An Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau - Why the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is not ok

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Vancouver in Nov. 2016. Photo by by Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press.

I am writing you with a heavy heart; not only as a spokesperson for the Sacred Trust initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the people of Burrard Inlet, but also as a parent. 

It is important to me that you know that I am sincere and that I am sending you this letter because of the fear that I have for my children’s future and the future of the land and water we inhabit.

I implore you to please stop and take just one more moment to really consider how the decision that you make today will affect our children and grandchildren and generations to come. 

 A generation is generally considered to be 25 years. A pipeline can last for 175 years or more. Building a pipeline today is not a short-term commitment.  It locks in a way of life and the inherent dangers for many lifetimes. 

We rejected the Kinder Morgan pipeline project under our laws because it violated the sacred trust we have with the water. The extensive scientific study that we commissioned, clearly demonstrated that the risks are just too great to accept. 

I’m hopeful that you have heard of our assessment report. Have you read it? I am hoping that you will not make this decision without taking the time to personally examine the scientific and cultural reasons this project is unacceptable to us. 

These are my teachings. I do not live by these principles because I want to create a legacy but in truth, this is that kind of moment. 

I believe you must ask yourself as a parent and as a leader of a nation blessed with an abundance of a substance that can be both a blessing and a curse, what side of history do you want to be on.

This is a fork in the road. I often ask myself what I want my children to know that I left for them. I can think of nothing more important than the protection of our water and our climate. 

By the end of the year, you and your cabinet, Mr. Trudeau are slated to make a decision that will not only affect our inlet and my children but all of the children of Canada and in fact, to some degree, the entire world.

This decision is about whether or not to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline. But, it is not just about a pipeline and the potential it has to destroy the marine life, including endangered orcas and salmon of our inlet; the economy of this vibrant corner of the country or; the climate that is perhaps our most precious and precarious asset in this world; this decision will be about leadership – and at this time when we surely need strong, ethical leadership in the world; it will be up to you.

When your children or the children of the oil sands worker in Alberta or indeed the children of the Filipino farmer who has become a climate refugee, asks you what you did to halt the death of the coral reefs; to save the last orcas, to stop the northward spread of Malaria and Zika virus or to find new jobs for people in an industry that doesn’t make them culpable in these horrible threats, what will you want to tell them?

I barely know how to talk to my children about these decisions now. People did not lose jobs in Alberta because of a lack of pipelines, anymore than we didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.

We should be building a sustainable economy that avoids the duel chaos of unstable oil prices and destabilized global ecosystems. If this is the only path that we can imagine taking for our economy, we are well and truly broken.

Short-term profits, short-term thinking and even shorter-term election cycles make it both difficult and intimidating to see our children’s futures when we look at the choices before us.

We have been living off the land and water in this area since time immemorial and we will not be leaving… ever. That is how long you would have to able to promise a pipeline would not spill for it to be acceptable.

I have heard you say that we need the pipelines to pay for the wind turbines. Unfortunately, that idea made some sense when your father was our Prime Minister but in terms of climate change it is just too late for that now. Climate leaders cannot afford to build pipelines. 

We have two choices: we can get serious about drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels or we can lock in this infrastructure, increase our dependence on a boom and bust industry and sentence our children to dealing with the consequences. 

This project might look good on paper but leadership is never about what something looks like. Leadership comes from lighting the way on a clear path to a better future. And you know, I believe that you are that leader.

I think a lot of people do. It is why they voted for you. They want a leader who goes the extra mile and finds a way forward that does not compromise our future. And certainly, our children know what the future looks like to them right now; the cynicism is palpable. They see our leaders saying one thing and then doing another. They no longer believe that people can be trusted.

We have reached out to moms all across Canada to send you messages as your decision approaches. I hope you look at these messages as well when you consider what to do about this proposal. I ask you to please protect our children and protect us all. We are counting on you.


hay čxʷ q̓ə siʔem̓

Charlene Aleck
Sacred Trust Initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau- Why the Kinder Morgan pipeline is not ok pdf

 Charlene Aleck and daughter. Photo courtesy Sacred Trust Initiative.

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