Enbridge Backtracks on Decision to Seize Assets from Environmental Group

Staff at the Vancouver office of an environmental group got an unexpected visit on Tuesday from sheriffs who were holding court documents authorizing them to seize the organization’s assets on behalf of Enbridge.

Karen Mahon with Stand.earth, formerly known as Forest Ethics, said the documents authorized the sheriffs to take and sell all of their assets to recover money owed to the pipeline giant.

Stand.earth owes Enbridge money after losing a court case against changes to Line 9 – a pipeline that runs between Ontario and Quebec.

A photo of documents posted online by the environmental group shows the amount owing is about $14,500.

The fees were awarded as part of an unsuccessful lawsuit the group launched against the National Energy Board and Enbridge, alleging inadequate consultation around the pipeline expansion project.

In an email Enbridge spokesperson Jesse Semko said Enbridge abandoned the decision to seize Stand.earth’s assets, adding they would not pursue the matter any further.

~With files from the Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

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Tensions rise between RCMP and First Nations against fish farms

For Immediate Release, October 17, 2017

RCMP, Marine Harvest, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans has just arrived on site to where Members from six First Nations of the Kwakwaka’wakw have been occupying fish farms, in their territorial waters for nearly two months near Alert Bay, B.C.

Yesterday, the peaceful occupiers, were been served with notices of injunction applications to be heard in court on Wednesday. Sources have reported significantly increased RCMP, Marine Harvest employees and Fisheries and Oceans employees in nearby Port McNeill headed to Port Elizabeth with boats and water equipment.

RCMP have been escorting the Norwegian vessel, Viktoria Viking, contracted by Marine Harvest to refill salmon pens with juvenile stocks, against local First Nation consent. The company is restocking, despite that most of the farm tenures and/or licenses expire before the fish mature.

The escalation in tactical teams, equipment and police numbers deeply concern First Nation members who have been asserting their rights to consent and consultation. Communities oppose the open net salmon farms’ effects on wild salmon including spread of disease, sea lice and other environmental concerns.

The police have no jurisdiction to remove the occupiers, and are supporting the illegal restocking of destructive open net salmon pens in their territory, instead of defending rights and title, and right to wild salmon assert community members.

The police escalation follows a gathering of Namgis, Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, Mamalilikulla hereditary leadership and community members this weekend. David Suzuki, UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Elected Chief Bob Chamberlain, and Elected Chief Rebecca David representative from the BC AFN, were present to show support for those occupying the farms, messages indicated over 90 First Nations are in support of the collective nations’ demands for removal and ongoing occupations.

Last week, Premier John Horgan met with approximately forty Kwakwaka’wakw leaders – elected and hereditary alike,and supporting community members – First Nations and non First Nations, alike. of the community who demanded the fish farms be removed.

Media Contact:

Ernest Alfred
Email: alertbayalfred@gmail.com
Cell: 250 974 7064
Carla Voyageur
Email: gwayee_jane@yahoo.ca
Cell: 204 292 1098

[SOURCE]

Kinder Morgan Goes Rogue, Proving It Can’t Be Trusted

Photo of salmon deterrent mats courtesy Trans Mountain website.

After swimming 1,300 kilometres upstream to their spawning grounds near the headwaters of the Fraser River, Chinook salmon returning to Swift Creek this year found their gravel beds blocked by a bright orange layer of snow fencing.

Kinder Morgan, the pipeline company that put it there, patted itself on the back for its “innovative” use of the deterrent mats, which prevent salmon from digging nests in the streambed to spawn. Of course, the only problem is it didn’t have permission to install them.

But the company went ahead with its plans, although it had not met its conditions, to start construction without the necessary permits. This reckless behaviour is shocking from a company asking for the public’s trust.

On Sept. 8 the National Energy Board (NEB) sent a letter to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) asking for confirmation that this work, among other measures, would require authorization under the Fisheries Act. It noted Kinder Morgan’s plans, “could constitute serious harm.”

Kinder Morgan posted photos of Swift Creek lined with orange plastic even though DFO had not yet responded. If anybody else had gone into a major salmon-bearing stream and interfered with fish spawning, there would be absolute hell to pay. Violations of the Fisheries Actoften carry tens of thousands of dollars in fines but so far there’s been no penalty at all.

Are we supposed to just trust that Kinder Morgan knows what it’s doing? With dwindling salmon runs and starving killer whales, the company wants to use untested methods to prevent spawning in 26 streams along its pipeline route.

Thankfully, those plans were foiled by a concerned citizen, at least for now. Lynn Perrin, an Abbotsford resident and a director of PIPE UP, found the blog and complained to the NEB that Kinder Morgan had started construction without having met its conditions.

That led to a stern letter from the NEB ordering the company not to put any more mats down. But it did not require them to pull out the five which were already in place.

Now Kinder Morgan has asked the regulator to let its fumble slide, a classic tactic of begging forgiveness rather than asking permission. After thumbing its nose at the law by starting construction early and potentially violating the Fisheries Act, the company expects special treatment.

How entitled does a foreign corporation have to be to assume it can get away with this? Maybe the NEB used to take an “ask and it shall be granted” attitude to pipeline companies, but after years of outcry and scandal, the regulator is trying to prove it’s not in bed with industry. It cannot possibly allow Kinder Morgan to carry on as if it hadn’t just taken upon itself to waltz into critical salmon habitats and interrupt spawning.

Making an exception when the NEB failed to catch this activity in the first place would show how little has changed at the board. It’s not up to the public to discover that the company has started construction. That raises serious questions as to whether the regulator has the capacity to enforce its own conditions.

Why are these salmon deterrent mats even under consideration? There’s already a way to prevent damage to spawning salmon and their habitat, and it’s being used in elsewhere along the route. Kinder Morgan has the technology to drill underneath such critical streams — they’re just too cheap to use it.

Instead, company biologists have concocted this harebrained scheme with snow fencing to avoid having to work within windows of least risk to fish and therefore meet their aggressive construction schedule.

Already the company is whining the delays may interfere and even making threats to the NEB that it will have to harm fish if it doesn’t get its way. That’s obviously unacceptable and the NEB can refuse to allow it.

It’s only a few weeks into this company’s expansion plans and they’re already displaying a blatant disregard for the law of the land. Either Kinder Morgan is too incompetent to follow the rules or it just doesn’t care. Neither inspires much trust from the communities its pipeline puts at risk.

By Peter McCartney in Vancouver Observer, posted Oct 5th, 2017

[SOURCE]

Reader Submission

Keystone XL, Line 3 and Trans Mountain ‘More Vital Than Ever’ as Energy East Cancelled: Analyst


An analyst says the shelving of TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline means it’s more vital than ever that three other pipelines to oil export markets proceed as planned.

AltaCorp Capital analyst Dirk Lever said Friday that Canadian producers will have to transport any new oil production over the next year or so using railcars because the pipelines leaving Western Canada now are essentially full.

He said the next capacity increase is expected to come with Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement project, which is under construction and will add 370,000 barrels per day of capacity to the United States by early 2019.

But that additional room will only just accommodate new output from oilsands expansions and the situation will remain tight until the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline to the West Coast proposed by Kinder Morgan is in service, which is expected to add 590,000 barrels per day by late 2019.

TransCanada hasn’t yet approved its Keystone XL pipeline into the U.S., but Lever said its 830,000-barrel-per-day capacity will likely provide enough room for Canadian oil production growth until about 2030, when the industry expects Canadian production to reach five million barrels per day.

He said Energy East could come off the shelf if any of the other pipelines don’t go ahead, or if market conditions change to encourage higher production growth.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Treaty Alliance Vows to Fight Other Projects After TransCanada Ends Energy East Pipeline

A group of First Nations leaders who formed to fight pipeline projects across Canada says they will continue their push to stop three other pipelines now that the TransCanada Energy East pipeline is dead.

TransCanada made the announcement Thursday.

The Treaty Alliance Against the Tar Sands, made up of 150 First Nations across Canada and the United States, says it will now focus its sights on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Line 3 and TransCanada’s Keystone XL.

“Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win,” Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said in a release sent Thursday. “So that’s two tar

“So that’s two tar sands expanding mega-pipelines stopped in their tracks but it will be a hollow victory if Indigenous opposition and serve as an outlet for even more climate-killing tar sands production.”

Energy East had been proposed as a way to move Alberta oilsands production as far east as an Irving Oil operation in Saint John, N.B.

Supporters say Energy East was necessary to expand Alberta’s markets and decrease its dependency on shipments to the United States. Detractors raised questions about the potential environmental impact.

Calgary-based TransCanada had announced last month that it was suspending its efforts to get regulatory approvals for the mega projects.

It will now inform the federal and provincial regulators that it will no longer be proceeding with its applications for the projects.

“After careful review of changed circumstances, we will be informing the National Energy Board that we will no longer be proceeding with our Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications,” CEO Russ Girling said in a statement.

He added that TransCanada will also withdraw from a Quebec environmental review.

The premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick say they’re disappointed by TransCanada’s cancellation of the Energy East pipeline, which would have connected their two provinces.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government has always supported Energy East because of the new jobs, investments and markets it would create.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant also said Energy East would have been good for his province’s economy and generated future revenue for his government.

The Opposition Conservatives are tearing a strip off the Liberal government over TransCanada’s decision to cancel the Energy East pipeline project.

Deputy Tory leader Lisa Raitt is blaming the decision squarely on what she described as the “disastrous” Liberal policies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Treaty Alliance is warning the governing Liberals, and premiers, that before megaprojects are built, consent of First Nations is needed.

“This is yet another lesson to government and industry that you can’t hope to build any project without the consent of First Nations, and certainly not a destructive mega-project like Energy East,” said Ghislain Picard, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec-Labrador on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.

“Whether they like it or not, governments and industry can’t ignore us anymore.”

APTN National News

[SOURCE]

TransCanada Won’t Proceed With Energy East Pipeline

The pipeline would have transported more than a million barrels of oil every day. (Reuters)

Pipeline company opts to kill 2 eastern-based energy projects

TransCanada says it won’t proceed with its Energy East pipeline and Eastern Mainline proposals.

Russ Girling, the Calgary-based energy company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement that National Energy Board and Quebec officials will be informed TransCanada won’t go forward with the applications.

“We appreciate and are thankful for the support of labour, business and manufacturing organizations, industry, our customers, Irving Oil, various governments, and the approximately 200 municipalities who passed resolutions in favour of the projects,” Girling said in a release.

“Most of all, we thank Canadians across the country who contributed towards the development of these initiatives.”

The proposed Energy East project would have carried more than one million barrels of oil every day from Alberta and Saskatchewan across the country to be refined in Quebec and New Brunswick and then exported. It would have added 1,500 kilometres worth of new oil pipelines to an existing network of more than 3,000 kilometres, which would have been converted from carrying natural gas, to carrying oil.

The company says it will take a $1-billion charge to write down the project on its books in its next quarterly results. But the full price tag for the project would have been much higher, with some estimates at as much as $16 billion.​

The company first proposed the project in 2013, when oil prices neared $100 a barrel. But the project’s future had come in doubt since then as the economics changed, and regulatory and environmental hurdles started piling up.

As recently as last month, TransCanada suspended its application to the National Energy Board (NEB) and hinted it might decide not to pursue the project in light of the regulator’s new, tougher review process.

TransCanada shares were slightly higher on Thursday, an indication that investors weren’t surprised by the news, considering TransCanada announced last month it would undergo a “careful review” of the process.

“We were not assigning much of a probability of the project proceeding as scheduled,” TD Bank analyst Linda Ezergailis said in a note to clients after the cancellation was announced.

Energy East was an oil pipeline, but the Eastern Mainline project, which was also killed on Thursday, would have transported natural gas along the north shore of Lake Ontario.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said in a statement that the company’s decision not to move forward with Energy East is “not good news” for those who wanted to see the pipeline built, including the provincial government.

“Like many New Brunswickers, we are disappointed. The project would have created jobs in New Brunswick and helped the Canadian economy,” Gallant said.

His counterpart in Alberta, Premier Rachel Notley, echoed those sentiments, saying, “We are deeply disappointed by the recent decision from TransCanada. We understand that it is driven by a broad range of factors that any responsible business must consider. Nonetheless, this is an unfortunate outcome for Canadians.”

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association expressed its disappointment with the decision, and blamed governments for forcing the company’s hand.

“The loss of this major project means the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for Canada, and will significantly impact our country’s ability to access markets for our oil and gas,” CEPA said.

“Pipelines are the only viable way to move large quantities of oil and natural gas to markets, safely and responsibly. With global demand for energy expected to rise and extensive supply potential in Western Canada, Canada will be missing out on a significant economic opportunity if governments do not see value in pipeline projects such as Energy East.”

CBC News Posted: Oct 05, 2017

[SOURCE]

Some Upset at Plan to Drop Lawyers in Pipeline Protest Cases


A proposal by North Dakota judges who say out-of-state lawyers are no longer needed to represent Dakota Access pipeline protesters has drawn hundreds of complaints.

Judges from the state’s South Central District, who have been handling the protest cases, say the legal provisions are no longer justified because no new cases have been filed, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

A majority of the more than 500 comments to state court officials are against the move, with many saying there’s still too much unfinished business for appointed attorneys to handle. The waiver has allowed out-of-state attorneys to represent clients as long as they sponsored by a North Dakota lawyer.

“To discontinue the special provisions at this juncture would do a great disservice to justice as it would undoubtedly result in disruption of legal representation in active cases and higher rates of unrepresented individuals,” Spirit Lake Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson wrote in her objection.

One comment supporting the judges’ proposal came from North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents, which handled 435 pipeline protest cases.

“The DAPL case assignments added significant work volume and contributed to a record-breaking year,” wrote H. Jean Delaney, the commission’s executive director. “However, the protests appear to have concluded, and there haven’t been any additional assignments since July.”

The comment period on the proposal ended Monday. Supreme Court Clerk Penny Miller says she expects the court to take up the matter within the next couple of weeks.

About 830 criminal cases were filed in connection to the DAPL protests. More than 400 have closed, most of them with dismissed charges.

Associated Press

[SOURCE]

Trudeau Government Built Pipeline Website During ‘Consultation’ With First Nations, Court Told

Indigenous representatives at a news conference in Vancouver addressing the legal challenge to Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion. Photo by Dylan Waisman

The federal government was already building a website announcing approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion when it “consulted” with First Nations in November 2016, according to lawyers at the opening day of a court challenge in Vancouver.

“We had no choice but to go to court,” Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan told a news conference in downtown Vancouver about the proposed Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

The legal challenge, which includes seven First Nations, the City of Vancouver and Burnaby, as well as two environmental groups, is seen as a major legal test for an oil pipeline project that has the support of the federal and Alberta governments, but has been met with fierce opposition in British Columbia.

The B.C. and Alberta governments both have status as intervenors in the case. If built, the project would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, allowing it to transport up to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C..

Standing in front of a large green and white banner with the words “United against Kinder Morgan,” Indigenous representatives spoke to reporters, saying that the Texas-based oil giant didn’t properly consult First Nations about their proposal.

“Our efforts may be seen as a nuisance,” Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Chief Maureen Thomas said, her voice heavy with emotion. “But I see it as survival for our future generations.”

Large-scale legal challenge

The Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver began hearing arguments on Monday from 10 applicants challenging Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Lawyers for the Tsleil-Waututh, Coldwater, and the Upper Nicola band argued that First Nations consultations weren’t done in earnest because the government was already preparing to give the green light, even as discussions were underway.

“Canada was preparing a website to announce the approval of the project plan, while at the same time were still undertaking consultation with First Nations,” Tsleil-Waututh counsel Scott Andrew Smith argued in court.

“It has been found that no alternative version of the site was being prepared. [On] November 29th, a mere day after Minister Carr promised Chief Thomas that Tsleil-Waututh’s submissions would be taken into account by the cabinet and his colleagues, the pre-prepared website was published. The Governor in Council did not consider or take Tsleil-Waututh’s final considerations into account, and proceeded with consultations with a mind that was already made up.”

Lawyers also pointed to the exclusion of marine shipping concerns from the National Energy Board’s report, the alleged failure to address this error, and Canada’s alleged breach of duty to consult First Nations and obtain consent.

Environmental groups strongly opposed the pipeline on the basis of climate and environmental impacts. The expanded pipeline would increase the current number of oil tankers into Burrard Inlet, which scientists argue will be a major risk to whales and marine wildlife on the coast.

Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, said she was especially disturbed by news that Kinder Morgan has been putting anti-spawning mats across rivers to prevent salmon from spawning near the pipeline route:

“We learned this week that the lack of protection has become even more concerning — spawning deterrent mats have been placed in advance of construction, before it’s been approved.” she said.

A Kinder Morgan spokeswoman, Ali Hounsell, told The Canadian Press last week that the spawning deterrents were considered a “preventative measure” to minimize environmental impacts of constructing the pipeline. The National Energy Board has since issued an order for the company to stop unauthorized construction activities.

A spokesperson for for Kinder Morgan commented Monday on the court proceedings, saying that the company “… will be providing our legal argument through the court process and are confident in that process and our position.”

Around noon, Indigenous and environmental leaders spoke outside the courthouse to oppose the pipeline.

“We know when push comes to shove we will be on the front lines standing in solidarity, protecting our children and grandchildren,” Grand Chief Stewart Philip said. “We will get arrested if that’s what it takes.”

Grand Chief Philip Stewart at rally to support legal challenge against the Kinder Morgan pipeline approval on Vancouver on October 2, 2017. Photo by Dylan Waisman

“The exceptional support from the cities of Victoria, Vancouver, and Burnaby, show the deep commitment we all share to protecting and defending our natural values,” he said in a later interview with National Observer.

“Indigenous people are not standing alone. In every sense of the word, we are standing together. The fact that we can successfully stand up to both a large scale corporation and the Canadian government, is powerful. I’m convinced our cause will prevail. Otherwise, there will be mass unrest and we are prepared to do whatever we have to.”

The Government of Canada will respond in court on Oct. 12 and 13 next week. The Province of Alberta and the federal National Energy Board will present their cases on Oct. 13th.

By Dylan Waisman in National Observer, Oct 2nd 2017

[SOURCE]

 

Court of Appeal Rules Against Kinder Morgan, Federal Government on Existing Trans Mountain Pipeline

Court ruled Ottawa failed to scrutinize outdated terms put in place in 1952

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled against Kinder Morgan Canada and the federal government in relation to the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Tuesday’s ruling states the federal government failed in its legal obligation to act in the best interests of the Coldwater Indian Band when it neglected to modernize the terms of a 1952 decision that allowed Kinder Morgan to use Coldwater’s reserve for the pipeline.

Coldwater Indian Band, which is located about 12 kilometres south of Merritt, B.C., has about 860 members, half of which live on the reserve.

The existing Trans Mountain Pipeline was constructed through the reserve in 1952.

At the time, the band received a one-time payment of $1,292.

Failure to scrutinize 1952 terms

The ruling states the minister of Indigenous affairs failed to ensure the terms authorizing Kinder Morgan’s use of the reserve were updated from the outdated terms of 1952.

According to court documents, the minister approved the transfer without properly scrutinizing the transaction.

“In the circumstance, particularly in light of the importance of Coldwater’s interest in its reserve lands, the Crown was under a continuing duty to preserve and protect the band’s interest in the reserve land from an exploitive or improvident bargain,” the decision reads.

“The minister’s failure to assess the current and ongoing impact of the continuation of the easement on Coldwater’s right to use and enjoy its lands rendered his decision unreasonable.”

‘This is a great day’

In a release issued on Wednesday, Coldwater’s chief and council said they were happy with the court’s decision.

“We are very happy that the court recognized the importance of our land to the Coldwater people and that it is holding the Crown to a high standard of conduct in making decisions about our land,” said Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan.

“Now things must change. This is a great day for Coldwater and all First Nations.”

CBC News Posted: Sep 27, 2017

[SOURCE]

Pipeline ‘Man Camps’ Loom over B.C.’s Highway of Tears

An industry camp for workers on a pipeline near Rainbow Lake, Alta. is shown on Jan. 27, 2013. Photo by Jason Woodhead on Flickr Creative Commons.

Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation is nestled on the banks of Stuart Lake in north-central British Columbia, surrounded by rolling foothills and tall trees.

It is a relatively remote community, breathtaking in scenery and dependent on economic opportunities in forestry, mining, and pipeline development. It is a community bracing for major change.

Over the next decade, as many as 6,000 new energy industry workers could descend upon the region. The prospect of such a big influx of workers living in nearby “man camps” has aroused fears of increased violence and drug use.

The influx could more than double the population of about 4,500 in the Fort St. James area, which includes the municipality, rural communities and First Nations. Nak’azdli has just 1,972 members living both on and off reserves. The nearest city, Prince George, is 160 kilometres away.

To get ahead of the documented challenges that accompany an influx of temporary workers from outside the region, the Nak’azdli and Lake Babine First Nations are creating two full-time positions, funded by the B.C. government, to help them prepare.

Nak’azdli Band Councillor Ann Marie Sam says if several industrial project proposals go ahead as planned over the next decade, as many as six new work camps, housing up to 1,000 workers each, could be built within 60 to 100 kilometres of the community.

Among the proposed projects are TransCanada’s: the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the North Montney Mainline pipeline and the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline. The company is reviewing the Prince Rupert project, however, because Pacific NorthWest LNG announced in July that it would not proceed with a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal near Port Edward, B.C. due to economy uncertainty.

The Nak’azdli band had also expressed opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have run through its territory had it not been rejected by the federal government last year.

The danger of bringing in “man camps”

The “man camps” are precisely what their name implies: work camps housing mostly male employees working on resource development projects.

There were more than four men for every woman working in the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas industries in Canada in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal Liberal government is now reviewing Canada’s conservation laws and is expected to tackle this issue. In June, it recommended changes to environmental assessments to require a gender-based analysis of an industrial project’s impacts.

When the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project was under review, community members expressed concern about two camps slated for construction in the traditional territory of the nearby Lake Babine First Nation. The Lake Babine and Nak’azdli nations found common cause, as Nak’azdli’s traditional territory hosts mining and forestry camps already.

The two nations commissioned a joint report, funded by B.C.’s Department of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, with research by the consulting company Firelight Group. Statistics from the study, released in February 2017, indicate that industrial camps are associated with increased rates of sexual assault and violence against Indigenous women, along with addiction, sexually transmitted infections, and family violence.

“The potential for sexual assault, violence, disappearances, (sexually transmitted diseases), increases with the number of trucks on the road,” study author Ginger Gibson told National Observer. “There’s a whole whack of issues that don’t get considered until construction is happening and that’s too late.”

The final report recommends governments and agencies consider legislation, programs and services to address problems associated with industrial camps, and plan for integrated service delivery in advance of resource development projects. It also states a need for governments to allocate new financial and human resources to health, social services, and housing in the region.

Specific recommendations, from provision of addiction counseling to building recreational facilities, are designed to prevent problems and to address them when the do occur.

In an email, a spokesperson for TransCanada wrote that the company regularly engages with Indigenous communities and would continue to do so throughout the life of the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Although TransCanada says it attended an info session during the research phase of the industrial camp report, it wouldn’t provide further comment on the findings.

The B.C. government didn’t respond to requests from National Observer for comment for this article.

A view of Stuart Lake in north central British Columbia. This area is home to the small Nak’azdli First Nation, which is bracing for challenges that can accompany an influx of energy workers. Photo courtesy of the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation

‘Rigger culture’ puts Indigenous women at risk?

The Firelight Group’s research included discussions with local community members about the experience of Indigenous women living near construction camps.

“There’s a ‘rigger culture’ that exists, where a lot of people are working together in a hyper masculine context and they’re not really taking care of themselves — they might be drinking and doing drugs, and then they’re blowing off steam,” said Gibson.

“They’re not in their home community and they don’t think about the (local) people as their family or neighbours so they don’t treat people very kindly.”

Following the findings of the study, Nak’azdli leadership is looking at ways to prepare for the next influx of workers. Community members talk about preparing to welcome newcomers to their territory. Industry representatives talk about working with Indigenous groups to provide local cultural competency courses to their employees.

The Nak’azdli Health Centre is assembling rape kits to gather physical evidence after assaults.

Coun. Ann Marie Sam says planning for assaults is an unfortunate necessity.

“When we started developing rape crisis plans the first question for me was, ‘Why do we have to tell our women we can’t protect you and sexual assaults are going to happen? And when they do, we’re going to have a plan for you,'” she said in an interview. “I thought it was so unfair for our community to have to do that.”

Community leaders worry that nearby women and children could be a target for workers who parachute into the area.

Sam recalled seeing an unfamiliar woman in town about a year ago when she was out walking with one of her daughters.

“I watched her, wondering who she was. One of the delivery trucks from the (Mount Milligan) mine was coming through town, driving fast, saw her, slams on the breaks, dust on the road and stops beside her. She gets in the truck and I don’t know whose daughter that was — if she was a mother, or whose sister that was. But that really struck me.”

Sam said she wondered if the driver solicited the young woman for sex. “Who do you report that to? I didn’t report it because I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t know what happened to her.”

Among risks identified in the Firelight report are increased rates of sexually transmitted infections. The Nak’azdli Health Centre is launching an awareness campaign and promotes STI testing for both workers and community members.

“We want to welcome workers to our town but we also want to let them know that these are the rules of our town,” community health nurse Liza Sam, the councillor’s sister, told National Observer.

“They (workers) don’t have any ownership to our town, so we really want to keep our community intact with less disturbances,” she explained. “If the mine’s gonna be here or other industries, we want them to be the best they can be for community members.”

The proximity of Nak’azdli to the infamous Highway of Tears only adds to the community’s safety concerns.

Since the late 1960s, dozens of women and girls — most of whom are Indigenous — have gone missing or disappeared along Highway 16, an east-west highway spanning northern B.C. that eventually leads through Edmonton and Saskatoon before meeting the TransCanada Highway at Portage la Prairie, Man. The “Highway of Tears” takes in smaller roads in the vicinity too, explains Highway of Tears Walkers co-ordinator Brenda Wilson.

Women reach for an embrace during the Nak’azdli Whut’en’s All Nations Gathering between Aug. 4 and 6, 2017. Photo courtesy of the Nak’azdli Whut’en on Facebook

Away from home with ‘a lot of money’

Mia is a First Nations woman in Alberta. A former sex trade worker, she said camp workers and sex go hand-in-hand. She worked in Fort McMurray for 10 years during the oilsands boom and was on call “23 hours a day.”

Mia’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

“I think the guys are maybe lonely,” she told National Observer. “They’re away from home, they have a lot of money — disposable income if you will.”

She came from what she describes as an abusive, broken home, and said adversarial circumstances led to the sex industry at age 17. She said she was encouraged to tell clients that she was Spanish or Italian, because Indigenous women were considered trash.

“The men became angry if they knew (you were Indigenous), and your value goes down significantly, so we didn’t reveal that.”

Mia described many dangerous encounters, including one with a client she said threatened to hang her in his apartment in Fort McMurray — a memory that haunts her. Employers know full well what’s going on, she added. But they don’t get involved.

“In that industry, nothing would surprise me. I can see people that may be running the camps turning a blind eye to this kind of thing.”

Mia said local women and girls in Alberta are recruited to the sex industry to service camp workers on a regular basis by pimps and escort agencies, and that locals in communities like Nak’azdli wouldn’t be passed by.

“We already know of cases where our young people have been recruited right off the reserve through the Internet. But if (a camp’s) in their own backyards, I would be very concerned,” she explained. “It’s scary. I hope that the communities are looking at ways of preventing and also educating on exploitation.”

Read full story here

September 21st 2017