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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sees the Kinder Morgan threat to abandon its pipeline project as a threat to the country’s national interest and is now mobilizing local governments to maintain the project, says TRNN’s Dimitri Lascaris

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is determined to make Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion work. This is in spite of the growing movement demanding its shutdown and the movement is considered Canada’s Standing Rock. Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in his office on Parliament Hill on Sunday in an effort to mend the differences between the two [New] Democratic Party Premiers. Trudeau want to see this pipeline proceed, in spite of the fact that experts and the Aboriginal community consider this pipeline dangerous to the wellbeing of their communities. $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline project is designed to increase dramatically the capacity of an existing pipeline system to transport bitumen from Canada’s tar sands in northern Alberta to the west coast of Canada, where it is to be exported by tankers to Asian markets.

On to discuss these developments with me is Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri was a leading class action lawyer in Canada, now working on human rights law. He was a member of the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet, and now an environmental journalist for the Real News Network. I thank you so much for joining us.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you very much, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: So Dimitri, give us an update on the issue that you have been covering for a while now, but in light of this meeting that took place on Sunday in the offices of Trudeau. What’s happening? What are the latest developments?

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, it’s remarkable. I mean, Justin Trudeau’s government has been in power since late 2015. So we’re now into the third year of his government. I can’t remember a single instance in which anything happened in the time that Justin Trudeau has been the prime minister where he convened an emergency cabinet meeting. That single occasion, as far as I can recall, on which this happened was when Peter Morgan issued a press release. You know, a Texas oil company issued a press release saying it was suspending, not terminating the project, but suspending work on the project, and were inviting, basically, negotiations on what to do about opposition to the project, which had to be concluded by May 31. It was remarkable how the government, a government that championed the cause of climate change at the very outset of Justin Trudeau’s term, you know, immediately jumped to attention when a Texas oil company demanded that something be done about opposition to this pipeline.

When he emerged from the emergency cabinet meeting he said two things. He said he was going to put public money, an unspecified amount of public money, towards the project to keep Kinder Morgan in the game. And he said this was going to be negotiated behind closed doors, which in and of itself raises real serious questions about his commitment to transparency and democratic decision making. And the other thing he said was he was going to pass legislation which was somehow going to reassert the Federal Government’s dominion over this whole issue of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

You know when it comes to the notion of putting taxpayer dollars into this project, first of all, they’re putting taxpayer dollars and would putting taxpayer dollars into a project which, as James Hansen, NASA scientist, has said would result in game over for the climate , the continued exploitation of the tar sands will result in game over for the climate. And secondly, is radically inconsistent with Justin Trudeau’s commitment made in the 2015 federal election to end fossil fuel subsidies. What he’s effectively promising to do is not only not to end them, which he hasn’t done, contrary to his promise, but to in fact increase the amount of public money that’s going into supporting this industry.

And then you have this very interesting question of legislation. The federal government, you know, arguably does have the ability to legislate when it comes to a pipeline that crosses provincial boundaries, when it comes to a pipeline which, as Justin Trudeau claims, is in the national interest, which is a whole other controversy unto itself. But whatever legislation he may pass is going to be subject to challenge by indigenous groups and by the provincial government in British Columbia. And those legal challenges may go on for some years. And he can’t stop the challenges from coming, even if he ultimately wins that battle. And in the interim what is going to happen, what is kinder Morgan’s commitment to this project going to be while these legal challenges to whatever legislation he plans to pass are working their way through the courts? By the time we get to a resolution of that legislation it’s entirely possible that the economics of this pipeline will be even less certain, even more questionable than they currently are today.

SHARMINI PERIES: Dimitri, tell us about the pressure put on by Kinder Morgan offering this May 31 deadline. What does it mean?

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, basically what Kinder Morgan has said, it’s basically put an economic gun to the government’s head and said if you don’t come up with money and some means of, you know, bringing the B.C., the British Columbia government to heel and all of these protesters to heel, then we may potentially pull out of the project entirely. Now, you know, if Justin Trudeau was actually committed to fighting the climate crisis, to resolving the climate crisis, he would have welcomed the announcement of a potential termination of the Kinder Morgan project. But instead he sees this, he and his government, in their apparently unlimited devotion to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, see this as a threat to the national interest.

It actually is a positive development, not only for Canada but for the world as a whole, that the company that is pursuing this tar sands pipeline expansion is contemplating terminating the project. That should be a welcome development. He sees it as a threat to the national interests, and therefore has effectively jumped to attention and said, let’s see what we can do to satisfy this Texas oil company.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Dimitri. Several weeks ago we saw a huge demonstration of Aboriginal communities, community leaders, coming out in full force to oppose this pipeline. Give us a sense of what their objections are and what Justin Trudeau’s response is to them.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, essentially, you know, this, this project is terminating on unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation. And under Canadian law they have a right to be consulted in a meaningful way, and arguably they have a right also to either withhold or give their consent to the project. So that they do not consent to it, then the project cannot go forward. And they’ve not given their consent, nor have they been adequately consulted. They have said, we are going to fight this in the courts all the way. We’re going to fight this civil disobedience if necessary, and that’s what they have been doing.

You know, the federal government, and apparently the governments of, the New Democratic governments of both British Columbia and Alberta, the two warring provinces in this fight, have all committed to the United Nations resolution relating to the rights of indigenous peoples. The idea that the Trudeau government and the Alberta government would press forward with this project and try to force it down the throats of not only indigenous peoples but people of British Columbia is radically inconsistent with their stated commitment to the United Nations Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. You simply can’t be both a champion of indigenous rights and a champion of the Trans Mountain pipeline at same time.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Dimitri, I know you’re keeping an eye on this story and the developments in it. I will come back to you very soon, as I think that this is going to create a tremendous reaction on the part of the people that have been organizing to oppose it.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: It sure will. I mean, we’re talking now about a potential constitutional crisis, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for this country.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Dimitri. I thank you so much for joining us today.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.

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Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer that focuses on human rights and environmental law. He is the former justice critic of the Green Party of Canada and is a former board member of the Real News Network. You can follow him @dimitrilascaris and find more of his work at