Trans Mountain stake should go to Indigenous owners on route, B.C. chief says

CALGARY — The chairman of a B.C. indigenous group seeking to buy a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline says Ottawa should favour communities along the route when deciding who can make an ownership bid.

Chief Michael LeBourdais of Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band near Kamloops, B.C., says for that reason he supports the efforts of the Iron Coalition over rival Project Reconciliation.

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Iron Coalition announced Wednesday it is inviting First Nations and Metis groups from across Alberta to join its bid team, promising all resulting profits will be split equally among members.

Project Reconciliation, on the other hand, is asking for support from Indigenous communities throughout B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, and plans to place 80 per cent of the cash flow from the pipeline stake into a "sovereign wealth fund" to invest in environmentally friendly projects.

LeBourdais says it makes more sense for his organization, the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, and Iron Coalition to be owners of the pipeline because Trans Mountain brings oil and refined products from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. — it doesn't pass through Saskatchewan.

Ottawa is to make a final decision on whether the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline can proceed by June 18, with a positive decision expected to accelerate attention to its vow to sell the asset it bought for $4.5 billion last summer.

"Here's the difference between us and Project Reconciliation," LeBourdais said.

"We're the ones bearing all the risk because the pipe goes through my reserve, goes through my traditional territory. These are my rivers, my salmon. We're bearing all the risk. So we should have more say."

He said communities in B.C. and Alberta are the "title and rights holders" when it comes to the pipeline.

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