Indigenous Group Seeks Full Ownership of Trans Mountain Pipeline

Project Reconciliation, a Canadian indigenous group seeking a stake in the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, is now aiming for a path to full ownership, the group’s new chairman said.

“We are hopeful that we can get our position across,” Robert Morin, the group’s new chairman, said in a phone interview. The group has said it has funding lined up for the purchase, without revealing any lender.

Canada’s federal government bought Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Inc. for C$4.5 billion ($3.7 billion) in 2018 after the company threatened to scrap the line’s expansion amid fierce environmental opposition. Alberta’s oil sands industry badly needs more conduits to export its crude, and many hope that indigenous participation would help quell objections to the project.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has said it will sell its ownership once the expansion is completed and de-risked, and is open to indigenous participation. The government is currently engaged in consultations with First Nation communities.

Project Reconciliation is among several indigenous groups that formed more than two years ago to seek a stake in Canada’s only oil pipeline system that delivers crude oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast.

Until now, Project Reconciliation had sought no more than a 51% stake. Now it’s seeking 75% with the option to eventually own 100% of the pipeline, Morin said.

The group wants to use pipeline revenue to start a sovereign wealth fund to support indigenous communities, which often suffer from higher levels of poverty.

Morin, a member of the Enoch Cree First Nation west of Edmonton, Alberta, assumed his position last month, replacing Delbert Wapass, the former chief of the Thuderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan. Project Reconciliation had been criticized for being led by an indigenous leader from a province far removed from the communities in British Columbia and Alberta that would be most affected by the line.

Another group seeking ownership is the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group from British Columbia.

Other indigenous groups, including some in British Columbia, see the project as a threat to the environment and have sought to block it.

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