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New Tsleil-Waututh chief signs anti-oil pipeline treaty
In one of her first public outings as new chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Maureen Thomas signaled that her leadership would stay the course of the fiercely anti-oil pipeline rhetoric that defined the nation in the media under former chief Justin George.
Just two weeks after Thomas won the ascent of voters to lead the North Vancouver nation over three other contenders on April 2, Thomas and other Tsleil-Waututh members hosted a press conference Friday in downtown Vancouver to sign a treaty slamming the development of the Alberta oil sands.
Flanked by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the new leader of the Tsleil-Waututh signed her name to the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects, on behalf of the 500-member nation.
Originally created by the Pawnee and Yankton Sioux tribes of the American midwest in an effort to block the development of the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta and refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, the treaty isn't unlike a host of other anti-pipeline and anti-oil sands decrees signed by the Tsleil-Waututh in recent years under former chief George's leadership.
Former two-term chief Justin George did not run for re-election on April 2.
“By signing this treaty, we are building alliances with our relations east, west, north and south to protect our lands and waters,” Thomas said Friday.
Since January, the new treaty has garnered approximately a dozen commitments from nations opposing not just Keystone XL, but the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline as well. Today, the Tselil-Waututh are the only band to sign the agreement out of opposition to the planned expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to the Burrard Inlet, the traditional waters of the Tsleil-Waututh people.
That pipeline is still in the assessment and review phase, but if approved, could triple the pipeline's current 300,000-barrel-a-day output and increase tanker traffic on the inlet seven-fold by 2017.
“People from all backgrounds enjoy Vancouver's great quality of life and we need to unite to protect this environment for all of our future generations," Thomas said. "The Tsleil-Waututh Nation continues to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, which would send 400 tankers a year through the Salish Sea.”
B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip summed up the concerns of all the signatories to the treaty as nothing less than a battle to save the natural environment for future generations.
"The future of this planet hangs in the balance of the work that we're doing here today — what's represented by this sacred agreement that's being entered into," Phillip said.
Still, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo went further in his remarks, describing treaties such as this as a new way forward for first nation-hood.
"To recapture the very essence of nationhood is being demonstrated here today," Atleo said.
"This unleashes the potential for a new vision to emerge, one where we pursue the idea of economics in a much more balanced way," Atleo said. "One where we seek to not have imbalance but a return to harmony between people and the living environment around us, and between peoples. We have yet to achieve that."