An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

I remember following your election victory in the early hours of October 20th, 2015 while on vacation halfway around the world. I was hopeful your leadership would be an improvement compared to another term of Stephen Harper. You said, “We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post” and I was optimistic. I heard your speech about supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, promising necessary reconciliation with our First Nations. You’ve supported the global scientific community’s overwhelming position that climate change is real and impacted by human behaviours, voicing your commitment to The Paris Climate Accord to lower Canada’s carbon emissions and prevent a catastrophic future.

You were saying all the right things. You even looked the part: a young, active West Coast guy with a Haida tattoo who boxes, snowboards and does yoga. You come off as very relatable. When I heard you talking about our beautiful West Coast – “This has been home for me for many, many years, throughout my life, and I get this place; I get how important it is to support it” – I was almost won over to becoming a supporter of yours, almost. There is just one problem: what you’re saying isn’t adding up to what you’re actually doing.

You’re supposed to be our country’s trusted leader. In your promotion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, you claim your position is supported by science, economics, law and even First Nations. None of these assertions are true, however. The reality about the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is that it is connected to the antithesis of what you claim to support. Like you, I’m also a leader. With that title comes the responsibility to hold the trust of those you lead. As a father of two young girls, I’m constantly trying to instil an understanding of good values in them. We should tell the truth and be consistently honest and keep our word. If we don’t do those things, people will not want to associate with us and may become hostile towards us.

On March 21, 1951, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Company was created by a special Act of Parliament. On that same day, the company made a pipeline proposal to the Board of Transport Commissioners. Ownership of the company was split between Canadian Bechtel Ltd. and Standard Oil. This was the same year that saw Parliament “reform” the racist Indian Act. In 1952, the pipeline was constructed and oil was flowing through it by 1953. For perspective, First Nations people weren’t even allowed to legally vote until 1960. The very foundations of this project are premised by a lack of consent and disenfranchisement of the original stakeholders. Without first acknowledging and remedying this initial injustice how can current and future considerations of this project be deemed just or fair?

You campaigned with promises of overhauling the National Energy Board’s flawed approval process and fully consulting with First Nations, only to pull an about-face and use that same faulty mechanism to drive forward Trans Mountain’s approval. The human rights tragedy of this project isn’t only about self-determination and court battles. It is far simpler. On the other end of this pipeline, at its source, is an ongoing attack on the ability of First Nations inhabitants to live a fair and healthy existence. Tar Sands extraction is rapidly destroying the Boreal forests and river ways, that are home to many First Nations that rely on them to eat, drink and practise their traditional ways. No sane economic rationalization can put profits above human lives; your rhetoric about jobs is shameful. As our leader, your job is to safeguard the lives of all Canadians. The oil patch worker’s job is not more important than the lives of all the people being poisoned by Tar Sands extraction and the carbon impacts to our planet. The Alberta Tar Sands account for 38% of Canada’s carbon footprint.

Like you, I have travelled to Fort McMurray. I think we could both agree the experience of being there was very impactful. The bleakness, the lack of animal life and the stench of death were startling to me. I’m confused that you would want to expand this wound. For me, the impact of my time there was that I needed to do everything in my power to prevent the continued degradation of our planet and the poisoning of the local inhabitants. To this end, I have opposed the Tar Sands and their expansion both with words and deeds. Most recently, I’ve joined with local First Nations to protest at Kinder Morgan’s terminus and holding tanks on Burnaby Mountain.

I was arrested on March 24 for peacefully expressing my opposition to this terrible project. The discretion used in choosing to arrest certain protestors on some days for doing the same thing in the same place while others are left unmolested by authorities is concerning. By my count, there should be several hundred more arrestees at the time of this writing. Your tweet on April 8, 2018, “Canada is a country of the rule of law, and the federal government will act in the national interest. Access to world markets for Canadian resources is a core national interest. The Trans Mountain expansion will be built” did not sit well with me. If you’re so interested in the rule of law, why have most of the arrestees not been given their due process? Most of us have not been served notice for hearings consistent with a timely or appropriate manner. The charges have been changed from civil to criminal contempt and have been processed at a pace that hasn’t allowed many to retain counsel or mount a healthy defence. The rule of law also says that First Nations must be engaged in meaningful consultation, something you continue to avoid by engaging in meetings without their leadership represented.

Please reconsider your position on this pipeline because it will never be built. A recent poll by Insights West shows 44% of British Columbians are opposed to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline. It further explains that 23% of that number are willing to engage in civil disobedience, roughly 10% of adults in our province. This is a fight you won’t win. Choose to be on the right side of history with greater consideration of our future generations. Invest in sustainable alternative energy sources that will benefit all Canadians.

Ishi Dinim

4 thoughts on “An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau”

  1. To the Honorable Prime Minister Trudeau,

    Just want to say that Trump’s actions are out-of-control. You did nothing
    wrong. Trump is an egotistic selfish – I fear evil man – do not give in to him.
    I will never understand how the republicans allow him to act like a dictator. Why is he allowed to start a trade war? We are no security threat. How is allowed to get away with all his lies? I AM HORRIFIED WITH WHAT THE REPUBLICANS ALLOW TRUMP TO GET AWAY WITH ????

  2. Furthermore…

    “Oilsands”. Not “Tarsands”.

    Again you’ve made it apparent you have no clue what you are talking about so we’ll leave it there.

  3. You sir are a moron of epic proportions.

    Our region is beautiful, vibrant, and animal life is abundant.

    As for the stench of death, that’s your head firmly planted up your ass.

  4. Wow!

    You have never been to Fort McMurray have you? That’s obvious by your characterization of the place.

    I would strongly suggest, though, that you stay where you are, in your parents basement as it appears you don’t have a life in the real world.


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