It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is determined
to make Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion work. This is in spite of the growing movement demanding
its shutdown and the movement is considered Canada’s Standing Rock. Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan
and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in his office on Parliament Hill on Sunday in an effort
to mend the differences between the two [New] Democratic Party Premiers. Trudeau want to see this pipeline proceed,
in spite of the fact that experts and the Aboriginal community consider this pipeline
dangerous to the wellbeing of their communities. $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline project
is designed to increase dramatically the capacity of an existing pipeline system to transport
bitumen from Canada’s tar sands in northern Alberta to the west coast of Canada, where
it is to be exported by tankers to Asian markets. On to discuss these developments with me is
Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri was a leading class action lawyer
in Canada, now working on human rights law. He was a member of the Green Party of Canada’s
shadow cabinet, and now an environmental journalist for the Real News Network. I thank you so much for joining us. Thank you very much, Sharmini. So Dimitri, give us an update on the issue
that you have been covering for a while now, but in light of this meeting that took place
on Sunday in the offices of Trudeau. What’s happening? What are the latest developments? Well, it’s remarkable. I mean, Justin Trudeau’s government has been
in power since late 2015. So we’re now into the third year of his government. I can’t remember a single instance in which
anything happened in the time that Justin Trudeau has been the prime minister where
he convened an emergency cabinet meeting. That single occasion, as far as I can recall,
on which this happened was when Peter Morgan issued a press release. You know, a Texas oil company issued a press
release saying it was suspending, not terminating the project, but suspending work on the project,
and were inviting, basically, negotiations on what to do about opposition to the project,
which had to be concluded by May 31. It was remarkable how the government, a government
that championed the cause of climate change at the very outset of Justin Trudeau’s term,
you know, immediately jumped to attention when a Texas oil company demanded that something
be done about opposition to this pipeline. When he emerged from the emergency cabinet
meeting he said two things. He said he was going to put public money,
an unspecified amount of public money, towards the project to keep Kinder Morgan in the game. And he said this was going to be negotiated
behind closed doors, which in and of itself raises real serious questions about his commitment
to transparency and democratic decision making. And the other thing he said was he was going
to pass legislation which was somehow going to reassert the Federal Government’s dominion
over this whole issue of the Trans Mountain pipeline. You know when it comes to the notion of putting
taxpayer dollars into this project, first of all, they’re putting taxpayer dollars and
would putting taxpayer dollars into a project which, as James Hansen, NASA scientist, has
said would result in game over for the climate , the continued exploitation of the tar sands
will result in game over for the climate. And secondly, is radically inconsistent with
Justin Trudeau’s commitment made in the 2015 federal election to end fossil fuel subsidies. What he’s effectively promising to do is not
only not to end them, which he hasn’t done, contrary to his promise, but to in fact increase
the amount of public money that’s going into supporting this industry. And then you have this very interesting question
of legislation. The federal government, you know, arguably
does have the ability to legislate when it comes to a pipeline that crosses provincial
boundaries, when it comes to a pipeline which, as Justin Trudeau claims, is in the national
interest, which is a whole other controversy unto itself. But whatever legislation he may pass is going
to be subject to challenge by indigenous groups and by the provincial government in British
Columbia. And those legal challenges may go on for some
years. And he can’t stop the challenges from coming,
even if he ultimately wins that battle. And in the interim what is going to happen,
what is kinder Morgan’s commitment to this project going to be while these legal challenges
to whatever legislation he plans to pass are working their way through the courts? By the time we get to a resolution of that
legislation it’s entirely possible that the economics of this pipeline will be even less
certain, even more questionable than they currently are today. Dimitri, tell us about the pressure put on
by Kinder Morgan offering this May 31 deadline. What does it mean? Well, basically what Kinder Morgan has said,
it’s basically put an economic gun to the government’s head and said if you don’t come
up with money and some means of, you know, bringing the B.C., the British Columbia government
to heel and all of these protesters to heel, then we may potentially pull out of the project
entirely. Now, you know, if Justin Trudeau was actually
committed to fighting the climate crisis, to resolving the climate crisis, he would
have welcomed the announcement of a potential termination of the Kinder Morgan project. But instead he sees this, he and his government,
in their apparently unlimited devotion to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels,
see this as a threat to the national interest. It actually is a positive development, not
only for Canada but for the world as a whole, that the company that is pursuing this tar
sands pipeline expansion is contemplating terminating the project. That should be a welcome development. He sees it as a threat to the national interests,
and therefore has effectively jumped to attention and said, let’s see what we can do to satisfy
this Texas oil company. All right, Dimitri. Several weeks ago we saw a huge demonstration
of Aboriginal communities, community leaders, coming out in full force to oppose this pipeline. Give us a sense of what their objections are
and what Justin Trudeau’s response is to them. Well, essentially, you know, this, this project
is terminating on unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. And under Canadian law they have a right to
be consulted in a meaningful way, and arguably they have a right also to either withhold
or give their consent to the project. So that they do not consent to it, then the
project cannot go forward. And they’ve not given their consent, nor have
they been adequately consulted. They have said, we are going to fight this
in the courts all the way. We’re going to fight this civil disobedience
if necessary, and that’s what they have been doing. You know, the federal government, and apparently
the governments of, the New Democratic governments of both British Columbia and Alberta, the
two warring provinces in this fight, have all committed to the United Nations resolution
relating to the rights of indigenous peoples. The idea that the Trudeau government and the
Alberta government would press forward with this project and try to force it down the
throats of not only indigenous peoples but people of British Columbia is radically inconsistent
with their stated commitment to the United Nations Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples. You simply can’t be both a champion of indigenous
rights and a champion of the Trans Mountain pipeline at same time. All right, Dimitri, I know you’re keeping
an eye on this story and the developments in it. I will come back to you very soon, as I think
that this is going to create a tremendous reaction on the part of the people that have
been organizing to oppose it. It sure will. I mean, we’re talking now about a potential
constitutional crisis, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for this country. All right, Dimitri. I thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you, Sharmini. And thank you for joining us here on the Real
News Network.