Kinder Morgan has stepped up security along its Trans Mountain pipeline in the Blue River to Clearwater area and possibly elsewhere along the North Thompson Valley.
Simpcw First Nation is providing at least some of that security through its business arm, Simpcw Resource Group.
According to a longtime resident of Blue River speaking on Thursday, May 10, security staff began patrolling Trans Mountain’s pumping station in Blue River one or two days earlier.
The resident did not recall seeing security at the facility ever before. He said security staff also were patrolling the other Trans Mountain facilities in the area.
A small car was seen parked near one of the entrances to the Blue River pumping station. However, no obvious signs of extra security were seen by this reporter.
However, there were two pickups observed at the entrance to the McMurphy pumping station, which is located about 60 km south of Blue River. One of them had a door panel that read “Simpcw Resources – Security.”
A pickup with similar markings was spotted parked at the entrance to the pumping station at Blackpool a short distance south of Clearwater.
The security staff at McMurphy and Blackpool did not want to discuss the situation but it was apparent that they are from Simpcw First Nation and are providing security at the sites.
Simpcw First Nation is one of 33 B.C. Aboriginal groups that have signed mutual benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan in regards to the pipeline expansion project.
Simpcw Chief Nathan Matthew recently made it clear that his band supports the project and that no other nation or organization (First Nation or environmental) has the authority to speak on Simpcw’s behalf.
Why Kinder Morgan would decide to increase security at its sites at this time is not known. However, part of the reasoning might have to do with differences of opinion within the First Nations communities about what level of governance has ownership of Indigenous rights.
For example, while Chief Nathan Matthew says the Simpcw have jurisdiction, Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band near Chase gave a different point of view during a presentation to Kinder Morgan’s annual general meeting in Houston, Texas. She was there as part of a delegation from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
In her presentation, Wilson raised concerns with the work camps in the Blue River and Clearwater area proposed as part of the Trans Mountain expansion project.
“The 1,000-person man camp that’s proposed near Blue River, Clearwater-area, threatens our women as well,” said Wilson.
“We’re just finish up the national inquiry in regard to missing and murdered women and the violence that those huge hyper-camps bring is a big threat to our women and girls. We do not want that.”
According to information presented by Kinder Morgan during an open house in Clearwater in February of 2017, if the project goes ahead, there would be a sleeper camp for 350 people plus a pipe lay-down and construction yard in Clearwater.
However, as the workforce is expected to reach a peak of 700 workers, additional accommodation would be needed in town.
In March of this year about 20 people took part in an event called the Secwepemc Run for Clean Water, which saw participants cycle or run in relays from Valemount to Kamloops. Although at least two were members of Simpcw First Nation, the main organizers were from Chase, which is located about 55 km east of the pipeline route.
A group that calls itself the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly held a gathering in Clearwater in June of last year to oppose the pipeline expansion. The gathering was low key and what connection the assembly might have with Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which represents the various Secwepemc (Shuswap) bands is not clear.
Inquiries to the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly plus Simpcw Chief Nathan Matthew to comment on a statement against the pipeline that came out of the gathering in Clearwater have not yet been answered.
An inquiry to Kinder Morgan for comment on the apparent increase in security also has not yet been answered.