Councilor Charlene Alecks remarks for Kinder Morgan investor meetings in March of 2018
My name is Charlene Aleck and I am an elected Councilor from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. You are probably unclear, maybe even a little perplexed or dubious about why I am addressing you today. Do you wonder if there is anything that we could say that would genuinely impact your business or your investment future?
Well, my people, The Tsleil-Waututh Nation are ‘the people of the Inlet’. We have protected our inlet here since time immemorial. And in return, it has supplied us with food, with water, with a place to learn and a place to teach. It has been the home of our Orcas and the spawning grounds of our Salmon for as long as our people have been in existence. It is part of our culture, our heritage, and our very souls.
Our inlet, Burrard Inlet, is the inlet that sits at the terminus of the proposed pipeline that you are invested in.
But our inlet is not yours to use. We may in the past have had our rights removed and lost our power to protect what is ours, but that will not happen again! We will not sit idly by as our children’s future is jeopardized. Our children have borne enough. We have borne enough.
Our community, like many other First Nations communities in British Columbia, has never ceded its land or its rights to Canada. As such, by law in Canada and internationally, if you would like to transport diluted bitumen or anything else through our territory you must have the free prior and informed consent of our people. That’s the law and that is why not only my Nation but also 6 other BC First Nations are in Federal Court right now, each with their own unique and substantial concerns. Anyone of these concerns from any one of these Nations is enough to stop this project.
I want you to understand where we are at: First Nations have now won a series of Supreme Court of Canada decisions that have further affirmed our right to defend our communities. We can and will prevent Kinder Morgan from bringing, each and every day, hundreds of thousands of barrels of risk, insecurity and danger to the land and water of our ancestors…and our children.
I have distributed risk assessment sheets and I’m sure you will seriously consider the information as it relates to your investments.
But just to be sure you understand what’s going on from our perspective I would like you to stop for a moment and think what this means in terms of your own lives. Do you have a family? Do you and your family live in a house…a home even, one that you really love? Well, imagine that one day a stranger knocked on your front door (or perhaps just walked right in without knocking) and told you that the water in your kitchen sink was going to become toxic at some point but no one was going to know when. Maybe next week or maybe it wouldn’t happen ‘til your grandbaby was having a bath later in the year. But maybe, if you were lucky, it wouldn’t happen at all. What would you do? Would you do anything you could to make sure it didn’t happen?
This is how my people feel about this inlet. It’s the heart or our community. We have always said that when the tide went out the table was set. If this project goes forward it’s not a matter of ‘if’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ a major oil spill will happen. The fate of this water is the fate of our community.
There is intensifying opposition to this project from a diverse range of stakeholders including:
- Communities and citizens of the lower mainland that worry about a spill in their backyards as well as the larger threat of climate change,
- Conservationists that see an endangered Orca population and an ever decreasing Salmon stock,
- The City of Vancouver; whose ‘Green’ branding is worth its weight in gold
- The City of Burnaby, who hears its fire chief talking of imminent and devastating danger from the KM tank farms and knows from experience how even a small spill can devastate an entire neighbourhood
- the B.C. government who has vowed to protect its citizens,
- the Governor/government of Washington who has expressed his belief that the “Salish Sea is no place for 5 to 7 times increase in oil tankers in orca-stressed waters”. It would be prudent to anticipate further actions from Washington State that could add additional obstacles, delays, and costs to the pipeline.
- And many other First Nations in BC and across the country.
As you can see we do not stand alone in this battle. But, we ask you as well, to stop and take a step away; to stand by our side – the side that is right, the side that will win – and answer the call of history: for my people, for an industry that is on the sunset side of its day and for your own best interests.
This pipeline and the danger that it brings places you firmly outside the shifting tide. While we respect the foundation that fossil fuels have given us, they, and the pipelines that transport them are on the wrong side of history now.
At every juncture along the way; there is a moment to stop; to examine the crossroads upon which you stand and to choose your path with deliberation and with the knowledge that comes from having all of the facts. Your choice can come from doing what is right for my people, for the other communities along the path and for the planet or it can come from doing what is the most risk-averse, politically sound and ultimately economically robust. They are, in this case, one and the same.