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Letter from civil society organizations to Prime Minister Trudeau—We stand with the vast majority of people in Canada who care about taking bold action on climate change so future generations have safe and prosperous lives.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa

May 1, 2018

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

We are a group of more than 70 organizations representing citizens from all walks of life and from communities throughout our country.

We are deeply concerned by the threat the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion poses to B.C.’s rivers, coastal waters and vibrant coastal economy, as well as Canada’s commitment to take responsible action on climate change and start a meaningful path to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

We stand with the vast majority of people in Canada who care about taking bold action on climate change so future generations have safe and prosperous lives. Our children have a right to live in a healthy environment and a world safe from extreme weather.

The current Trans Mountain pipeline has spilled 82 times since 1961, according to the company’s own reports. The likelihood of an oil spill from expanded bitumen shipments in the Burrard Inlet over 50 years is estimated at between 79 to 87 per cent. As research from the Alaska Valdez oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and others shows, a spill causes long-term irreparable damage to coastal and marine environments, costing billions to try to clean, with just 10 to 15 per cent of spilled oil ever recovered. Unfortunately, the National Energy Board chose not to hear this evidence during its Trans Mountain expansion project review.

The Royal Society of Canada’s 2015 expert panel report identified seven major research gaps regarding scientific uncertainties on bitumen. A U.S. National Academy of Sciences study, considered the most authoritative assessment on diluted bitumen undertaken, was refused by the NEB as evidence during the Trans Mountain review. Moving ahead with the project without having thoroughly understood the implications is premature at best and possibly negligent.

The NEB’s review did not assess the effects of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic on the 76 remaining critically endangered southern resident orcas in the Salish Sea as part of its environmental assessment of the project. These orcas are endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the tanker route transects critical habitat they need to survive and recover.

The federal government’s insistence that approval of the pipeline is based on science rings hollow on the climate front too. While strong steps have been taken to phase out coal and bring in a carbon market, all accounting estimates show Canada is at risk of missing its international climate commitments.

A spill would also have a disastrous effect on key industries such as tourism, film and fisheries.

The City of Vancouver commissioned an economic study for the NEB review that looked at just five ocean-dependent activities: commercial fishing, port activities, inner-harbour transportation, tourism and recreation. For Vancouver alone, these five industries generate more than $6.7 billion in economic activity and support more than 36,000 jobs. They estimate that a single spill could wipe out more than $1.2 billion in economic activity and result in the loss of more than 12,000 jobs.

According to Destination BC, the province’s tourism industry generates $17 billion a year in revenues and employs more than 130,000 people in communities throughout the province. Jobs would be lost and lasting damage would be inflicted on B.C.’s status as one of the world’s greatest destinations for outdoor recreation in the event of an oil spill.

British Columbia’s fishing and seafood industries contribute more than $660 million to the economy. The wild salmon industry alone employs approximately 9,500 people. These are well-paying jobs recklessly put at risk by this heavy oil pipeline.

In contrast, the Trans Mountain pipeline is not the job creator many people think it is. Proponents claim it will create 15,000 jobs during construction phase, while prominent economists have pointed out that a more realistic estimate is closer to 20 per cent that figure. Direct long-term job projections are as low as 50 per year. Compare that to the huge possibilities for growth and well-paying jobs in Canada’s renewable energy sector.

Project proponents also claim that approval of this project stemmed from “unprecedented Indigenous engagement”. But nations whose territories cover the pipeline route, the terminus and tanker route have not consented to the project. These Indigenous communities would be on the receiving end of this project’s worst environmental impacts. They have expressed strong opposition and noted the approval process did not include meaningful or adequate consultation with them, as required by Canadian law. The federal court of appeal that quashed the NEB’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project for inadequate First Nations consultation is expected to rule on similar challenges for Kinder Morgan in the coming months.

Pushing the pipeline through in the face of strong Indigenous opposition runs counter to Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and undermines conclusions that this project is in the national interest and the laudable reconciliation efforts so recently undertaken. In an age of reconciliation, we must respect all nations in opposition and leave judgments to the courts.

In the midst of a deeply divided moment that has pitted sectors and governments against one another, we hope you hear these concerns and step away from this contentious project, making the long-term well-being of all citizens your top priority.

Sincerely,

1. Action Environnement Basses Laurentides
2. Affordability Action Hub
3. BC Sea Wolves
4. Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE)
5. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
6. Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
7. Citizens Climate Lobby
8. Citizens for Public Justice
9. ClimateFast
10. Climate Justice Saskatoon
11. The Climate Reality Project Canada
12. Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan
13. Coalition for a Healthy Riverview
14. Council of Canadians
15. Council of Canadians: Prince Albert Chapter
16. Council of Canadians: Saskatoon Chapter
17. David Suzuki Foundation
18. Earthroots
19. Eau Secours
20. Ecology Action Centre
21. Ecology North
22. Ecology Ottawa
23. Équiterre
24. Environmental Defence
25. Foire ÉCOSPHÈRE, Environnement et Écohabitation
26. For Our Grandchildren (4RG)
27. Friends of the Earth Canada
28. The Fur-Bearers
29. Georgia Strait Alliance
30. Green Neighbours 21
31. Greenpeace Canada
32. Greenspiration
33. Green 13
34. Groupe de Recherche Appliquée en Macroécologie (GRAME)
35. Just Planet
36. Justice for Girls Outreach Society
37. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
38. Kitchen Table Collective
39. Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy
40. Making Peace Vigil Regina
41. Mother Earth Justice Advocates
42. Nature Québec
43. Noor Cultural Centre
44. Ontario Clean Air Alliance
45. Ontario Nature
46. Our Horizon
47. PIPE UP Network
48. Polaris Institute
49. Rapid Decarbonization Group
50. RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs)
51. Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec
52. Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly – Milieu de Vie
53. Sarah Cacoub, Energy Transition Consultant
54. Saskatchewan Climate Forum
55. Saskatoon Parklands Eco-left Collective
56. Sierra Club BC
57. Sierra Club Canada Foundation
58. Sisters of Sion
59. Society Promoting Environmental Conservation
60. Spirit of the West Adventures
61. Stand.earth
62. SumOfUs.org
63. Toronto Environmental Alliance
64. Toronto350
65. Treaty 6 Justice Collective
66. Union Paysanne
67. Voices-Voix Coalition
68. The WaterWealth Project
69. West Coast Environmental Law Association
70. Wilderness Committee
71. Wild Whales Vancouver
72. Windfall Ecology Centre
73. Wolf Awareness Inc
74. 350.org

More than 70 civil society organizations from across Canada have signed this letter. The list of signatories is updated daily.

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