PM makes first B.C. visit since TMX pipeline purchase

Justin Trudeau meets with members of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee in Chilliwack

Security was tight as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the federal government’s Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Trans Mountain pipeline project in Chilliwack on Tuesday.

The meeting marked his first foray into B.C. since his government announced it was buying the troubled pipeline for $4.5 billion.

Meeting at a hall on the Cheam reserve, Trudeau was greeted by about 40 protesters, who called the pipeline purchase a betrayal and a threat to the environment and their way of life.

Inside, Trudeau spoke briefly about the work being done by the monitoring committee and the importance of the pipeline to indigenous prosperity before moving into private discussions.

While he agreed the project has generated strong opinions on all sides of the debate, he said it was important to keep the dialogue going.

Trudeau also emphasized the importance of the project to reconciliation, and “how to turn the page on decades, generations, centuries of broken relationships.”

Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee was established by the government to provide environmental and cultural oversight for the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

It is co-chaired by Cheam Chief Ernie Crey, who was an outspoken advocate for the project even before the federal government’s purchase. He says the pipeline offers an unprecedented opportunity for indigenous people to escape crippling poverty.

He’s not alone in that support. Also on board is the Simpcw First Nation, formerly known as North Thompson Indian Band. Like the Cheam, they’re among the 40 aboriginal groups along the pipeline route that have signed mutual benefit agreements with Trans Mountain.

Those outside the meeting are not convinced. They said that many Cheam band members do not support the pipeline.

Others called for a move away from fossil fuels. “We must move as quickly as we can to a green energy economy,” said Sto:lo elder and wild salmon advocate Eddie Gardner.

Trudeau’s visit comes a day after nationwide protests against the pipeline purchase.

Trudeau left the meeting without talking to the protesters. His next stop is Sherwood Park, Alta., where he’ll visit the Kinder Morgan Edmonton Terminal South.

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