capacity, might lead to climate change related health impacts[44].


A photo capturing a Killer Whale near Victoria, BC.

Project endangers Southern Resident Killer Whales, which are listed in Canada's Species at Risk Act, and thus stands in violation with said act.

Project also runs by the edge of the Cold Water Indian Band's (CWIB) main water reserve (source of drinking water for 90% of CWIB)[45].

Generally, downstream water quality is affected by oil sand operations and pipelines[43]. This affects not only drinking water, but also fishing. Furthermore, overall quantity of water decreases because of use of it for oilsand extraction[43].

Release of carcinogenic and toxic pollutant by oil sand extraction, processing and transportation. They then enter groundwater and atmosphere, which causes severe damage to ecosystems that indigenous communities depend on[43].

Inability to enter certain areas, places become inaccessible. Sometimes even parts of indigenous territories[43].

Canada's fastest growing source of GHG emissions: Oil sands development. Also biggest air pollution source on the continent and local air pollution (odours & breathing problems).

Soils can be eroded, compacted and mixed, contaminated, and removed, and they can be acidified by local emissions of chemicals causing acid rain[46].

Oil Spill

Implementation of the TMEX proposal will make oil spills in Burrard Inlet more likely[41]. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation found a 79% to 87% chance of a spill in their waters over the next 50 years if the project is built[47], a major spill could spread across the Burrard inlet within 96 hours. Any marine birds near an oil spill risk oiling and probable death, consequently, a major spill could result in one of the top bird mortality events ever caused by oil[48]. Diluted bitumen is extremely challenging to clean up and stays in the environment for a long time, causing long-term impacts on ecosystems.

Climate Change

Canada’s oil and gas industry sector produces 27 percent of total emissions[49]. The oilsands, bituminous heavy oil mixed with sand beneath the boreal forest, contain the world's third largest reserves of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but they are also Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions[37]. The Tar Sands are estimated to contain enough carbon to increase the current level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere by more than half[50]. According the Environment and Climate Change Canada, the project will have emissions from two sources, land (pipeline and port activities) and marine shipping[51]. Trans Mountain Corporation estimates that the pipeline and port activities will generate about 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually[1][51]. "If we build new fossil fuel infrastructure now, which will lock us into carbon emissions for decades, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to keep warming below 1.5 degrees," said Kirsten Zickfeld, a Simon Fraser University associate professor of climate science[37].



Over the first 20 years after construction, the $12.6 billion dollar expansion project is expected to yield $46.7 billion revenue including tax[52]. Divided among provinces, Alberta will see $19.4 billion over the 20 year period, with British Columbia and the rest of Canada receiving $5.7 and $21.6 billion respectively[53].


Trans Mountain forecasts that there will be 5500 employees during the peak construction period, set to be mid-late 2021[54]. As of the end of 2019, Trans Mountain reported hiring over 2900 people, including 300 indigenous, and training 825 people, 110 of whom were indigenous[55].


The project will result in improved risk mitigation systems as well as billions from tax invested in research and development aimed at preventing and mitigating the effects of climate change[56].


Commercial Agreements

Mutual benefit Agreements with first nations groups are in excess of 400 million and include pipeline construction, education and jobs training, skills enhancement, business opportunities or improved community services and infrastructure[57]. There is no mention of ownership besides a 10% equity share reported to be a feature of the Northern Gateway MBA[58].

The project will also see indigenous benefits of employment and training, engagement programs as well as procurement, business and economic development opportunities[59].


Many agreements have been signed to fund projects in education, training, infrastructure and parks to attempt to compensate for disruption caused by the construction of the project[60]. Additionally, landowner compensation, economic development opportunities, benefits from property tax payments and financial contributions through community benefit agreements all contribute to community enhancement from the expansion project [60]. Trans Mountain state they will also engage in environmental stewardship programs to mitigate, reclaim and enhance the areas affected by the pipelines corridor and the construction phase[60].


There are several implications of the Transmountain pipeline expansion on First Nations. These implications come with the involvement of many stakeholders[37][32] who also share interests in the project. Although the government of Canada engaged First Nations communities in a single-window consultation process[61] to ensure conditions and accommodations are met, there continues to be opposition following the second approval[22]. Violation of Indigenous laws and sovereignty[42], cultural degradation, including demolition of burial grounds and sacred sites[42] as well as major health risks[43][44] pose as some negative implications of TMX. Economic benefits of the TMX include creating jobs, skill enhancement and business opportunities[55] for first nations, which contribute to community enhancement[60].


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[62]

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  26. Zussman, Richard (July 9 2019). "Several B.C. First Nations launch legal challenge of re-approved Trans Mountain pipeline". Global News. Retrieved April 8 2020. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
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  28. Bellrichard, Chantelle (April 7 2020). "'It's about our future': 4 First Nations have now applied to Supreme Court over Trans Mountain". CBC. Retrieved April 8 2020. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  29. "TransMountain 2.0: Challenging the federal government's project approval". Ecojustice. Retrieved March 16 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  31. Tuytel, Dyna (2019). "Trans Mountain 20: Challenging the federal government's project approval". ecojustice. Retrieved March 15 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  38. Zmuda, Katherine (2017-04-25). "Evaluation of the Regulatory Review Process for Pipeline Expansion in Canada: A Case Study of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project". SFU. Retrieved April 9 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  48. "WOULD THE PROPOSED TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE AFFECT FISH, BIRDS, AND WILDLIFE?". Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust. Retrieved April 10 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  50. "CHOOSE CLIMATE LEADERSHIP – NOT THE TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE". Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust. Retrieved April 10 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  56. Hauka, Don (2019). "Citizen's Guide to Economic Impact of Pipeline Expansion in British Columbia" (PDF). Resource Works: 6–19.
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  58. Flanagan, Tom (2019). "How First Nations Benefit from Pipeline Construction" (PDF). Fraser Institute. Retrieved 8 March, 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  62. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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