The Simpcw First Nation near Barriere is reiterating its support of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline-expansion project.
“After seeing what’s out there in the media, council decided that it’s important we speak out,” Chief Nathan Matthew said.
“No other First Nation or organization has the authority to speak on Simpcw’s behalf.”
The Simpcw First Nation is one of the communities that signed a mutual-benefits agreement with Kinder Morgan. The Tk’emlups Indian Band has a similar agreement worth $3 million.
Matthew said one-third of the pipeline traverses Simpcw territory, making it the First Nation with the greatest amount of land through which the pipeline will pass.
“That means one-third of the pipeline has the support of the nation that holds Aboriginal title to the land,” Matthew said, noting the process that resulted in signing the agreement was lengthy.
“Chief and council sat at the negotiation table for over two years. We brought on advisors when needed to understand the different components of the project and we kept our people informed of our participation in the regulatory process and at the negotiation table,” he said.
That process was followed by a referendum, in which 78 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of signing the agreement with Kinder Morgan.
Since then, the provincial government’s opposition to the pipeline expansion and consistent protests by various groups led Kinder Morgan to halt all non-essential work on the project and set a May 31 deadline for certainty the project can proceed.
“If the project does not go ahead, we will lose out on opportunities that we have been working hard at obtaining in the last year or so,” Simpcw Coun. Don Matthew said.
“We have dedicated time and resources towards this project and there would be a negative impact if this project were to go away.”
While the previous B.C. Liberal government approved the pipeline expansion, contingent in five specific conditions, and while the federal Liberal government gave the project the green light, the new B.C. NDP government is opposed and is asking the province’s highest court to determine jurisdiction on the issue.
Chief Matthew said the NDP government has not contacted his First Nation.
“Since coming into office, the new B.C. government has not reached out once to Simpcw First Nation regarding our position on the project,” Matthew said.
“Perhaps this is because Premier [John] Horgan is only interested in speaking with those First Nations who align with his opposition.
“We welcome Premier Horgan reaching out to us.
“He simply cannot continue to ignore the fact that First Nations in this province, with unceded Aboriginal title to their lands, have agreed to the project proceeding.”