Following in the steps of neighbouring bands, municipalities and Thompson Rivers University, the Tk'emlups Indian Band (TIB) has inked a deal that will give it millions of dollars if Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain pipeline is approved in December.
Unlike those agencies, however, the band will not publicly discuss the deal, nor has it released details to its members.
Financial disclosure documents required under the First Nations Transparency Act show more than $3 million is sitting in restricted reserves in a TIB account dubbed "Kinder Morgan mutual benefits agreement."
Chief Fred Seymour declined to discuss the deal. Repeated calls to the band yielded no comment on the deal, even to confirm it.
Chief administrator George Petel said he would discuss the matter with chief and council for public comment, but no further information was released by the band.
Twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline has been a divisive subject in a number of First Nations communities. Locally, both Simpcw and Whispering Pines First Nations announced they reached a deal that will provide community benefits as compensation from Kinder Morgan.
At a conference in Kamloops earlier this year, however, Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, warned damage from the oil and gas industry is forever, while its payout is short-lived.
He noted the example of his son, who worked briefly on construction of a pipeline project in the Southern Interior near the United States border.
"It's not like my son gets up every morning, packs his black lunch kit and goes to work on the pipeline," he told the First Nations conference. "Once it's done, it's over."
Kinder Morgan declined to comment on the TIB deal, but emailed a statement noting it has reached agreements and received support from a number of B.C. First Nations.
"MBAs (mutual benefit agreements) are confidential agreements that define a mutually beneficial long-term relationship between an individual aboriginal group and Kinder Morgan Canada. They can include agreements on education and training related to pipeline construction and related job skills, enhancement of community lands, services or infrastructure, business opportunities and other benefits."
Whispering Pines Indian Band was the first along the route to reach a deal with Kinder Morgan.
Then-chief Mike Lebourdais confirmed the agreement is worth between $10 and $20 million over 20 years, with benefits going to elder pensions and youth programs for the small band.
Other announced mutual benefits deals include:
o City of Kamloops: $700,000
o North Thompson communities: $1.5 million
o Thompson Rivers University: $500,000
The federal Liberal government is expected to make a decision on the pipeline proposal in December.