Secwepemc Declaration on Protecting Our Land & Water Against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline
(Clearwater, BC at the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly / June 4, 2017)
We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw. We have lived on our land since time immemorial and have never been conquered by war. We collectively hold title and governance regarding Secwepemcul’ecw and the collective consent of the Secwepemc is required for any access to our lands, waters and resources.
The Secwepemc collectively are the decision-making authority for Secwepemcul’ecw lands and waters. The Secwepemc are committed to upholding our collective and spiritual responsibility to look after the land, the language and the culture of our people. Under Secwepemc and spiritual law, the land, the water, the animals are our equals and our relations. The salmon has sustained us since time immemorial and hence it is our responsibility to take care of our salmon, the watercourses they travel through and their spawning and birthing grounds in our territory. Our ceremonies ensure that our way of life and our environment are protected. Secwepemc law is the highest law of the land.
We, the Secwepemc, stand resolutely together against any and all threats to our lands, the wildlife and the waterways. Today the most serious threat comes from the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Secwepemul’ecw is the largest indigenous territory that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project is proposed to pass through, covering up to 518 km of the pipeline route. The federal and provincial governments and Kinder Morgan have failed to engage with the Secwepemc collectively, as the proper title and rights holders. Their infringement of our laws, our spirituality, and our relationship to the land can never be accepted or justified.
The federal government unilaterally approved the original Trans Mountain Pipeline in 1951, when Indigenous Peoples were prohibited from organizing on land issues and holding our ceremonies. The original pipeline went into operation in 1953 without the consent of the Secwepemc.
Today, once again the federal government has approved the proposed expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline without the consent of the Secwepemc. Kinder Morgan has signed deals with a few Indian Bands Councils, in a cynical attempts to divide and conquer our people. We remind them that Indian bands are not the title holders of Secwepemcul’ecw. Indian bands have only delegated authority from the federal government on Indian Reserve lands, which currently cover only 0.2% of the territory claimed by Canada, which entrenches our poverty through dispossession, dependency and oppression. Indian Band councils have no independent decision-making power regarding access to our Secwepemc territory. The Secwepemc collectively are the only decision-making authority regarding our lands and waters.
Today we remind the people of the so-called province of British Colombia that their own government has recognized at the National Energy Board hearing that the proposed project is not safe on land or water. Yet the government still approved it. We remind the people of so-called British Colombia that even under Canadian colonial law, we as Indigenous Peoples, have more power than the provinces regarding pipeline approvals, since our rights are protected under Section 35 of the Canadian constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada, in the Tsilhqot’in Decision warned governments and investors that the only way to ensure legal and economic certainty is to get the consent of Indigenous Peoples. Kinder Morgan does not have the collective consent of the Secwepemc.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline is not simply a threat to our land it is a threat to the entire planet. It carries bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, which are one of the largest greenhouse gas emitter and the largest construction project in the world and that this commercial industrial megaproject has had devastating impacts on us all. The proposed pipeline stands to accelerate the extraction and climate change impacts. If the proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion project goes through, tar sands exploitation could increase by 40%. The world cannot afford this destructive increase in capacity. The only way to avoid further climate change impacts is to keep the tar sands buried in the ground.
We stand in solidarity with other Indigenous Peoples, Spiritual Peoples, environmental groups, organizations, municipalities, international supporters, land and water defenders and people opposed to tar sands extraction and the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
We, the Secwepemc, have the inherent right to self-determination, which is also recognized under international human rights law. Canada is a signatory to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which includes the right to freely determine our political status and freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development. This fundamental international legal principle is also enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. It is further expressed through the principle of indigenous free, prior and informed consent in UNDRIP and international environmental agreements.
We the Secwepemc have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In fact, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory.
Declared in Unceded, Unsurrendered Secwepemcul’ecw, Secwepemc Territory.