Bids for the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Indigenous Ownership of Expanded Pipeline may Signal Possibilities of Cooperation 

Key Actors: 
  • Canadian Federal Government
  • Chinook Pathways; partnership between the Pembina Pipeline and the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group
  • Project Reconciliation 
Major Energy Company Partners with Indigenous Group 

Last week, the Pembina Pipeline corporation formed a partnership with the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group (WIPG) in order to acquire the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from the federal government. This partnership, called Chinook Pathways, aims to own 100% of the pipeline. The WIPG is a coalition of multiple Metis and other Indigenous groups, many of whom will be directly affected by the expansion of the pipeline which is currently underway. Pembina has stated that collaborating with the WIPG will allow the Indigenous coalition to have “environmental oversight” over the project while still continuing “safe and reliable operations.” 

Indigenous Groups and the Pipeline 

The federal government purchased the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Inc. in 2018 after shareholders overwhelmingly voted to sell the pipeline. The Federal Court of Appeal had rescinded the federal government’s approval for Kinder Morgan to build the pipeline after indigenous and environmentalist protests, and thus the sale to the federal government had to be made. Albertan exports of natural resources had been bottlenecked by lack of infrastructure and the government worked on the Trans Mountain pipeline, along with other projects, in order to combat that. The current expansion of the pipeline, scheduled to be completed in 2022, will triple the capacity of the pipeline to 890,000 barrels a day. As there had been vocal opposition towards the pipeline, the government hopes that a joint government-indigenous ownership of the pipeline would help in moving towards a compromise.  

Other than the WIPG, several other Indigenous groups are also seeking to acquire the pipeline. The other major group is Project Reconciliation, which is based in Calgary. Project Reconciliation also hopes to own 100% of the pipeline and advocates developing infrastructure for indigenous communities using the funds which would be available with ownership of the pipeline. They have suggested a sovereign wealth fund which would provide aid to many Indigenous groups currently suffering in poverty. Supportive indigenous groups that seek a stake in the pipeline believe that it can bring economic growth, jobs, and a higher standard of life, given that they have a say in its construction and operation. Chinook Pathways argues that it would be a better owner of the pipeline as the WIPG is comprised of Indigenous groups which will be directly impacted by the expansion of the pipeline. 

However, there are still groups which reject the idea of expanding the pipeline. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is among those who are firmly opposed to the pipeline, but many other Indigenous communities are also split over the pipeline. They cite environmental risks, including damage to marine life with increased oil tanker traffic, as well as the pipeline crossing through Indigenous territories, compromising their land rights. The federal government still faces substantial opposition against the pipeline, but with the door open for Indigenous cooperation, there will be many ways to compromise.



Bakx, Kyle. “Plans to Sell Trans Mountain Pipeline to Indigenous Groups Take Another Step Forward.” CBC, Accessed 14 June 2021. 

“Indigenous Group Seeks Full Ownership of Trans Mountain Pipeline.” Vancouversun, Accessed 14 June 2021. 

Pembina Pipeline Joins Indigenous Effort to Buy Trans Mountain. The Globe and Mail, Accessed 14 June 2021.  

“Pembina Forms Indigenous Alliance in Battle for Trans Mountain Pipeline.” Financialpost, Accessed 14 June 2021. 

The Canadian Press. “Insurance Provider for Trans Mountain Pipeline Says It Won’t Renew Policy.” CBC, Accessed 14 June 2021.

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