[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A major new oil and gas pipeline through the British Columbia region of Canada has received government backing despite protests from indigenous peoples groups. The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation described this week’s decision as “the beginning of a long battle” to stop the project. Last month, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod (Cogs) passed a resolution by consensus in which they expressed “their support for Indigenous peoples and their desire to grow and deepen that trust both within the church and without; in asserting and advocating their right to free, prior and informed consent concerning the stewardship of traditional Indigenous lands and water rights, and in acknowledging and responding to their calls for solidarity.”
The resolution was proposed by Cogs member Melanie Delva who told members of a conversation she had had with priest the Revd Laurel Dykstra. Dykstra had spent a week with the Standing Rock Sioux reserve in North Dakota, which has been the setting for a long-running battle between indigenous Americans and constructors building an oil pipeline there.
The situation in Standing Rock is not unique, Delva said, as she pointed to major decisions in Canada regarding resource extraction coming soon such as for the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline in December.” She described her motion as “a reaffirmation of the commitment of the Anglican Church of Canada to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.
Charlene Aleck, a councillor with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, told CBC that she was “not surprised” by the decision to approve the pipeline extension and said that it would lead to a considerable increase in tanker traffic through her area. “I’m sincerely disappointed,” she said. “This is not just our backyard, this is literally in our kitchen . . . It’s definitely the beginning of a long battle ahead for us.”
The proposed $6.8 billion CAD (approximately £4.05 bn GBP), 1,150 km twinned pipeline extension would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline to 890,000 barrels a day. It would transport a range of oil products from Edmonton, Alberta, to Burnaby, British Columbia. Amongst the concerns expressed is the anticipated 700 per cent increase in tanker traffic in the Burnaby area could lead to diluted bitumen in an ecologically sensitive area.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, rejected these concerns, pointing to 157 conditions that have been imposed on the project and a new $1.5 billion CAD ocean protection plan to improve responses to tanker and fuel spills in the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
“If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it,” he said. “This is a decision based on rigorous debate on science and evidence. We have not been, and will not be swayed by political arguments, be they local, regional or national.”
The motion at last month’s Cogs was one of a number on indigenous issues. In his report to Cogs, the church’s general secretary, Michael Thompson, highlighted the contributions of the church in opening up conversations about acculturation and indigenous forms of ecclesiology.
“He said that the Anglican Church of Canada was learning to think of itself as a church in which indigenous people are full participants and in which their self-determination within that participation is seen not just as a value for indigenous Anglicans, but for the whole church,” the notes from the meeting said.
“Noting that the Anglican Church of Canada’s submission to the parliamentary committee on physician-assisted dying was the only submission that invited consideration of cultural realities within indigenous communities at the time of death, Thompson described that moment as an example in which the church heard and spoke in a way that bears witness to who church members are and what they are trying to become as the Anglican Church of Canada.”
The Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, will talk about the Church’s reconciliation work with indigenous Canadians in a lecture in London, England, next week. Archbishop Hiltz will speak about the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice when he delivers the inaugural Maple Leaf Lecture.
The Primate’s Commission was established in 2013 following the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by the province’s General Synod. The Doctrine of Discovery provided European and north American powers with a legal justification for claiming the lands of indigenous peoples in colonial lands. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said that such actions were part of a plan to “eliminate Aboriginal peoples . . . and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”
The Primate’s Commission was tasked with responding to the question “What is reconciliation?”, and formulating the Church’s long term commitment to solidarity with indigenous peoples “in addressing the long-standing injustices they continue to bear in Canada.”
The Maple Leaf Lecture was established by the trustees of the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf – formerly a Church of England missionary society, the FML works now to provide funding for ministry development and educational projects within the indigenous communities of Canada and travel bursaries for cross cultural study projects between Canada and the UK.
Archbishop Hiltz will deliver his Maple Leaf Lecture at 7.30pm on Monday (5 December) in the Council Room of King’s College on The Strand. Admission is free.