Kwantlen Polytechnic has withdrawn from a deal with Trans Mountain Pipeline that would have seen the oil pumping firm fund local scholarships and bursaries.
KPU president and vice-chancellor Alan Davis announced the withdrawal Friday, Oct. 2.
“My decision to withdraw KPU from this agreement was made out of respect for the Kwantlen First Nation’s right to argue its case before the National Energy Board regarding this pipeline expansion project,” said Davis.
The Kwantlen First Nation’s main reserve is on MacMillan Island in Fort Langley.
Members of the First Nation have been vigorous in their opposition to the pipeline expansion, and Kwantlen member Brandon Gabriel organized a sizable protest march through Fort Langley earlier this year.
Many members of the First Nation took part alongside environmentalists and other local residents.
The first nation is an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings on the project and has a number of concerns about the project, said Kwantlen First Nation council member Tumia Knott.
“We’re very pleased with the decision,” Knott said of KPU’s withdrawal.
The First Nation has been speaking with Davis and the university’s leadership about the issue since June, and had some meetings in September.
The first nation has a growing relationship with the university, and their shared name is part of that.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” Knott said of KPU’s decision to turn down Trans Mountain’s money.
The decision also won the support of the Kwantlen Student Association.
“We are proud of the university for respecting and listening to the concerns of the Kwantlen First Nation,” KSA president Allison Gonzalez said in a statement.
Trans Mountain issued a statement late Friday about the withdrawal.
“Trans Mountain respects Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s decision to withdraw from the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed earlier this year,” said the statement. “We are committed to continuing to seek opportunities to provide lasting legacies and benefits along the pipeline corridor through education and training programs.”
In June, Kwantlen announced the partnership with Trans Mountain, which is currently applying to almost triple the capacity of its oil pipeline running from Alberta to Burnaby.
The pipeline passes through Langley and the expansion plans have been controversial.
The deal between the pipeline firm and KPU would have seen $300,000 distributed over 20 years, divided among a number of awards, scholarships, and bursaries, most between $1,000 and $2,500. A Trans Mountain Pipeline Environmental Protection Lab was to have been funded with $2,000 each year to $40,000 in total.
Davis said the university has a longstanding relationship with the Kwantlen First Nation that is fundamental to the university’s history and identity.
“We do not in any way want to impede the KFN’s rights as an intervenor and so are withdrawing from the MOU [memorandum of understanding].”