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Dozens Of U.S., Canadian Tribes Unite Against Proposed Oil Pipelines

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip shakes the hands of First Nation leaders after they sign the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion during an announcement on oil sands pipelines Thursday at the Musqueam Community Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.

U.S. Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations are banding together to "collectively challenge and resist" proposals to build more pipelines from tar sands in Alberta, Canada. At least 50 First Nations and tribes signed a treaty on Thursday at ceremonies held in Vancouver and Montreal.

The show of unity comes as a separate protest movement against the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline in the U.S. has galvanized tribes. Earlier this month, as we reported, the U.S. government halted construction in one area particularly sensitive to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which led the protests. The Standing Rock Sioux is among the signatories to the treaty.

"We are in a time of unprecedented unity amongst Indigenous people working together for a better future for everyone," Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative said in a press release.

"Tar sands expansion is a collective threat to our Nations. It requires a collective response," the treaty states. Called the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, it opposes projects that will expand the production of the Alberta Tar Sands, "including for the transport of such expanded production, whether by pipeline, rail or tanker."

That includes "all five current tar sands pipeline and tanker project proposals (Kinder Morgan, Energy East, Line 3, Northern Gateway and Keystone XL) as well as tar sands rail projects such as the Chaleur Terminals Inc. export project at the Port of Belledune in New Brunswick," according to a statement from the alliance.

In the treaty, the native groups say the proposed projects "threaten many Indigenous Nations' territories, waterways, shores and communities with the very real risk of toxic and hazardous oil spills." The alliance vows to work toward a "more equitable and sustainable future."

"One chief, Serge Simon, of the Kanesatake Mohawks in Quebec, says the goal is to remain peaceful, but all options are on the table," as reporter Dan Karpenchuk in Toronto told our Newscast unit. "The chiefs plan to meet soon to confirm strategy for the fight. They will also look at international legal action."

The signatories hope that a unified front will mean work will be truly halted, rather than simply rerouted, as the National Observer explained: "By aligning themselves with other Indigenous nations across Canada and the northern U.S., participants hope to ensure that dangerous projects are not able to 'escape' by using alternative routes."

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said that "the industry would listen to aboriginal concerns," Reuters reported. But it added that "the fact remains there is a critical need for pipelines in Canada."

As Karpenchuk noted, "The treaty came on the same day that a climate change advocacy group said Canada should stop any new oil and gas developments if it wants to reach its climate change targets."

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