The National Energy Board hearings continue in Victoria Tuesday to collect oral Indigenous traditional evidence as part of its new review of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
This is round two of the NEB hearings for the project, initiated after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the original approval for the expansion, saying the federal government didn’t adequately consult with First Nations or consider the impact to the environment of project-related marine shipping.
Monday, salmon was at the forefront, as the panel heard from the Stó:lō Tribal Council and Kwantlen First Nation.
National Energy Board collects oral Indigenous traditional evidence as part of new review of #TransMountain pipeline expansion. Afternoon session of the first day in Victoria opens now with song by Kwantlen First Nation. Hearings will continue in #yyj until Thurs. #NEB #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/mq2J9MFE9O
— Keri Coles (@KeriColesPhotog) November 26, 2018
“Salmon is our most sacred thing. It is part of who we are. If we lose our salmon, we lose our people,” said Chief Marilyn Gabriel, Kwantlen First Nation.
Gabriel explained how the salmon decline has affected her nation. How the community used to barter salmon for other supplies they needed, but with the current stocks and restrictions, they can’t rely on the salmon anymore. People can’t afford to buy everything they need.
The Stó:lō Tribal Council echoed the significance of salmon, and the concerns around the impacts of the pipeline expansion project and increased tanker traffic.
“It is hard to explain the significance of salmon. It’s more than a protein, more than an oil. It’s in our DNA. It is a part of our spirit,” said Stó:lō Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil.
“Fish hold a central place in ceremonial, sustenance, and commercial aspects of Stó:lō culture. We rely on a healthy ecosystem. The project has serious risks and implications to the Stó:lō way of life,” said Councillor Andrew Victor of Cheam.
The two nations differed on whether they thought the project should go ahead.
The Stó:lō Tribal Council wanted to be involved with the project if it was approved.
“If the project proceeds we want to see it done right, in a way that understands our culture, so mitigation measures can be taken,” Victor said.
“We want to be involved early, to be part of the regulatory process and be involved with safeguarding the environment. We have intimate knowledge of tides, wind, where water travels fast and slow. Who better to monitor than us?” said McNeil.
The Kwantlen First Nation gave a hard no at the hearings.
“We sit here because our elders sent us here to say no. Not on our watch. No way. One drop of oil is too much. We are speaking for our next seven generations. The answer from our nation is no,” said Gabriel.
“In my opinion, we are in a crisis. When I was growing up, there were lots of sockeye. Now it is in dire straits. Two years ago, we had no sockeye. We can’t allow any more disasters in this water,” said Councillor Les Antone, Kwantlen First Nation.
The hearings, happening over three weeks in three different cities, are a chance for Indigenous groups to present arguments to the panel about how project-related marine shipping may impact their communities, use of traditional territory, or any potential or established treaty or Indigenous rights.
Tuesday the panel hears from the Indigenous Caucus for the Trans Mountain Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee.
The Tsawout First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation and U.S. Tribes – Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Suquamish Tribe, and Lummi Nation – will present Wednesday.
The final hearings in Victoria will have the panel hear from Squamish Nation and Stó:lō Collective on Thursday.
The board will then head to Nanaimo to hold hearings from Dec. 3 to 6.