Raising money for First Nations' legal challenges to the Trans Mountain pipeline

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Image: Used with the permission of Raven Trust and Pull Together

Maia Wikler lives in Vancouver and works as the digital communications coordinator for Raven Trust, an organization whose mission is to fundraise to support First Nations in legal battles. Scott Neigh interviews her about the Pull Together campaign, a collaboration between Raven and the Sierra Club BC to raise money for the litigation by First Nations against the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline expansion project.

The climate crisis is feeling increasingly overwhelming. It can be really hard to know what we should be doing in response. Of course, there is no single answer to that question -- certainly collective and politicized responses are more likely to be effective than individual changes in consumption habits, but that still leaves a wide and diverse field for potential action.

That said, those of us who are settlers in North America have to reckon with the fact that the intertwined mess that is colonialism and capitalism is the central root cause of the climate crisis. Climate action has to prioritize supporting Indigenous people who are resisting colonialism, including but not limited to those who are resisting fossil fuel infrastructure projects. That means supporting grassroots frontline land defenders and water protectors, like the Unist'ot'en Camp and the Tiny House Warriors out in British Columbia. It can also mean financially supporting various legal actions being taken by First Nations against such projects.

The Trans Mountain pipeline runs from the tar sands in Alberta to the British Columbia coast, near Burnaby. Several years ago, then-owner Kinder Morgan launched a project to twin the pipeline and thereby double its capacity. The project was initially approved by the federal Liberal government in late 2016.

Opposition to the project is based on its violation of the sovereignty of a number of the Indigenous nations whose territory it crosses, its contribution to the climate crisis, the impact the increased tanker traffic would have on wildlife in the Salish Sea, the risk of pipeline leaks, and other factors. After the approval, there was an upsurge in grassroots oppostion to the project and a number of environmental organizations and First Nations launched legal challenges. These acts of resistance, the delays they caused, and the overall fiscal picture for the project led to Kinder Morgan's decision to withdraw in early 2018. In May of that year, the federal Liberal government spent $4 billion to purchase the pipeline with the intent of seeing it built.

In August 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the approval of Trans Mountain on the grounds of inadequate consultation, and ordered the federal government to re-do the assessment. Following a process critics have said was little better than the first time around, the federal government re-approved what is now its own pipeline project in June 2019. Immediately thereafter, First Nations and enivronmental groups began to prepare a new round of court challenges.

The current Pull Together campaign is in fact its third iteration. The first two raised $700,000 each for litigation by First Nations that helped defeat Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline and the first approval of Trans Mountain, respectively. The current campaign has already raised over $100,000 to support the First Nations whose legal challenge to the most recent approval was given permission to proceed in early September. Notably, none of the non-Indigenous challenges were permitted to go forward by the court.

According to Wikler, Pull Together has succeeded in the past through facilitating a wide range of ordinary people doing lots of different things to raise money. People can donate directly on the Pull Together site. They can use the campaign's infrastructure to create their own online fundraiser. Or they can plan some kind of offline fundraising event -- dinner parties, walks, pub nights, clothing swaps, swims, and anything else you could imagine. They have also partnered with local businesses.

All of the money raised goes towards the litigation by First Nations. And according to Wikler, First Nations are routinely outspent by a ratio of 100-to-1 in these kinds of legal battles, so every dollar is crucial.

Image: Used with the permission of Raven Trust and Pull Together.

Theme music: "It Is the Hour (Get Up)" by Snowflake, via CCMixter


Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out our website here. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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