*This article was originally published in The Runner on March 22, 2017*
The Kwantlen First Nation created a GoFundMe page in opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline on Mar. 5. The page allows supporters to contribute directly to the KFN’s water and land protection fund. As of Mar. 19, the page has raised $375 of its $4,000 goal.
In addition to listing its donors, the page explains that the Kwantlen First Nation’s traditional lands and the Fraser River are both in the way of the pipeline plans. Page creators say in the description, “We have a strong strategy for moving forward but need your assistance in making the resistance happen!”
The page was started by Kwantlen First Nation member and aboriginal artist Brandon Gabriel.
“When we first heard about the pipeline it was about five years ago,” says Gabriel. “Kinder Morgan had sent representatives to our community to give a very brief, very vague [explanation], and there was no detail as to what the plan was, and where the actual pipeline was going to go through.”
The Kwantlen First Nation’s land that would be affected by the pipeline construction is in Fort Langley at McMillan Island. The pipeline plans show that it’s expected to cut through the Fraser River near the Port Mann Bridge, and continue southeast towards Fort Langley before cutting through Indigenous land.
“When they came here five years ago, there was an initiative that was started by Kinder Morgan, and it was called the community gifting program, whereby they offer a certain amount of dollars to the community in exchange for support for their pipeline development,” says Gabriel.
“If you support their pipeline, you will get money for it. That’s without it having gone through the due processes with the National Energy Board and their policies and then the provincial standards, which there were like one hundred and fifty conditions set out by the provincial government, and there were five conditions that had to be met by the federal government.”
When this offer was first put on the table, it was important for the KFN community to explore their options.
“The next steps for us were to do our own investigation into the merits of their offer,” says Gabriel. “There was a certain dollar amount that they had offered us for our support.”
The Kwantlen First Nation website reads, “through learning, family, health, our culture and traditions, and looking after our lands and resources, we are tireless in our spirit to make a better world for our future generations.”
“We looked at ecological impacts. We looked at our historical presence on the land,” says Gabriel. “We also took into account the fact that the pipeline would be crossing over the Fraser River, which is a very important economic hub for our people in terms of people making livelihoods in the salmon fishing industry, not just out of the industry itself, but also for ceremonial and food purposes as well, which are also protected in the constitution of Canada.”
Gabriel explains that, in the end, the Kwantlen First Nation decided they were not going to accept the money, describing it as an outright bribe.
“We respect any nations’ right to voice concern about our expansion project. We remain open to meeting with any nation who might have interests potentially affected to incorporate their feedback and enhance the planning and execution of our project with their participation,” says Lizette Parsons Bell, lead stakeholder engagement and communications representative for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in reference to the KFN’s concerns about the pipeline.