Mohawks threaten to block Energy East pipeline

The Mohawk nation is threatening to do everything legally in its power to block TransCanada's Energy East pipeline project, calling it a threat to their way of life. Mohawk Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge "Otsi" Simon warned in a March 9 letter to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard that the project to move 1.1 million barrels of crude and shale oil a day from Alberta to refineries in Canada's east is "risky and dangerous" for First Nations and a threat to their lands, waters and very survival. "Indeed an alliance of indigenous nations, from coast to coast, is being formed against all the pipeline, rail and tanker projects that would make possible the continued expansion of tar sands," Simon wrote. "One thing for sure, we the Mohawks of Kanesatake will not be brushed aside any longer and we wish to press upon you that we reserve the right to take legal action if necessary to prevent the abuse of our inherent rights."

The pipeline proposal is now opposed by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Iroquois Caucus and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs—who are fighting their own pipeline battle on Canada's west coast. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is noncommittal. In in January, Trudeau said it's up to TransCanada to prove the merits of the $15.7 billion project, not him. (National Post, March 14)

Rghts defenders are warning that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is planning to conduct mass arrests of members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation in northwestern British Columbia who have establishmed a protest encampment on their traditional lands that lie on the proposed pathway of Chevron's Pacific Trail gas pipeline and Enbridge's Northern Gateway dual oil and gas pipeline. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued a statement last August saying that the Unist'ot'en Camp is on "high alert" in anticipation of a raid.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) also protested any move to evict the camp, citing Supreme Court of Canada rulings, including Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia of 2014, recognizing that "Aboriginal Title includes the right to use, manage, possess land, and to decide how the land will be used."

The BCCLA raised concern that the newly passed Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, or Bill C-51, giving police agencies broad powers to disrupt protests, could be used against the Unist'ot'en Camp. Despite widespread protests across Canada, the bill was passed by House of Commons in May—with the support of both the then-ruling Conservatives and Trudeau's Liberals. It was approved in July by the (unelected) Senate, and became law. (Vancouver Observer, Aug. 31; Canadian Progressive, Aug. 28, 2015)

The Pacifc Trail and Northern Gateway projects were dealt a blow when Trudeau's new government barred tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia. (Globe & Mail, Dec. 5; CBC, Nov. 15) TransCanada is the same company that hopes to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline across the United States.