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Pipeline Partners: Trudeau & Trump Meet as They Push for Keystone XL & Other Big Oil Projects

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House Monday for the first time since Donald Trump took office. In a joint news conference, Trump and Trudeau discussed trade, national security and immigration policy. During a White House press conference, neither president talked about oil pipelines, despite their joint support for building new ones. Last month, Trudeau welcomed the decision by Donald Trump to move ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline project. Trudeau has also come under fire by environmental activists for approving two major pipelines: Kinder Morgan’s $5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline and the $7.5 billion Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. We speak to Clayton Thomas-Muller, a leading organizer and writer on environmental justice and indigenous rights. He is a campaigner at 350.org and a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, Canada.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House Monday for the first time since Donald Trump took office. In a joint news conference, Trump and Trudeau discussed trade, national security and immigration policy. Trudeau said the two had a, quote, “strong and fruitful” conversation about immigration and security, issues on which they have disagreed.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: There have been times where we have differed in our approaches, and that’s always been done firmly and respectfully. The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves. My role, our responsibility, is to continue to govern in such a way that reflects Canadians’ approach and be a positive example in the world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During Trudeau’s visit, Donald Trump reiterated his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border. On the southern border, for many, many years, the transaction was not fair to the United States. It’s an extremely unfair transaction. We’re going to work with Mexico. We’re going to make it a fair deal for both parties. I think that we’re going to get along very well with Mexico. They understand, and we understand.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Trudeau’s visit to the White House comes as he faces several challenges at home. A growing number of asylum seekers are braving freezing temperatures in an attempt to reach Canada through the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. Several refugees have suffered frostbite after trekking for hours in sub-zero weather, and aid organizations are overwhelmed. Many of those seeking refuge in Canada come from one of the seven countries targeted by Donald Trump’s anti-immigration executive order. They say they are worried about being deported if they remain in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also come under fire by environmental activists for approving two major pipelines: the Kinder Morgan $5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline and the $7.5 billion Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The Trans Mountain pipeline would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to a port in Vancouver. The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta across the U.S.-Canadian border to a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Both pipelines face massive resistance from Canadian First Nations.

For more, we’re going to Clayton Thomas-Muller, a leading organizer and writer on environmental justice and indigenous rights. He’s a campaigner at 350.org and a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, Canada.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Clayton. Can you talk about the significance of this meeting of your prime minister, Justin Trudeau, coming down to Washington to meet with and hold a joint news conference with President Donald Trump?

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Certainly. I think that, you know, this visit and all the eyes on this visit put incredible pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Many of us representing social movements here in Canada continue to be baffled by the, you know, [inaudible] to the right of Justin Trudeau and his administration—in particular, the departure from their commitments at the Paris climate summit to a 1.5-degree target in line with the call to action from small island states, whose countries are literally disappearing under our rising seas, through approving two massive tar sands projects that you just described and also committing to work with the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, Native American-hating president, Donald Trump, on the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that the former president rejected in the name of climate due to pressure from social movements.

So, you know, I think that this trip was an opportunity for Justin Trudeau to be a hero, to stand up in the face of all of the, you know, shock doctrine-esque policy announcements that Donald Trump has been making, since he’s become president, through executive order and to take a firm line to be a real climate leader and to not partner with the United States on the Keystone XL pipeline. So, you know, it continues to be a very disturbing thing.

And there’s a number of other issues, as well. When we look at the women’s advocacy program for the 1 percent, you know, Justin Trudeau continues to call himself a feminist, yet, you know, does not call out the United States having just called a sitting member of the Senate “Pocahontas.” Justin Trudeau, you know, in the election trail, said that First Nations were the most important relationship with the federal government of Canada. And for him to not take a stand and call out the president over this obvious and blatant sexism and racism just adds to the pile of disturbingness of the whole visit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Clayton, you mentioned the XL pipeline. At a news conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the decision by Donald Trump to move ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline project. This is what he said.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: In both the conversations I’ve had with President Trump now, Keystone XL came up as a topic, and I reiterated my support for the project. I’ve been on the record for many years supporting it, because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans. … This is about the responsible approach on growing the economy, creating good jobs for Canadians, while we protect the environment for now and for future generations. This is what Canadians expect of us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about this comment, especially in view of the fact that many people expected, with his election, that he would bring a much more forward-thinking administration in Canada after years of conservative leadership there?

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Look, Canadians expect Justin Trudeau to be a hero. On the election trail, Justin Trudeau committed to ratifying the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He committed to being a champion for the rights of women. He committed to being a champion for the sacredness of Mother Earth through adopting climate change policies this side of the border. All of these promises that Justin Trudeau has made, he has broken. And, you know, for us, one of the things that we will continue to make—draw parallels between, of course, is that this government, the Trudeau government, has prepared itself for a Standing Rock level of resistance to its controversial approval of tar sands pipelines this side of the border. You know, for us, Donald Trump and the role that his administration has played in exacerbating the circumstances in Standing Rock, one can only assume that, you know, that the two are more alike than we would like them to be. And for us, you know, who are involved in social movements resisting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, whether it’s DAPL, Kinder Morgan on this side of the border, or this transboundary pipeline, Keystone XL, social movements will continue to organize in nonviolent and beautiful ways against both administrations until we get to some kind of climate sanity that takes us off of dirty fossil fuel economy.

AMY GOODMAN: Clayton Thomas-Muller, you’ve been a presence at Standing Rock, at the resistance camps, and Canadian First Nations have been heavily represented there, joining together with Native Americans from Latin America and the United States, as well. What are your thoughts directly on President Trump moving forward, giving the OK for the Dakota Access pipeline? The easement has been granted, and the reports that we have is that Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access pipeline, on which the Department of Energy secretary, Rick Perry, sat on its board after he was governor of Texas—what are your thoughts on the construction crews moving forward to drill under the Missouri River right now?

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Well, [inaudible] of solidarity to all the front-line water protectors in Standing Rock, now more than ever. Social movements, the environmental movement, women’s rights movement, the LGBQ movement, Black Lives Matter—you know, this is a call out to all social movements to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock against the obvious conflict of interest that this administration has with Energy Transfers in making this decision to approve the easement. There has been a call to support people on the front line, and there has been a call for citizens to take action all across the lower 48 United States and across Mother Earth, as well. So, certainly, First Nations in Canada will continue to be organizing in solidarity with them, as we mount our own nonviolent offensive against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, the Line 3 Enbridge pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline here in Canada.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about another issue that came up in the visit of Justin Trudeau, the issue of trade. During Monday’s appearance at the White House, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau stressed that he planned to work with the U.S. on trade. This is what he said.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Canadians are rightly aware of the fact that much of our economy depends on good working relationships with the United States, a good integration with the American economy. And the fact is, millions of good jobs on both sides of the border depend on the smooth and easy flow of goods and services and people back and forth across our border. And both President Trump and I got elected on commitments to support the middle class, to work hard for people who need a real shot at success. And we know that by working together, by ensuring the continued effective integration of our two economies, we are going to be creating greater opportunities for middle-class Canadians and Americans now and well into the future.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And meanwhile, Donald Trump says he’s looking at tweaking portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement that deals with trade between the U.S. and Canada. Now, obviously, during the campaign, he was talking about more than tweaking; he was talking about renegotiating the entire deal. And obviously, for Canada, that means a big issue, because about 70 percent of Canada’s trade is with the United States.

CLAYTON THOMAS-MULLER: Well, I think that, you know, trade is an excellent example how, much like the United States, Canada’s economy and its economic excess is fundamentally based on the disposition—dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands to provide open-door access to extractive companies to take the resources from said land and to sell on the international market to the highest bidder. You know, Trudeau reopening NAFTA with Donald Trump, you know, just makes me think of the bilateral free trade agreement that they’re negotiating with China, FIPA, and as well as with the European Union, CETA. These trade agreements put incredible pressure on indigenous communities here in Canada, where the majority of natural resources are being extracted, and done so without consulting with these rights-holding nations within Canada, the settler colonial state. So it’s highly problematic that his conversation is happening in a vacuum from First Nations governments, which is one of the orders of government here in Canada. And, you know, certainly, social movements are watching this discussion around reopening of NAFTA with a heavy lens on indigenous sovereignty.

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