Shovels were officially back in the ground yesterday as the controversial Trans Mountain project reopened following an abrupt shutdown in December.
Excavators, bulldozers and heavy machinery were parked and silenced following a serious injury to a worker on December 18th.
In October, a contract worker on the project, Samatar Sahal, was struck and killed by a piece of equipment. Trans Mountain hasn’t said whether these latest incidents are one-offs or point to systemic problems with the project.
In addition to these safety concerns, this project remains a deep concern for many First Nations and environmental groups and the threat it continues to pose to lands and waters.
First Nation communities have hit several insurmountable obstacles over this controversial project.
This past summer, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal of a lower court decision denying an application for judicial review of the Trans Mountain expansion approval from three affected First Nations.
A court decision in 2018 suppressed earlier approval of the project, saying regulators failed to adequately consult First Nations representatives along the pipeline route and to fully account for the project’s impact on the region’s endangered killer whales.
The decision launched a new round of consultations with indigenous communities, and the project was sent back for a second regulatory review.
It received federal approval again after project conditions were amended.
First Nation communities made an international complaint through the United Nations that Canada had failed to respect Indigenous rights.
SAFETY AND THE STORY IT SHARES
Few details have been released about the incident on December 18, which occurred at the Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Terminal in British Columbia.
Ian Anderson, CEO and President of Trans Mountain, has yet to provide further details on the injured worker.
A spokesperson has stated that the last several days reviewing updated safety plans contractors have developed.
FUTURE OWNERSHIP FOR INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
In its third year of ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, the federal government plan is to sell.
With only 20 per cent of the $12.6 billion project complete. So no sale is likely in the near term.
In the meantime, the government is engaging with more than 120 Indigenous groups to talk about future ownership or some other form of economic participation.
The head of the National Coalition of Chiefs said he expects First Nations and Métis leaders will decide what their economic participation in the Trans Mountain project would look like. The coalition has been working with communities interested in sharing the pipeline’s economic benefits.
One hundred and twenty-nine first nation communities will independently decide to either move forward with a certain percentage, or a large percentage. Dale Swampy, president of the coalition said “I think that’s important. It’ll give the government some headway about how they are going to deal with this.”
Concluded within a report from the Department of Finance, stated that a form of revenue-sharing or purchase of an equity stake in the pipeline would be Indigenous communities’ “preferred” options for participating in the project.
Both options come with advantages and disadvantages in terms of revenue, and in terms of how much Indigenous communities are willing to bear the risk of a spill, said Swampy.