Did Canada just announce legislation that would mean no new fossil fuel projects?
This has been one interesting week. In the past few days we’ve seen Indigenous peoples in BC launch a call for bold action to stop Kinder Morgan, the Alberta government attack small BC businesses on behalf of a massive Texan oil company, and followed the Trudeau government’s rollout of new environmental legislation. Oh, and the House of Commons voted the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law Wednesday night.
That’s a lot so let’s try and understand exactly what’s happening this week, and what it means for all of us.
So let’s start with the most recent events. On Thursday, Catherine McKenna introduced sweeping changes to Canada’s environmental assessment regime. Make no mistake, this is happening for one reason and one reason only — people power. From the thousands of climate application to the National Energy Board review of Energy East, to the ongoing fight against Kinder Morgan, our movement forced this government to try and rebuild trust in their broken review system.
Our pressure forced the government to introduce environmental assessments that, on paper, promises to only approve projects that both fit within Canada’s climate commitments and fully respect Indigenous rights. Put another way, this government just put the tools in place that could put Canada on track to stop building new fossil fuel projects and start getting behind a 100% renewable future.
Key word: could.
We know all too well that when it comes to climate change and Indigenous rights, Justin Trudeau’s government is all too susceptible to Big Oil’s influence. We saw it on full display at Thursday’s press conference, when Environment Minister Catherine McKenna doubled down on her government’s support for Kinder Morgan, a project we know does not fit into Canada’s climate commitments. She added that Free Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous Peoples — the cornerstone of UNDRIP — was optional. And McKenna also implied in Alberta, these new rules more or less didn’t apply to the tar sands, Canada’s biggest and fastest growing source of emissions.
So, what should we take away from this?
First, we should all take a moment to recognize the climate movement’s role in forcing this legislation into reality and to dream about what’s possible if we keep pushing.
Second, let’s recognize that this government is doubling down on Kinder Morgan, making Indigenous rights optional and opening massive loopholes in environmental assessment for Canada’s biggest polluters means we still have a lot of work to do. And Alberta’s new economic embargo on BC wine isn’t helping.
That leads to the third take away: the time for action is right now. We think that the new rules, as written, should be applied to the ongoing review of the Teck Frontier mine, the largest open-pit tar sands mine ever proposed. The Teck Mine violates Indigenous rights, would blow Alberta and Canada past their own climate targets and bring an entire suite of other environmental risks.
It’s a longshot but if enough of us demand a real review of Teck Frontier that includes Indigenous rights and climate change considerations, we force PM Trudeau to make a clear choice: people and the planet, or big oil’s profits.
There’s more. This Tuesday, Indigenous Coast Salish youth and spiritual leaders living at the terminus of the Kinder Morgan pipeline launched a bold new project called “Kwekwecnewtxw — Protect the Inlet”. It kicks off with a mass mobilization in BC’s lower mainland on March 10th.
We will also be in touch soon with ways you can take action in your community.
Like I said, it’s been a big week with so much to digest. The good news is, we’re having an impact and if we keep pushing, keep organizing and standing together for bold, ambitious action, I truly believe we can stop Kinder Morgan and bring in an era where clear eyed climate science and respect for Indigenous rights are the basis for making decisions on Canada’s energy future.