Student groups organize anti-Trans Mountain Expansion letter

The initiative has been signed by numerous student unions

Image Courtesy of Trans Mountain via Facebook

Written by: Mahdi Dialden, News Writer

Several student-led groups at SFU have collaborated in an attempt to stop the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project. The SFU anti-TMX collaboration has “gained the support of 13 student unions representing over 180,000 post-secondary students in Canada and in the United States,” according to Iulia Zgreabăn, a member of the anti-TMX group called Justice, No Pipeline. 

The SFSS, Justice, No Pipeline, and DogwoodSFU have worked together to protest the project. They launched an initiative that started in May to write a letter urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet their demands. 

The main demands are to put a stop to the expansion project, honour Indigenous sovereignty, and “invest in Indigenous-led green infrastructure and green job-retaining initiatives.” The letter also urges Trudeau to start “implementing the call to action and the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” according to Zgreabăn.

In an interview with The Peak, Zgreabăn explained the reasons for their stance on the issue: “Number one is that it undermines Indigenous sovereignty by pushing a pipeline through [their land], without the full consent of all concerned nations.

“It endangers Burnaby Mountain, including students at Burnaby campus [ . . . ] and it’s located 800 meters away from SFU. There are also two elementary schools nearby, which would also be in danger if in case of a spill or a boil over or similar events,” Zgreabăn said. 

Elaborating, Zgreabăn added, “It counteracts Canada’s climate change goals and endangers the environment [as] it would increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and it also increases the risk of spills. And it just doesn’t make sense to invest in fossil fuels today to invest in renewable energy tomorrow.”

The Trans Mountain Pipeline is one that spans from Alberta to British Columbia, transferring oil to BC’s coast. The expansion aims to create a second pipeline almost parallel to the original, which will pass by Burnaby Mountain along the way. The $12.6 billion project will include 12 pumping stations and 980 kilometres of new pipeline.

In an email statement to The Peak, Trans Mountain said, “Since the beginning of the Expansion Project, we have had extensive engagement with neighbours, landowners, residents, and local businesses to ensure feedback is heard and respected. The safety of our people, our facilities, and the environment is paramount in everything we do.” 

The statement continued, “The most critical and responsible emergency management strategy is to prevent a spill from occurring. However, if there’s a spill, Trans Mountain is prepared to respond quickly with detailed emergency procedures and trained professionals.”

Tiny House Warriors, an Indigenous anti-TMX group, are leading an initiative to keep the pipeline from passing unceded Secwepemc territory. A statement on their website says, “We have never provided and will never provide our collective free, prior and informed consent — the minimal international standard — to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project.”

According to Kanahus Manuel, a spokesperson for the Tiny House Warriors, “The Trudeau government does not have the right to put a pipeline through unceded Secwépemc land [ . . . ] To try to legitimize this illegal act, Canada uses what legal scholars call [ . . . ] misinterpretation of ‘consent’ which is inconsistent with Indigenous, constitutional and international law.”

Trans Mountain stated that they “respect the constitutional rights, unique culture, diversity, languages, and traditions of Indigenous People in Canada.” They added, “We acknowledge the significance of culture and language for Indigenous People and the considerable traditional knowledge that has been passed on for generations. Trans Mountain has signed Agreements with 59 Indigenous groups in BC and Alberta that represent more than $500 million in benefits and opportunities for Indigenous communities.”

The letter organized by the SFSS, Justice, No Pipeline, and Dogwood SFU can be found here.