Backed by a B.C. First Nation, the Lummi First Nation and Tulalip Tribes of Washington State are calling for a moratorium on the Trans Mountain pipeline project and development of a Vancouver-regional coal terminal pending a comprehensive assessment of their impacts.
First Nations from both sides of the border made the argument at a news conference on Wednesday, threatening to protest unless there is a moratorium and review, measures aimed at protecting orcas, fisheries and traditional economies.
“We’re not going to sit idly by if they ignore us,” Kurt Russo, a senior policy analyst with the sovereignty and treaty protection office of the Lummi Nation, said.
Raynell Morris, director of the sovereignty and treaty protection office of the Lummi Nation, agreed.
“We’re prepared to protect our sea, our land, Mother Earth, our relatives by standing united, doing the right thing for our future,” she said.
Asked whether that includes protest, she said: “By any means available and possible as necessary.”
The Lummi, who represent more than 5,000 members, have a reservation west of Bellingham. The Tulalip are located in Washington State’s mid-Puget Sound region.
Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, associated with the Lummi as members of Coast Salish Nations, noted that the Lummi have previously taken a stand against the impacts of the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“They are a powerhouse nation that the [First Nations] and tribes listen to in the United States, and when they get involved in something, when they want to move something, people listen,” Mr. George said in an interview.
He said he was present on Wednesday to support them in their call for the impacts assessment and moratorium.
The Lummi and other First Nations are taking issue with a proposed coal-export terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta, south of Vancouver, that they say would increase shipping traffic, affecting salmon and other ecosystems in the region.
The project would create 108 hectares of industrial land, with a three-berth terminal for container ships. It would create about 1,500 on-terminal jobs, according to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
Asked about the Lummi concerns, the port authority, speaking for the Roberts Bank development, said it seeks to balance trade and shipping with the protection of the environment, including at-risk whales.
It said it has created a program to better understand the cumulative effects of shipping on whales in the region, including the southern resident killer whale – a priority issue for the Lummi and other First Nations.
It also said the project will not result in an increase in the number of container ships at the Port of Vancouver because larger ships will be used in the future.
“We are committed to continuing to have these very important conversations with Indigenous groups, now and into the future.”
The Lummi are also concerned about the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs between Alberta and Burnaby, just east of Vancouver.
With a report from The Canadian Press