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April 18, 2018

Trudeau’s commitment to the environment and indigenous peoples is called into question

On April 12th, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embarked on the first day of an official visit to France. There he met with French President Emmanuel Macron and the two discussed important shared issues including the environment, the economy, culture and international security.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office: "Together, the two leaders announced that, as of today, France and Canada commit to increase their cooperation against climate change, through the France-Canada Partnership on climate and the environment. Alongside the Paris Agreement, this new partnership will help the two countries to redouble their efforts and work together even more closely to fight climate change."

But according to The Star, the Prime Minister and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley declared Sunday that they would spend taxpayer dollars and flex their respective legislative muscle to ensure that the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline is built despite strong objections by British Columbia, indigenous peoples, and environmentalists.

According to The Guardian, just last month, the PM got a standing ovation at a Houston petroleum industry gathering when he said, "No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” This, as pointed out by The Guardian, means that oil from Canada would, when burned, produce 30% of the carbon necessary to take the world past the 1.5C target that Canada helped set in Paris. In other words, “Canada, which represents one half of 1% of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget.”

Trudeau has also been talking recently about reconciliation with indigenous communities. But many tribal leaders and activists point out that most representatives of the indigenous communities opposing the pipeline were not at the table when this whole issue was being discussed and decided. Instead, as many members of the First Nations, tribes, and bands see it, indigenous people are once again expected to bear the brunt of the kind of economic decisions that destroy their communities, their environment, and their traditional ways of life. As expressed by Dixie Bird, a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, "From an Indigenous perspective, this is very alarming: it is a devastating attack on Mother Earth. So, in essence, I deem it absolutely necessary for the federal government to consult with all Indigenous people affected by this pipeline decision—something it was obligated to do from the start."

Awit Marcelino is a Disciples pastor in Ontario (Guelph) and a seminarian at Emmanuel College (Toronto). When asked about Trudeau’s recent remarks and actions regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline, he said, "It’s clear where the Prime Minister’s commitments are: to the fossil fuel industry, not to the environment or indigenous people.” As for the role of people of faith in responding to this situation, Marcelino insists, “We should be expressing concern over this, working in solidarity with indigenous peoples, and supporting all who are committed to the protection of God’s creation.”

Both Dixie Bird and Awit Marcelino are part of an informal advocacy network associated with the Disciples Centre for Public Witness, a justice advocacy ministry that is located in London, Ontario, and coordinated by Rick Myer, a former moderator of the Christian Church in Canada.

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