VICTORIA — First Nations leaders from British Columbia told a National Energy Board hearing in Victoria that there are serious concerns about the potential impacts of an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline on their homelands.
Two leaders representing the Fraser Valley’s Sto:lo Tribal Council say protection of the Fraser River’s salmon, animals and surrounding lands is their eternal responsibility and the pipeline poses risks that could harm their homes and culture.
But Chief Tyrone McNeil and councillor Andrew Victor did not say they are completely opposed to the expansion project.
McNeil, the tribal council’s vice president, says the board must understand that the Sto:lo call the Fraser River their mother because it feeds and nurtures them.
He says the Sto:lo believe they are responsible for looking after everything they see, including the Chinook salmon that are the main food source for threatened southern resident killer whales.
Victor says the Sto:lo want to see justification for the pipeline expansion project, including the completion of environmental assessments that examine risks and impacts of a spill.
The new hearings were prompted after the Federal Court of Appeal tossed out the original approval for the expansion, saying Canada didn’t adequately consult with First Nations or consider tanker traffic’s impact on the marine environment.