First Nations environmentalist charged after 2021 incident at TMX worksite

'F--k you, you f--king crackers — get the f--k off our land,' yelled Tiny House Warriors leader Kanahus Manuel at Trans Mountain security officers. 'Go back to Europe.'

First Nations environmentalist charged after 2021 incident at TMX worksite
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner (Image Left) and Facebook/ Trans Mountain (Image Right)
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A prominent First Nations environmentalist went to court after allegedly violating her bail conditions when she confronted Trans Mountain security guards in North Thompson, B.C.

Tiny House Warriors leader Kanahus Manuel, 46, faces one count for breaching a release order signed in the summer of 2021 with several conditions. They include staying at least five metres away from Trans Mountain workers or contractors.

On April 17, Trans Mountain security officer Marty Cheliak testified about his dealings with Manuel between August 31, 2021, and September 3, 2021 — when she allegedly breached her bail.

At the time, law enforcement arrested her for another incident at the Blue River Trans Mountain work site. In that case, a judge convicted her of theft for stealing a lock in 2019 and sentenced her to a year of probation — later dismissed by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Initially slated to occur in Clearwater, a judge approved a change-of-venue application last November to avoid delays.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Duncan showed the Kamloops court several videos filmed by Cheliak where Manuel appeared to violate that condition multiple times. 

"Trans Mountain, you are illegal," said a masked person, alleged to be Manuel. In one of the videos, the woman yelled obscenities at Cheliak, calling him a "little geeky f--ker."

"You guys should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourselves," she yelled into a bullhorn. "This is my home."

The court also viewed one of the videos shot by Manuel, where she walked up to Cheliak's work truck and yelled at him through a closed window.

"F--k you, you f--king crackers — get the f--k off our land," she yelled. "Go back to Europe."

According to Trans Mountain Corp (TMX), the cost of the taxpayer-owned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion jumped 44% from last year's estimate ($22.35 billion) to a whopping $30.9 billion.

The Crown corporation accounted for high global inflation and supply chain issues, floods in B.C., unexpected significant archaeological discoveries and challenging terrain for the cost influx.

The 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline expansion will nearly triple the flow of barrels and open access to Asian markets once completed. However, regulatory delays and hefty budget overruns have beset it on top of the environmental opposition.

Despite the escalating costs and pushback on Indigenous land claims among some reserves, several Indigenous-led initiatives like Nesika Services, a non-profit organization working to help Indigenous communities along the pipeline's route, hope to acquire a stake in Trans Mountain. 

"It means the entire pie for the project is smaller," said Nesika Services executive director Paul Poscente. "But we've done some modelling based on the publicly available information, and it's still viable." 

"We believe Canada can sell a portion of this pipeline to Indigenous communities commercially. We have been urging Canada to start a negotiation." 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland concurred it is a "serious and necessary project" in the national interest and remains financially viable.

"As with all projects of this size, risks to the final costs and schedule will remain as work is completed through 2023," said TMX, adding that cost estimates exclude reserves for "extraordinary risks" and could once again change.

In February 2022, Ottawa said it could no longer subsidize TMX. Its new price tag skyrocketed to $21.4 billion, up from $12.6 billion in 2020 and $7.4 billion in 2017. 

Ottawa is trying to secure external financing to fund the remaining cost of the project, which they hope will start shipping oil in the first quarter of 2024.

Freeland said TMX would need third-party funding to complete the project through banks or public debt markets. She reiterated the federal government plans to sell the pipeline once it is complete.

"As we committed to Canadians last year, no additional public money will be invested in this project as construction is completed," she said. "The federal government does not intend to be the long-term owner of the project, and we will launch a divestment process in due course."

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