B.C.’s Eagle Spirit Pipeline Project is True Nation-Building

eagle spirit2.jpg

First, there was the Canadian Pacific Railway to connect Canada from east to west, coast to coast. It was considered the first nation-building project of the new country in the 1800s.


When the first Prime Minister Trudeau – Pierre Elliott – introduced ‘multi-culturalism’ as official government policy on October 8, 1971, he said the following in the House of Commons: “National unity if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one's own individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions. A vigorous policy of multiculturalism will help create this initial confidence. It can form the base of a society which is based on fair play for all.”


In reality, there was no fair play for all of Canada under P.M. Trudeau. His vapid multiculturalism failed to unite Canadians across a vast, diverse landscape (both cultural and physical) and he governed divisively, pitting provinces and regions from West to East, Anglophone and Francophone, against each other, particularly when it came to the energy industry. His son, now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has regrettably proved to be just as divisive, despite his rhetoric about Canadian unity and nationalism. In Alberta, P.M. Trudeau says one thing; in Quebec he says the opposite. He announces reconciliation with First Nations then fails to meaningfully follow through.


As did the first, the second Trudeau is dismantling Canada’s energy industry. Despite weak economic conditions, energy is Canada’s largest export, providing high-wage jobs to those directly and indirectly working in the industry, originating in Alberta and spreading across the country as far as Newfoundland. Alberta alone has contributed CAD $220 billion in ‘equalization’ transfer payments to economic ‘have-not’ provinces in the past decade, almost three times more than Ontario. The largest beneficiary in Confederation of its ‘have-not’ status is always Quebec.


In Pierre Elliott’s days as Prime Minister, there was Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed to stand up to his destructive National Energy Policy and unite the Canadian West in his successful challenge. Today, western Indigenous Chiefs and their tribes are leading the battle for the energy industry against Justin. They deserve credit for creating an actual and tangible nation-building project for Canadians, with the Eagle Spirit pipeline project, which would be the first Indigenous-led major infrastructure project in Canadian history, and arguably the only true nation-building project, benefiting all Canadians, since the railway.


C-48: The Oil Tanker Ban


Representing about two hundred First Nations communities, the Canadian Senate welcomed a delegation of fifteen First Nations Chiefs from the National Chiefs Coalition, the Indian Resource Council, the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council, and Canada’s Four Pipeline Craft unions to Parliament Hill on December 11, 2018. They voiced their opposition to Bill C-48, which would ban large oil tanker traffic off British Columbia’s north coast. The chiefs argue the ban will harm economic development in Indigenous communities and kill the proposed Eagle Spirit Energy pipeline, a CAD $18-billion project with significant Indigenous ownership. Bill C-48 was passed in the House of Commons on May 8, 2018 and is currently at second reading in the Senate. There are no oil-tanker moratoriums in the entire world; if this bill passes, Canada will be the only one.


Giving in to foreign-funded radical and leftist environmentalists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed Bill C-48, banning oil tankers from the northern part of Vancouver island to the B.C. – Alaska border. It will further cripple Canada’s distressed energy industry, since tens of billions of dollars in investment have already left the country in response to unfriendly government policy toward the energy industry specifically.


Summary of Bill C-48

This enactment enacts the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which prohibits oil tankers that are carrying more than 12 500 metric tons of crude oil or persistent oil as cargo from stopping, or unloading crude oil or persistent oil, at ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border. The Act prohibits loading if it would result in the oil tanker carrying more than 12 500 metric tons of those oils as cargo.


The Act also prohibits vessels and persons from transporting crude oil or persistent oil between oil tankers and those ports or marine installations for the purpose of aiding the oil tanker to circumvent the prohibitions on oil tankers.


Finally, the Act establishes an administration and enforcement regime that includes requirements to provide information and to follow directions and that provides for penalties of up to a maximum of five million dollars.
— Government of Canada


More than thirty First Nations are fighting back against Bill C-48. According to a report, “Indigenous-owned company called Eagle Spirit — which hopes to build a 1,500-km pipeline that would carry up to two million barrels of crude per day from near Fort McMurray to tidewater — has already launched legal action in a B.C. court to stop Bill C-48.


On a GoFundMe page, the Chiefs Council Against Bill C-48 states, “The purpose of this page is to assist over 30 impoverished First Nations with legal and administrative costs needed to fight the Government’s unilaterally imposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act and the Great Bear Rainforest – both of which were established largely through the lobbying of foreign-financed ENGOs and without the consultation and consent of First Nations. With the First Nations-led Eagle Spirit Energy corridor in northern B.C., we are explicitly opposed to American ENGOs dictating government policy in our traditional territories in a manner that harms our communities, regions, the energy industry (the most import industry in Canada), and the Canadian economy. The liberal government was supposed to be supporting reconciliation – not perpetuating past failed colonial policies designed to subjugate and marginalize indigenous peoples.


The Council adds, “We support the First Nations-led Eagle Spirit Energy energy corridor because it would provide real-world sustainable benefits and own-source revenue and meaningful participation for the poorest communities in Canada through a project whose outcomes cannot be duplicated by government.


The impact of Bill C-48 will devastate the Canadian energy sector. As Conservative Member of Parliament Randy Hoback said, “Let us not fool ourselves. This is not a tanker ban. This is to stop development in the resource sector and to stop shipping products to the West Coast. It is what the Liberals really planned to do from day one, and this bill is how they are going to achieve it. That is very disappointing. People in Western Canada just cannot understand the government … it keeps chopping off the hand that feeds it. It is so sad.”


Solving the problem of the Canadian oil discount


First Nations are often characterized as opposed to natural resource development, which is not true. Many First Nations want to responsibly develop resources to create wealth and opportunity for their people and all Canadians, and many already do.


First proposed in 2013, Eagle Spirit is a First Nations business consortium that proposes to build what has been called the greenest pipeline energy corridor on the planet, running from Bruderheim, Alberta to Grassy Point, British Columbia (B.C.). Once completed at 1,500 kilometres in length, the pipeline would ship four-million barrels of crude oil and ten billion cubic feet of natural gas from Fort McMurray to tidewater on the West Coast every day. The CAD $18-billion project has the backing of the Vancouver's Aquilini Investment Group and Altacorp Capital, which is partially owned by the Alberta government. Support for Eagle Spirit among First Nations is unanimous; all thirty-five First Nations situated along the proposed pipeline corridor have indicated support for the project.


With 99 percent of Canadian oil exports going to a single customer, the United States (U.S.), the energy industry must diversify its base by being accessible to international markets through pipelines and tankers and get paid in international market prices. When Justin Trudeau’s government killed the Northern Gateway project through B.C., the door slammed shut to opening critical new markets in Asia, which has strong, growing demand for our petroleum products. The government did the same to the Energy East project, eliminating new markets in Europe, which rely heavily, and dubiously, on Russian oil and natural gas. American President Trump has actively been lobbying Germany, in particular, to construct a new LNG terminal to import U.S. natural gas, so Canada is even competing against our only customer.


The tanker ban was first announced by P.M. Trudeau’s government in November 2016, when the Liberal government put an end to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across northwestern B.C; the Eagle Spirit project has been framed as an alternative to Northern Gateway. The ban does not apply to liquefied natural gas (LNG). If C-48 passes the Senate, the Eagle Spirit pipeline project will likely be dead, at least in Canada.


The proposed pipeline linking Alberta's oilsands with the West Coast would terminate on the north coast near Prince Rupert, which is where the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation is located. This is the community of Eagle Spirit CEO Calvin Helin, who says he has two possible solutions to bypass the ban. First, his brother John Helin, who is the elected leader of the Lax Kw'alaams Band, has already launched a constitutional challenge in B.C. Supreme Court. That lawsuit claims First Nations were not properly consulted on the tanker ban, which he claims is discriminatory and infringes on their Aboriginal title.


If the court challenge fails, Eagle Spirit Energy can avoid the tanker moratorium entirely. Eagle Spirit has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a landowner across the U.S. border in Hyder, Alaska. That landowner is Walter Moa, the President of Roanan Corp., who confirmed he's ready to do a deal to put the terminal on his land as an alternative location, Calvin Helin said. This would allow the supertankers to load up Alberta crude on the U.S. side of the Portland Channel, thereby avoiding Canada's jurisdiction altogether.


Both men say support in Alaska for oil projects runs deep. "Within three weeks of that, we were contacted by the Alaskan government saying they would welcome the terminal with open arms," said Helin, who has secured agreements with every one of the First Nations along the proposed route. Several other First Nations along the route have publicly supported the project since it was first announced in 2015, including the Gitxsan and Alberta's Treaty 8 First Nations. Assuming obstacles are overcome, Helin anticipates the project being completed in six years.


Eagle Spirit would be the premier example of self-initiated economic development by Indigenous communities creating wealth, pride, and overall economic and social benefit for First Nations and Canadian citizens alike. This is what true nation-building looks like – initiated by a nation’s citizens for the benefit of all, not empty rhetoric by its self-interested politicians.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider becoming a patron of The Visionable