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Return to the Salish Sea: Tsleil-Waututh Councilor Charlene Aleck

Bellamy Pailthorp
Charlene Aleck, elected councillor of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, at Cates Park on Burrard Inlet.

One of the biggest concerns about the future of the Salish Sea is the likely expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. It carries tar sands oil from Canada’s eastern provinces to a terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, just north of Vancouver.

The expansion, which was approved by Canada’s federal government last year, would twin the pipeline, triple the amount of oil coming through and increase by as much as seven-fold the number of oil tankers traversing the Salish Sea.

The terminal is on Burrard Inlet, across from Cates Park, where visitors will find references to the First Nations community called the Tsleil-Waututh. The park includes sacred lands.

“We have a creation story where our very first grandmother was born out of these waters,” says Charlene Aleck, who is an elected Councilor for her community and a spokeswoman for the nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative, which is fighting the Kinder Morgan expansion.  

“We also had a saying, ‘when the tide goes out, the table is set,’ meaning about 100 percent of our diet was out of the inlet.”

Aleck says her community has been working to restore the environment and ecosystems that supported that culture. Expansion of the pipeline and the tanker traffic calling on the terminal in Burrard Inlet would interrupt their efforts to rebuild.

“That’s why we’re opposing it. The amount of industry in the inlet is just too much, it’s just overburdening,” Aleck said. “And the probability of a spill, it’s not if it happens, it’s when it happens.”

To see more pictures and read about the Tsleil Waututh's opposition to Kinder Morgan and how it relates to the Salish Sea, visit our "Return To The Salish Sea" website.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to