Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understood when he approved to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline on Tuesday that the project had support from some Indigenous communities and recognized other Indigenous communities “are in disagreement in the way forward that we’ve chosen” in Canada and the United States.

But, he added, “we will continue to listen to them and work with them to allay their fears and concerns.”

Trudeau Trudeau spoke at a press conference in Washington on Thursday. He has been telling the public that he supports a green economy. Yet many Indigenous communities say his decisions show otherwise, especially with an election approaching this October.

The prime minister said the profits from the expanded pipeline will go toward clean energy projects.

“We should take advantage of what we have, and invest the profits in what comes next: building the clean energy future that is already at our doorstep,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Fundamentally, this isn’t a choice between producing more conventional energy or less. It’s a choice about where we can sell it and how we get it there safely.”

Line one of the Trans Mountain Pipeline already exists and carries crude oil and refined petroleum products from Tars Sands in Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. The $5.5 billion oil pipeline, or line two, expansion twins the first line. It will also run from Alberta to refineries and terminals in Burnaby and Washington state.

One delivery point of the Trans Mountain Pipeline connects with the Puget Sound Pipeline which delivers to four oil refineries to Washington state’s west coast.

This expansion increases the amount of oil transported from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. It will also “diversify Canada’s export market” to oil markets in Washington state, Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Right now, Trudeau says 99 percent of the oil goes to the U.S. He doesn’t want to depend on one buyer. Secondary markets for the oil include California, Hawaii and Alaska.

This project has Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States fighting on both sides of the aisle. Some are against it and others are against it.

Trudeau said he is “very pleased that there are many, many Indigenous communities across the pipeline route that are supportive of this project have signed a impact-benefit agreements that will be moving forward as partners on the pipeline as we construct it.”

It will create jobs and business opportunities for these nations and be the progression needed to move toward “a cleaner, greener economy,” he said.

“That's why we moved forward in a model way on consultation and partnership with Indigenous communities and why we're going to continue to make sure that Indigenous communities are at the heart of the path forward, including as we've announced potential Indigenous ownership of the pipeline,” Trudeau said at a Washington press conference. “That could be 25 percent, 50 percent, or even a 100 percent ownership by Indigenous peoples in this country, in our country of the expanded pipeline.”

The Coldwater Indian Band in British Columbia announced Thursday that they will challenge the pipeline expansion in the Federal Court of Appeal, according to reporter Chantelle Bellrichard of CBC News.

The pipeline runs under the band’s reserve. Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan told CBC that “the meaningful dialogue that was supposed to happen never happened.”

Spahan’s community is still dealing with issues from the first line that runs through one of their reserves. 

Some First Nations in British Columbia share the northwest waters with Washington tribes. Both want to protect the salmon and orcas from the potential oil spills.

Raynell Morris of the Lummi Nation told KUOW that human beings are just as in danger as the orcas. The Lummi Nation is located on the coast, 90 miles north of Seattle and 60 miles south of Vancouver.

“What happens to qwe ‘lhol mechen will happen to us," Morris said. "And I don’t mean just us, the Lummi people, I mean all of us.”

The Suquamish Nation also relies on the northwest waters to feed their community and for their economic development. The nation’s seafood business, Suquamish Seafoods, harvests fish and shellfish from the Puget Sound for their customers.

The nation has already been battling the navy shipyard who has been accused of dumping sewage into the waters this spring. One documented spill has caused the tribe’s business to recall their shellfish.

“We’re going to continue to fight for the Salish Sea,” Suquamish tribal chairman Leonard Forsman told KUOW.

The pipeline causes concern for the orcas and salmon, which are already endangered. They’re also a crucial part of the tribes’ ways of life.

Since the pipeline will bring more tankers to the coast, the orcas will be “overwhelmed” by their noise and the increase of vessel traffic. 

(MORE: ‘Our relatives are calling for help’ - Northwest Tribes stand up for dying Orcas)

In an Op-Ed written by four tribal leaders, Chairman of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Brian Cladoosby, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman, Tulalip Tribal Chairwoman Teri Gobin and Lummi Nation Chairman Jay Julius, hoped Trudeau would make the right decision. Cladoosby was the former president of the National Congress of American Indians.

The National Energy Board’s report pointed out the potential damage of the pipeline expansion, such as an increase in greenhouse cases. All the while governments in Canada declared a “climate emergency.”

“The report confirmed that the pipeline would cause significant harm to the endangered orcas that make their home in the Salish Sea, which is also the area where we and our Canadian relatives have lived, traveled and fished since time immemorial,” they wrote. “The marine species in these waters know no border, and the risks to Indigenous peoples in both Canada and the US also cross borders.”

The leaders also said this expansion “clearly places the lion’s share of the burden on Coast Salish tribes and nations, and indeed all people and species that rely on the Salish Sea for nourishment, recreation and cultural and spiritual fulfillment.

Part of the opposition includes Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a presidential candidate for the 2020 election, said Trudeau’s decision is “alarming and deeply disappointing.”

"The costs to our environment and communities are simply too high. This pipeline, if built, will impose significant negative impacts on our coastal communities, increase the risk of oil spills in our shared waters and double down on carbon-intensive fossil fuels at a time when world leaders need to double down on clean energy. It would unwind our urgent efforts to reduce toxics in our environment, protect our orcas and improve oil-transport safety. If the pipeline is expanded, we may see a call for additional investments to bring more fossil fuels into Washington state.

"But this expansion is not inevitable. I stand with Premier Horgan in wanting to defend the coast. Canada has led so many important climate initiatives over the past several years, and it’s time for them to do the same now. We will continue to pursue every option possible to protect our waters and our communities."

Trudeau visited Washington yesterday to talk with President Donald J. Trump about the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. He also visited with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email:

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