Chief Nathan Matthew of the Simpcw First Nation in British Columbia has had enough that no one in government, the green lobby, or among First Nations opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has ever talked to him about why his community stands behind the project.
The 700-member Simpcw First Nation is one of 33 bands in B.C. that want the $7.4 billion expansion to go ahead. Another 10 bands in Alberta also support the project.
Yet the Simpcw have more on the line than the vast majority of those who have an opinion. One third of the pipeline traverses its traditional lands in the B.C. interior, stretching from Jasper to Barriere, which means it has the greatest land exposure to the project.
The First Nation also has a long history of looking after the pipeline, first built in 1953, through maintenance work and environmental monitoring, and considers it part of its stewardship responsibilities.
“We have lived with this existing pipeline for about 60 years and we have real concerns about it, mainly about environmental issues, but it’s there and we see the broader context of the need for oil and gas to power our lives and our economy and we are realistic about that,” Chief Matthew said in an interview. “If oil is going to be needed from Alberta, and it has to be moved to the coast of B.C. through our territory, I believe … that pipelines are probably the safest alternatives.”