Oil pipelines and food sovereignty: threat to health equity for Indigenous communities

J Public Health Policy. 2019 Dec;40(4):504-517. doi: 10.1057/s41271-019-00186-1.


Energy projects may profoundly impact Indigenous peoples. We consider effects of Canada's proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion on the health and food sovereignty of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) through contamination and impeded access to uncontaminated traditional foods. Federal monitoring and TWN documentation show elevated shellfish biotoxin levels in TWN's traditional territory near the terminus where crude oil is piped. Although TWN restoration work has re-opened some shellfish-harvesting sites, pipeline expansion stands to increase health risk directly through rising bioaccumulating chemical toxins as well as through increased hazardous biotoxins. Climate change from increased fossil fuel use, expected via pipeline expansion, also threatens to increase algae blooms through higher temperature and nutrient loading. As the environmental impact assessment process failed to effectively consider these local health concerns in addition to larger impacts of climate change, new assessment is needed attending to linked issues of equity, sustainability and Indigenous food sovereignty.

Keywords: Biotoxins; Chemical toxins; Environmental impact assessment; First Nations; Food sovereignty; Health equity; Oil pipelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Food Supply*
  • Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Indigenous Peoples*
  • Oil and Gas Fields*
  • Petroleum*
  • Shellfish / toxicity


  • Petroleum