Protesters continue to block railway traffic near Belleville, Ont.

protests

Protesters from Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation block rail tracks near Belleville, Ont., Sunday. Feb. 9, 2020. (CTV News Toronto/Tom Harris)

BELLEVILLE, ONT. — Protesters halted train travel along two of VIA Rail’s busiest Ontario routes Sunday as they continued to demonstrate against a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia.

VIA Rail says 18 of its trains were cancelled Sunday, affecting service between Toronto and Montreal, as well as Toronto and Ottawa in both directions.

Canadian National Railway traffic was also blocked along the corridor east of Toronto.

The blockade took over the tracks Thursday night in solidarity with demonstrators in northwest B.C. where Indigenous people and supporters are protesting the construction of a pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory.

VIA_Rail

FEBRUARY 9: Due to the protesters currently blocking tracks near Belleville, Ontario, train service between Montreal and Toronto and between Ottawa and Toronto is affected in both directions. See http://www.viarail.ca  for a list of cancellations.

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RCMP officers there have been arresting people for breaching a court injunction related to opposition to the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.
CN says it has been granted an injunction order to remove protesters from the site near Belleville, Ont.

protest

Ontario provincial police say they’re continuing to monitor the demonstration.

On Saturday, more protesters in Toronto disrupted Canadian Pacific Railway traffic downtown and momentarily blocked GO Transit trains on the Barrie line. SOURCE

RELATED:

Tyendinaga protesters remain near tracks
Via Rail service shut down by Tyendinaga Mohawks protest

‘Something Big Is Shifting’: As Georgetown Announces Fossil Fuel Divestment, Students Across US Demand Their Schools Follow Suit

The decision came after 90% of students who voted on a referendum voted in favor of divestment.

The Georgetown University board of directors announced Thursday it would divest from fossil fuels. (Photo: Ehpien/Flickr/cc)

Student-led anti-fossil fuel campaigns at universities across the country pointed to Georgetown University Friday as the school’s board of directors announced it would divest from fossil fuels and redouble its efforts to invest in renewable energy instead.

The university’s decision came after a sustained pressure campaign from Georgetown University Fossil Free (GUFF), a student group which submitted multiple proposals to the Georgetown Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility before the panel recommended the divestment this week. The school community also voted on a referendum regarding divestment on Thursday, withn more than 90% voting in favor.

GUFF issued a statement thanking the board of directors for its decision to divest and the school community for participating in the campaign.

“We are thrilled that our university has taken this important step in supporting climate justice, student voices, and financial accountability,” GUFF wrote.

Similar groups at other schools called on administrators to follow suit: MORE

Industry, government pushed to abolish Aboriginal title at issue in Wet’suwet’en stand-off, docs reveal

Documents obtained by The Narwhal reveal representatives of resource industries and government sought the ‘surrender’ of Indigenous land rights in the wake of the precedent-setting Delgamuukw decision, which affirmed Aboriginal title on unceded territory

RCMP helicopter Wet'suwet'en Unist'ot'en

An RMCP helicopter takes off after Unist’ot’en spokesperson and founder, Freda Huson, refused to negotiate surrender with the police on Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

he B.C. government and corporate lobbyists representing major resource industries sought the “surrender” of First Nations land rights immediately following the Delgamuukw decision, a precedent-setting legal ruling that established Aboriginal title to unceded land, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) documents obtained by The Narwhal.

The records, from B.C.’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, provide a glimpse for the first time of a corporate lobbying effort urging government to push First Nations to surrender their newly recognized title rights through modern treaties to achieve “certainty” for commercial interests.

Internal emails, memos and confidential briefing notes also show that, immediately after the Delgamuukw decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada on Dec. 11, 1997, B.C. government officials discussed tactics to fight land rights with legal challenges, to curb direct action or litigation by First Nations and to use federal money intended for the healing of residential school survivors to make treaty negotiations more attractive.

The push for “certainty” for industry operating in B.C. remains a strong focus for government to this day.

The Delgamuukw decision — prompted by a case launched in the 1980s by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the neighbouring Gitxsan Nation — cuts to the heart of the Wet’suwet’en nation’s on-going opposition to Coastal GasLink’s plan to build a 670-kilometre fracked gas pipeline through the nation’s traditional territory to LNG export facilities in Kitimat.

In the decision, Supreme Court justices declared that nations like the Wet’suwet’en, who had never signed treaties, still hold unceded rights to their lands.

A supporter at Unist’ot’en camp in Wet’suwet’en territory

A supporter at Unist’ot’en camp in Wet’suwet’en territory Jan. 15. Arrests of supporters at the camp are expected to take place Sunday, Feb. 9. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The threat of Aboriginal title

In early January Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink after the B.C. Supreme court extended an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters who are preventing the company from accessing contested work sites along the pipeline corridor near Houston, B.C. A year earlier, in January 2019, the RCMP enforced the injunction and arrested 14 people in a controversial move that drew international attention

Days after the eviction notice was served, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs met with the B.C. RCMP’s commanding officer, deputy commissioner Jennifer Strachan.

Hoping to avert a repeat of last year’s much-criticized police action, Chief Hagwilnegh (Ron Mitchell) of the Wet’suwet’en’s Small Frog clan offered the deputy commissioner a piece of advice: consult the Delgamuukw decision.

“Read that, before you give out your orders,” he recalled telling her.

Although the Delgamuukw ruling happened almost 25 years ago it is still considered one of the most important rulings on Indigenous land rights in Canadian history.

For 150 years prior to the ruling, all levels of government insisted Aboriginal title had been extinguished and thus had no impact on decision-making.

“If the government had taken the approach of co-existence advocated by the court, we wouldn’t be dealing with what we’re dealing with today.”

The Delgamuukw ruling found Aboriginal title is a unique, collectively held interest in the land that could grant Indigenous peoples exclusive occupation and require consent prior to resource development or other activities that could affect their territory.

The ruling sent shockwaves through the country, promising a transformation in Indigenous peoples’ rights to govern their ancestral territories.

Hagwilnegh, who worked as a translator for Elders testifying in court in their Wet’suwet’en language, remembered being hopeful that Aboriginal title would be reconciled with Crown title, as the federal Supreme Court judges had directed.

“If the government had taken the approach of co-existence advocated by the court, we wouldn’t be dealing with what we’re dealing with today,” he told The Narwhal.

But the government and resource companies had other ideas.

Freda Huson Brenda Michell RCMP Unist'ot'en

Freda Huson, centre, and her sister, Brenda Michell, stand in ceremony while they wait for police to enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

‘The decision makes the need for certainty through surrender all the more clear’

In a committee formed by the B.C. NDP government of Glen Clark — to allow oil and gas, forestry, cattle, real estate and mining associations to offer advice about treaty negotiations — various lobbyists pushed the government to limit the consequences of the Supreme Court decision, according to the FOI documents.

According to one memo, detailing a meeting that took place one day after the Delgamuukw ruling, Marlie Beets, then vice-president of the BC Council of Forest Industries, remarked that she had spent the previous hour “trying to calm” the CEOs she represented.

“[Delgamuukw] has only created more uncertainty and we are very concerned by how governments will react to the court’s findings,” Beets said. “The decision makes the need for certainty through surrender all the more clear. We see no other alternative.”

Marlie Beets, certainty through surrender

A document released through Freedom of Information rules quotes Marlie Beets relaying the anxiety of CEOs with the BC Council of Forest Industries in response to the Delgamuukw decision. Beets notes the ruling makes the need for economic “certainty through surrender” of Aboriginal title “clear.”

Mike Hunter, then the president of the Fisheries Council of B.C., urged the government to “downplay the expectations that Aboriginal leaders have.”

Mary MacGregor, then director of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, promised that “we will be putting great pressure on the provincial government to commit to a cede, release and surrender approach.”

Several days later, a new Delgamuukw strategy team formed by the ministry noted in a memo that “the oil and gas industry in particular has expressed concern about their ability to continue to do business in the province absent a clear direction from the government on how it will address the implications of the Delgamuukw decision.”

The following spring, John Watson, then-regional B.C. director of the federal Ministry of Indian Affairs wrote in a letter that both provincial and federal governments “are under tremendous pressure to ensure that we achieve the level of certainty required to assure business and other third parties.”

Indigenous-led opposition to unwanted natural resource projects and infrastructure has been bolstered by decisions such as Delgamuukw, Haida Nation and Taku River Tlingit.

In B.C., as in Quebec, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and the Atlantic provinces, the vast proportion of land has never been subject to treaty. Although often referred to as public or Crown land, most of these areas are the unceded homelands of Indigenous nations.

These communities are increasingly laying legal claim to their territory through the courts. A 2014 decision, for instance, granted the Tsilhqot’in nation Aboriginal title to 438,000 hectares of its traditional territory. It took the Tsilhqot’in 25 years to win its legal challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada. The B.C. and federal government fought the title claim from start to finish.

Following the Delgamuukw decision, the federal Supreme Court indicated the Wet’suwet’en could make a similar legal claim to its 22,000 square kilometre territory. Notably, the judges urged the government to seek to reconcile Aboriginal title with Crown title through negotiations, in the spirit of what it called “the honour and good faith of the Crown.”

But the FOI documents show the priority for both B.C. and federal governments was to try to resolve the economic and legal uncertainty for resource industries seeking access to land and natural resources.

In a “certainty working group” meeting arranged by the B.C. Treaty Negotiations advisory committee, lawyer Chris Harvey warned that, post-Delgamuukw, “there is now uncertainty over whether the entire province is burdened by Aboriginal title.”

What should be sought through the treaty process, Harvey said, is “an end of Aboriginal rights and title.”

B.C. government officials, for their part, promised to accomplish this through the existing B.C. modern treaty process.

End of Aboriginal rights quote

An excerpt of a fax sent on March 27, 1998, quoting lawyer Chris Harvey stating treaty rights are needed to bring about the ‘end of Aboriginal rights and title.’

‘Treaties offer the only long-term solution’

The treaty process, created in 1992, offered a way for the provincial government to forge agreements with First Nations that had never signed historic treaties.

The process drove a hard bargain for First Nations: they could relinquish rights to close to 95 per cent of their traditional territories — giving resource companies “certainty,” or uncontested access — in exchange for financial compensation and small parcels of land.

Nations like the Wet’suwet’en, which refused to enter the B.C. treaty process, were stone-walled, Hagwilnegh told The Narwhal.

“If we sat down to talk, it didn’t go anywhere. Meanwhile, government continued to hand out licences for all sorts of things — mining, clear-cut logging and, as we see today, pipelines.”

Gitxan supporter Wet'suwet'en camp

A Gitxan supporter works to start a truck at a Wet’suwet’en re-occupation camp on Jan. 13. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Following Delgamuukw’s recognition of Aboriginal title, many Indigenous advocates and lawyers argued Canada should stop requiring First Nations to extinguish their rights and instead seek out shared jurisdiction that would allow Indigenous nations to develop sustainable economies.

Indeed, the FOI documents show that in the wake of the ruling, officials at the B.C. Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs expressed fear that the “credibility of the treaty process is in question.”

But rather than shift its approach, the ministry deliberated how to accelerate negotiations and “[revamp] the treaty process to create faster certainty in the areas of lands and resources.”

The FOI documents include draft speaking notes prepared for then-B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Cashore in advance of a public forum with First Nations in late 1998.

The notes show Cashore’s prepared lines, which state, “there is no doubt that Delgamuukw also signals a need for a change in the way we do business.”

“The decision confirmed we are on the right track by negotiating instead of litigating,” the bullet-point speaking notes state. “We still believe that treaties offer the only long-term solution to gaining certainty around Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights.”

But in private, government bureaucrats discussed several hardball tactics, including litigation, the FOI documents reveal.

The bureaucrats proposed the idea of signing “interim agreements” with First Nations that would have them “agree to support economic stability in British Columbia by refraining from direct action or litigation,” without which negotiations would not proceed.

“Make sure we take advantage of potential litigation and maybe even initiate where we feel it could help us,” Doug Caul, then-director of Aboriginal affairs at the B.C. Ministry of Forests, suggested as a possible tactic in an email exchange with colleagues from different provincial ministries.

Caul also noted the province could strike back with a court challenge: “This will be controversial, but it seems likely that Delgamuukw will spawn more litigation,” he said. “Future litigation could help [d]efine the scope of title.”

“I am not suggesting we pick a fight,” Caul wrote on Dec. 17, 1997, less than one week after the Delgamuukw decision, “but that we make sure we take advantage of potential litigation and may be (sic) even initiate where we feel it it (sic) could help us, instead of waiting and reacting.”

An excerpt from an email written by Doug Caul less than one week after the Delgamuukw decision, suggesting government “take advantage of potential litigation” to limit the scope of the ruling’s significance for title rights.

Today, Caul is the deputy minister of B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, responsible for overseeing Bill 41, B.C.’s new legislation contending with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Escalating government tactics to ‘sweeten the deal’

In a memo to the B.C. Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, provincial treaty negotiators suggested using federal funds intended for the healing of residential school survivors to advance treaty negotiations.

As part of the federal response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien had established the Aboriginal Healing Foundation with a $350 million dollar grant in 1998.

In order to “sweeten the deal” offered by the B.C. treaty process, B.C. negotiators suggested asking the federal government to prioritize healing money for First Nations who engaged in treaty negotiations.

sweeten the deal treaty

Internal documents from B.C. treaty negotiators recommending healing funds for residential school survivors be used to “sweeten the deal” of modern treaties.

“Were the federal government to be strategic in how this money were spent in British Columbia, then they would prioritize those First Nations with which they are having treaty negotiations as the major beneficiaries of this program,” the treaty negotiators wrote. “In addition, the money could be made available as a ‘down payment’ on an eventual treaty and given credit accordingly.”

It is unclear whether the federal government ever acted or received a request to act on this idea.

The documents also show the provincial government monitored the activities of First Nations in B.C.’s interior who were critical of the treaty process. When the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs marched in downtown Vancouver on the first year anniversary of Delgamuukw, officials prepared media lines to highlight how they had “moved forward on a number of fronts.”

Documents reveal that upon the one-year anniversary of the Delgamuukw decision, government officials considered “monitoring blockades” a priority action. The documents also note a strategic priority to ensure the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs update the Ministry of the Attorney General and the RCMP on “affected regions.”

The ‘surrender approach’ continues

UBC Indigenous legal scholar Gordon Christie called the FOI documents “illuminating.”

“It confirms what has been common knowledge in Indigenous circles — that the approach that emerged out of these discussions has been pursued by both provincial and federal governments for decades,” Christie said.

Mohawk policy analyst Russell Diabo, who was working with interior B.C. First Nations when the Delgamuukw decision came down, said the “continuities are clear” over the decades.

“The governments have shown their main aim remains keeping powerful business interests happy and containing the power of Aboriginal rights and title, rather than moving toward a respectful relationship.”

United Nations bodies have repeatedly criticized the Canadian government for trying to dress up old policies that have been rejected by First Nations.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted in 2006 it “remains concerned that the new approaches, namely the ‘modified rights model’ and the ‘non-assertion model,’ do not differ much from the extinguishment and surrender approach.”

Despite the enormous effort by the B.C. government, treaty negotiations have resulted in only eight modern treaties that “modify” or “surrender” their Aboriginal title.

The Trudeau and Horgan governments have introduced an array of new policy mechanisms and “reconciliation” agreements, but Hagwilnegh said they promote essentially the same end result and remain unacceptable to the Wet’suwet’en.

“The government never likes it when we bring up Delgamuukw,” he said. “They clam up. And on those occasions when we have been able to educate government officials, the next day, poof, we get new officials sent to us.”

When contacted by The Narwhal, instead of answering questions the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation referred to a press release stating it is “basing negotiations on the recognition and continuation of rights without those rights being modified, surrendered or extinguished when a treaty is signed.”

Unist'ot'en camp reconciliation is dead flag

An imitation flag that reads “reconciliation is dead” burns on a funeral pyre as a small envoy of police arrive at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre on Saturday, Feb 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

“The new policy will enable flexible, innovative and collaborative approaches that improve how treaties are reached in B.C.,” the release said.

Diabo said the modern approach bears an uncomfortable resemblance to older methods. “Though the B.C. and federal government never tires of varnishing their approach to convince us that it’s brand sparkling new, their end-game remains to extract surrender of Aboriginal title to Crown sovereignty,” he told The Narwhal.

In the years since Delgamuukw, some First Nations have chosen further litigation or direct action to uphold the rights recognized in the ruling.

Diabo noted the response from the government has often been criminalization, pointing to the arrest of Wet’suwet’en land defenders in January 2019 as the latest in a line of policing actions taken against Indigenous peoples across Canada.

“The police lay down the law — or what they think the law is,” said Hagwilnegh, who has educated Wet’suwet’en youth about the meaning of the Delgamuukw court decision and worked with community members to map creeks, forests and hills across the nation’s traditional territory.

“But Delgamuukw was brought down by the Supreme Court, the highest court of Canada.”

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline RCMP Gidimt'en arrest

Police make an arrest January 2019 while enforcing the injunction filed by Coastal GasLink at the Gidimt’en checkpoint. Photo: Amber Bracken

Over the past several weeks, Hagwilnegh, acting as the police liaison for the hereditary chiefs, said he has continued to speak on the phone with RCMP deputy commissioner Strachan, whom the B.C. RCMP declined to make available for comment.

Hagwilnegh said Strachan took his advice and read up on Delgamuukw and he thinks she has listened more than the former commissioner, who oversaw the raid on Wet’suwet’en territory last year.

“But after our Elders told the world who we are and how we look after the land, as caretakers of the territory, is that the best the government can do?” Hagwilnegh asked. “It is long past time they respect their own laws.” SOURCE

 

TAKE ACTION!: The fight to stop Trans Mountain is far from over

Image result for wellhead to tidewater

Earlier this week the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed six First Nations’ argument that they were not meaningfully consulted about the Trans Mountain pipeline, upholding the project’s approval.

But as Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said while responding to the decision: “We’re here together to show that this is not a done deal.”

Now is the moment to raise awareness, keep building power, and expand our cross-border movement even more. The Pull Together campaign’s new weekly webinar series is a perfect way to do that – and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. 

Every Tuesday at 5pm from Feb 11th to March 3rd, we’ll get to learn together from impacted communities all along the Trans Mountain pipeline route. Click here to RSVP for the free webinar series.

B.C. failed to consider links between ‘man camps,’ violence against Indigenous women, Wet’suwet’en argue

A formal request for judicial review submitted with the B.C. Supreme Court argues B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office extended permit for Coastal GasLink pipeline without considering the findings of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Unist'ot'en camp red dresses MMIWG

A rare pink sunrise at the Unist’ot’en Healing centre, as police prepare for their second day of injunction enforcement near Houston, B.C. on Friday Feb. 7. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are requesting a judicial review of a decision made by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office to extend the environmental certificate for the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The request, filed Feb. 3, argues an extension should not have been granted in light of more than 50 instances of non-compliance with the conditions of Coastal GasLink permits and in light of the findings of Canada’s National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The inquiry found there is “substantial evidence” that natural resource projects increase violence against Indigenous women and children and two-spirit individuals.

A final report released from the National Inquiry Committee in June found “work camps, or ‘man camps,’ associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.”

“Increased crime levels, including drug- and alcohol-related offences, sexual offences, and domestic and ‘gang’ violence, have been linked to ‘boom town’ and other resource development contexts. … There is an urgent need to consider the safety of Indigenous women consistently in all stages of project planning,” the report states.

Concerns about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are on visible display at the Unist’ot’en camp, located along the intended route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, where for the past months red dresses — symbols of the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls — hang on signposts or dangle in the air from lines of suspended wire.

Karla Tait, psychologist and director of clinical services at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, said the idea came about when the Wet’suwet’en learned of a proposed 400-person worker camp planned for just 13 kilometres from the healing centre.

“We put a call out for red dresses to be sent here, inviting anyone to send red dresses in honour of any missing and murdered Indigenous women in their lives and to help us raise awareness and visibility as Coastal GasLink workers were traveling into our territory and doing pre-construction work,” Tait, who is a Unist’ot’en house member, told The Narwhal.

red dress Wet'suwet'en

Red dresses, signifying missing and murdered Indigenous women, hang near Unist’ot’en camp in Wet’suwet’en territory. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The RCMP are currently enforcing a court injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en and supporters occupying cultural camps in areas of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory that prevent work along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation, argue the pipeline was permitted without their consent as legal custodians of the nation’s territory under Wet’suwet’en law and as recognized by Canada’s Supreme Court in a 1997 ruling known as the Delgamuukw decision.

Chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink workers in early January and after weeks of tense waiting, RCMP began arresting individuals within a designated exclusion zone, which extends from an RCMP checkpoint to beyond the Unist’ot’en camp, on Feb. 6.

Huson Tait Unist'ot'en

Freda Huson, left, her sister Brenda Michell, centre, and her niece Karla Tait, right, head inside after offering songs and prayer outside the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre on Thursday Feb. 6. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Unist'ot'en camp helicopter Wet'suwet'en RCMP

A helicopter takes off after Freda Huson refused to talk to police at the Unist’ot’en camp on Saturday Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

RCMP officers arrived at the Unist’ot’en camp, located at the 66-kilometre mark along the Morice River Forest Road, on Saturday morning following two days of arrests while dismantling Wet’suwet’en camps along the pipeline route.

Wet’suwet’en at the camp have refused to comply with an RCMP request to surrender.

Unist’ot’en camp founder and spokesperson, Tsake’ze Howilhkat, who also goes by Freda Huson, said the camp is located 66 kilometres from the infamous Highway of Tears, notorious for its connection to the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women in B.C., many of whom she knew personally.

“Some of them are family, extended family, cousins and children. The latest one was our cousin’s daughter-in-law, left a one-year-old baby behind,” Huson told The Narwhal.

She recounted the experience of being on a search party for Frances Brown, who went missing while mushroom picking with her partner. The RCMP called off their search after five days.

“I, with many others, was out there for 35 to 37 days, every day from seven in the morning until seven at night we searched,” Huson said. “We were popping Tylenol because our bodies hurt so bad but we kept going out every day searching and we didn’t find any clues.”

Huson said she is angry the RCMP will deploy enormous resources to enforce an injunction against Indigenous people defending their territory but not to investigate the murder of Indigenous women or locate missing women or their remains.

“Maybe some of them are out here, somewhere,” Huson said of the area surrounding the Unist’ot’en camp. “Because of lot of them went missing and they could have easily went on these back roads. A lot of this territory was hardly used, so they could have been brought out here somewhere.”

There are 14 work camps planned to support the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Nine are already in operation, with additional camps expected to be built in 2020, according to a spokesperson with TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, which owns the pipeline.

Freda Huson

Chief Howilhkat, Freda Huson, and her sister Brenda Michell stand in ceremony while she waits for police to enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre near Houston, B.C. on Saturday Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Coastal GasLink permit extended without due process: lawyer

Dinï ze’ Smogelgem, Hereditary Chief of the Laksamshu (Fireweed and Owl) clan said the Wet’suwet’en’s application for judicial review of Coastal GasLink certificate extension also points out the connection between the project and threats to women.

“My cousins are listed among the murdered and missing women and girls,” he said in a statement announcing the case. “B.C. must not be allowed to bend the rules to facilitate operations that are a threat to the safety of Wet’suwet’en women.”

Caily DiPuma, legal counsel for the Wet’suwet’en with Woodward and Co., said the request for judicial review is about questioning the integrity of the environmental assessment process.

Coastal GasLink has not substantially started construction within the five years of its environmental certificate, granted in 2014, as is mandated in the permit. The company requested the Environmental Assessment Office grant a permit extension.

When considering a permit extension, the office is required to consider new significant and adverse impacts of the project and consider a proponent’s compliance in the five years in which they’ve been operating, DiPuma told The Narwhal.

“The EAO didn’t do either of those things properly,” she said.

“We know there is a correlation between camps of workers, what are called ‘man camps,’ and violence against Indigenous girls and women and queer people,” DiPuma said, adding that the Calls to Action from the National Inquiry direct decision-makers “like the EAO to undertake an assessment of gender-based harms for these kinds of projects.” Similar calls to action are directed at industry.

Man camp 9a Coastal GasLink Wet'suwet'en

A canvas tent near the Coastal GasLink work camp 9A on Jan. 5. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Despite this, the Environmental Assessment Office did not properly conduct an assessment of risks to Indigenous women from the Coastal GasLink project when extending its permits, DiPuma said.

“The EAO said Coastal GasLink would be prepared to consider doing so in the future. So, instead of creating a legally binding requirement for them to consider these harms, they took industry at its word that it would voluntarily do so at some point in the future.”

Coastal GasLink has also been found out of compliance with the conditions of its environmental certificate in more than 50 instances, according to the Environmental Assessment Office’s compliance program, including by restricting access to traplines and failing to adequately dispose of camp garbage.

Despite these many instances of non-compliance, the Environmental Assessment Office decided the company’s permit should be extended, DiPuma said.

“They haven’t explained to the public or my client why that should be.”

Red dresses sentinel as RCMP raid looms

The Unist’ot’en healing centre currently houses the remaining Wet’suwet’en members and supporters facing arrest by the RCMP.

The $2 million Unist’ot’en healing centre, which has received $400,000 from B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority to run land-based trauma and addictions treatment programs, is designed to provide services to vulnerable individuals, including youth in trauma treatment programs.

Tait said the red dresses hanging around the centre — some of which bear the initials of women people in the camp have lost — will act as a confrontation to the RCMP officers performing arrests.

“It’s a chance for the RCMP to confront those women, in a way, and be held to account on their failure to protect their safety,” Tait said.

But, she added, it’s also an opportunity for these lost and voiceless women to stand in solidarity with their community and family.

Red dress unist'ot'en MMIWG

A red dress, signifying missing and murdered Indigenous women, hangs on the bridge to Unist’ot’en camp. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

“We have a line of red dresses across the bridge because we think it’s a very powerful statement and it’s an invitation to the spirits of those women to come and stand and face the RCMP who are failing to seek justice on their behalf, who failed to protect their safety by being complicit in this epidemic that our communities are facing.”

Tait, who faces imminent arrest herself, said she believes women have a particular responsibility to protect Wet’suwet’en territory.

“We are a matrilineal culture, so our women are our strength. The women make the decisions about the land, because we know our children depend on the land, they inherit our territory after we’re gone and that’s all through the mother’s line. So it really feels like it’s a deep responsibility for us as women to make sure there’s territory intact, there’s a safer future for our children that are coming and that these lands will remain here and remain a sanctuary for our people.”

Huston Michell Tait Unist'ot'en RCMP arrests

Freda Huson, right, looks at pictures of the early morning arrests at the 39-kilometre camp, with her sister Brenda Michell, left, and niece, Karla Tait, centre, at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre on Thursday Feb. 6. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The Wet’suwet’en application for a judicial review was served to Kevin Jardine, associate deputy minister of the environment and the executive director of the Environmental Assessment Office, as well as Coastal GasLink.

DiPuma said her office has yet to hear back from the substantive parties.

“They’ve got some time to consider their position on this. It’s up to them to determine if they reconsider the permit or if they want to go to court.” SOURCE

 

Greta Thunberg Supports Activists Rallying For Wet’suwet’en In BC (PHOTOS)

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Antonello Marangi | Dreamstime Jason Hargrove | Flickr

As tensions continue to escalate between Coastal GasLink protestors and the Canadian government, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has shared her support for the Wet’suwet’en cause. Taking to Twitter to speak out against the pipeline construction, Thunberg shared a photo of B.C.’s Wet’suwet’en protests. The 17-year-old wrote, “Indigenous rights = Climate justice.”

Greta Thunberg has made her position on B.C.’s pipeline construction clear by posting her support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s protests.

Retweeting a post from a Vancouver-based climate activist, Thunberg wrote, “Indigenous rights = Climate justice.” She added, “#WetsuwetenStrong, #KeepItInTheGround.”

Her post came in response to the news that Indigenous youth had been protesting outside of the BC Legislature in Victoria for more than 26 hours, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation, reports Global News.

The Indigenous nation has been opposing the new Coastal GasLink since December, when the B.C. Supreme Court granted the pipeline an expanded injunction.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have not given their consent to the new construction project, and have accused the company of violating their traditional laws.

Within two hours, Thunberg’s tweet got more than 8,000 likes.

On Friday, Thunberg shared another clip from the B.C. protests, retweeting a video of a supporter shutting down the intersection of Metcalfe and Slater.

The disagreement between the two groups continues to cause disruption across Canada, blocking ferries in B.C. and Via Rail train routes in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

On Thursday six people were arrested by the RCMP, for refusing to evacuate the pipeline construction site, reports Global.

This isn’t the first time this week that Thunberg has spoken out about Canadian environmental politics.

On Thursday, the activist shared an article from The Guardian that was highly critical of Justin Trudeau’s climate action.

Quoting the article in her post, Thunberg wrote, “If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity.”

Their statement said, “The Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ continue to resist colonial and gendered violence against Wet’suwet’en people, and to protect Wet’suwet’en lands for future generations.” SOURCE

Kinder Morgan bailout to cost north of $15 billion

An oil tanker leaves Vancouver Harbour under the Lion’s Gate bridge. File photo by Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on May 29 that the Government of Canada will buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system from Kinder Morgan at a price of $4.5 billion.

When asked about the cost to build the expansion during his press conference, Mr. Morneau was cagey. He refused to explain that $4.5 billion simply buys Ottawa the rights to what exists today — a 65 year old pipeline serving B.C. and Washington State, storage facilities and a one-berth marine terminal that sends modest volumes of diluted bitumen to California markets.

By the time the expansion is built, the price tag for nationalizing the existing assets and building the expansion will cost Canadians upwards of $15 – $20 billion.

That’s because the $7.4 billion capital cost for the project estimated in February 2017 will likely exceed $9 billion by the time an up to date budget is prepared. Then there is $2.1 billion in financial assurances required for the land based spill risk and $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan for marine spill risk that Ottawa has already agreed to.

Trans Mountain’s expansion was never commercially viable and Kinder Morgan knew it. In January 2010, Richard Kinder, Chair of the US parent, Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI) said, “…it would be almost impossible to replicate … any of the major pipelines that we have at any reasonable cost. And even getting into some of these metropolitan areas would be impossible today. The areas are just built up too much.

The Texas based company — forged from the executive offices of Enron — plowed ahead anyway. It relied on the National Energy Board (NEB) as an industry-captured regulator to help in the cover-up of the project’s commercial challenges.

Then, the company played the huge egos of desperate politicians who based project approval on back room deals rather than proper due diligence.

Ottawa never did the job it should have to protect the public interest. It never understood the project’s compromised financial case, or how it was cobbled together.

To justify the “national interest” claim for Trans Mountain’s expansion, Ottawa has made up numbers on jobs and oil revenue benefits.

Ottawa claimed 15,000 construction jobs when Kinder Morgan’s application to the NEB explicitly stated it expected an average of 2,500 — and these would exist only for two years during construction.

The Texas based company — forged from the executive offices of Enron — plowed ahead anyway. It relied on the National Energy Board (NEB) as an industry-captured regulator to help in the cover-up of the project’s commercial challenges.

More recently Ottawa has claimed a $15 billion a year cost from lack of pipeline capacity. In Calgary last week, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “We are losing $15 billion a year because we are trapped to the American market.”

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr also points to $15 billion annually as justifying Ottawa’s support. He says, “there is value in getting a better price for our product instead of the discounted one now that costs us $15 billion a year.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, also regularly claims this loss. Trans Mountain’s expansion “will contribute … roughly $15 billion to the Canadian economy”, she says.

This “$15 billion” claim began peppering political soundbites in February, around the time Scotiabank released “Pipeline Approval Delays: the Costs of Inaction.”

A cursory read of Scotiabank’s report reveals a passing mention to $15.6 billion a year. But Scotiabank doesn’t rely on that figure. If no new pipeline capacity is built, Scotiabank says the annual impact will be $7 billion — less than half what Ottawa and Alberta say.

How did Ottawa and Alberta come up with $15 billion in lost revenue from lack of pipeline capacity?

I contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and was re-routed to Minister Carr’s. NRCan confirmed no internal assessment. Scotiabank was their primary source.

Premier Notley’s office confirmed Scotiabank as its only source.

I called the bank. The annual loss predicted (if no new pipeline capacity is built) is $7 billion, not $15 billion.

Did anyone in government read Scotiabank’s report beyond bullet points?

Still, it’s a big number. How is it that some of the most sophisticated heavy oil conglomerates in the world find themselves trapped taking an unfair price in U.S. markets costing $7 billion a year?

The short answer — they don’t. Scotiabank’s report is a work of fiction.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s characterization of sophisticated big oil companies being “trapped” reveals his lack of understanding of how the industry is structured.

Oil producers knew a bitumen export plan would increasingly expose them to the volatile light-heavy discount. They adopted a variety of price mitigation strategies beyond integrating operations with refineries they own in the US. This is why, for example, Suncor CEO, Steve Williams can tell shareholders, “We have virtually no exposure to the light/heavy differential.”

Husky has none of their barrels exposed, while less successful strategies at Cenovus have left 40-50 per cent of their production at risk.

What is the aggregate impact of these industry-wide strategies? Only one in ten barrels of crude oil produced in Canada — about 400,000 barrels a day — are exposed to the volatile light-heavy discount. Now the expected light-heavy differential is within the expected range for quality and transportation costs, there is no loss at all.

It is a betrayal of the public trust that Trudeau, Carr and Notley so eagerly got behind a $15 billion a year loss from a fundamentally flawed Scotiabank report, without checking first to make sure it made any sense. And these are the people entrusted to nationalize an aging pipeline and manage the construction of its expansion?  ” SOURCE

RCMP arrest 11 more pipeline opponents on third day of Wet’suwet’en raids

An RCMP officer peers through a gate at Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Using an ever-changing set of rules, RCMP in British Columbia arrested 11 opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline Saturday, the third day of raids on Wet’suwet’en Nation territory.

RCMP also continued to obstruct journalists on the remote forest road in northern B.C. where the conflict is playing out, drawing international criticism. A spokesperson for one of the nation’s five clans, Molly Wickham of Gidimt’en, said the police broke a promise not to make more arrests until after a meeting with the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

“The RCMP have come in with their guns,” said Wickham, also known as Sleydo. “They’re doing this all while we are waiting… to talk to the RCMP.”

Police are enforcing a court injunction to force the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters out of the path of the pipeline, which is planned to run through the nation’s unceded territory even though Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs haven’t consented. The tiny community has built four camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres from Vancouver, as they reoccupy their unceded territory and oppose Coastal GasLink.

The raids began Thursday. With Saturday’s total included, police have made 21 arrests over three days, also temporarily detaining two journalists on Thursday and one journalist on Friday.

Saturday’s raid happened at the first camp along the road, a gathering place for supporters which is located at the 27-kilometre mark of the snowy road.

Originally, the RCMP said people were welcome to gather there, as it was outside the zone affected by the court injunction. But police extended the restricted area ⁠— known as an exclusion zone ⁠⁠— to include the 27-kilometre camp late Friday. It happened after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters used their vehicles to block RCMP officers from leaving the area to process four pipeline opponents who were arrested that day.

In a statement, the RCMP said commanders decided to expand the exclusion zone because metal spikes on the road made several police vehicles “inoperative.”

Police were eventually able to clear the vehicles and asked everyone at the 27-kilometre camp to leave. “People can’t leave because police towed their vehicles away,” said a statement from Unist’ot’en Camp, the settlement furthest along the forest road.

Eventually, Sleydo said in a live video posted to Facebook, police agreed to meet with the hereditary chiefs at 10 a.m. and not arrest anyone at the camp until 11 a.m. But the RCMP didn’t show ⁠— instead, she added, officers surrounded the camps and made arrests at about 1:30 p.m. and blocked the chiefs from going past the four-kilometre checkpoint.

RCMP arrested 11 people as the conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline stretched into its third day. Meanwhile, the RCMP drew international condemnation for repeatedly violating freedom of the press. #bcpoli

In the live video, two RCMP officers from a specialized liaison team can be seen approaching a vehicle where hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en supporters are assembled.

“We’re supposed to be meeting before anything happens at 27,” Sleydo says to a male officer.

“People there have been asked to leave,” says the officer, adding that he needs to get up to the camp.

“Why?” asks Sleydo. The officer walks away without answering the question, and both liaison officers hop into an RCMP truck and drive away.

Several people were also allowed to leave the camp voluntarily. They declined rides from police, choosing to walk to the four-kilometre checkpoint. Others were arrested after they barricaded themselves inside a cabin.

Earlier in the day, at about 11:20 a.m. Pacific time, officers used helicopters to get over Wet’suwet’en barriers and approach the gates of Unist’ot’en Camp. Unist’ot’en is the largest and oldest camp, home to a $2-million healing centre.

“Unist’ot’en matriarchs and indigenous supporters went into ceremony and refused to speak to police,” read a statement from the camp. As they burned the injunction, a traditional funeral pyre was lit with a homemade flag on top reading, ‘Reconciliation is Dead.’”

The RCMP left the area in their helicopters just after noon, Unist’ot’en reported.

Unist’ot’en Camp@UnistotenCamp

Feb 8, 2020, RCMP officers landed at @UnistotenCamp by helicopter. Chiefs, house members called on ancestors & held cremation ceremony for Canadian/Indigenous . Copy of CGL injunction burned. After 30 mins, RCMP left.

Embedded video
RCMP under fire for blocking freedom of the press

RCMP temporarily blocked reporters from getting through the four-kilometre mark, despite a statement to the contrary on Friday night. After waiting for an hour and a half, CBC reporter Chantelle Bellrichard said on Twitter that she had been allowed in, only to have RCMP hold her back and block her view of arrests at 27-kilometre.

“Increasingly frustrating to do our job on the ground and have never had to argue for press freedoms so strenuously,” Bellrichard tweeted.

RCMP have repeatedly impeded reporters on the road. In a statement Saturday, the online media outlet Ricochet said its journalist on the ground, Jerome Turner, was “continuously” detained during an RCMP raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Friday, at the 44-kilometre mark of the road.

Police detained Turner in a ditch 60 feet from where officers were arresting people, Ricochet said.

“This ditch was in a location where Turner could not connect to the internet, and he was not allowed to get to a location where he could get a signal and send updates to his editors,” the statement said.

“As a result, he was out of contact for eight hours yesterday, with his editors unsure of his status or safety.”

Later, Turner agreed to leave. But RCMP detained him again and prevented him from going to the blockade at the 27-kilometre camp, only releasing him after the vehicles in the road had been towed.

Earlier, on Thursday, journalists were told they’d be arrested if they recorded tactical officers holding guns or officers smashing a truck window to make an arrest, tweeted Jesse Winter, a reporter on assignment for Vice.

The continuous infringements on press freedom have been condemned by the international Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and Amnesty International.

The RCMP have declined to provide a map showing what’s inside the exclusion zone. Though the RCMP previously said any journalists in the area would be arrested, the force walked that statement back Friday following condemnation from the Canadian Association of Journalists and others.


Matriarchs and supporters at Unist’ot’en Camp burned a copy of a court injunction meant to clear them out of their traditional territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Coastal GasLink, explained

The controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline is owned by TC Energy, a Calgary-based energy company formerly known as TransCanada Corp. If built, the 670-kilometre pipeline would cut through Wet’suwet’en territory to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the proposed LNG Canada facility in Kitimat, B.C., for processing and export.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, hereditary chiefs from five clans have authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory. The hereditary chiefs have repeatedly opposed Coastal GasLink.

But TC Energy touts agreements it’s made with elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, which were created under Canada’s colonial Indian Act. The elected councils have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the area adjacent to the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs’ land claim is backed by a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision. But a second trial ordered by the court hasn’t yet happened and many aspects of the dispute are still unresolved.

Last year, RCMP enforcing an earlier court injunction violently arrested 14 people at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Documents later revealed by the Guardian showed that officers had been prepared to use lethal force.

In the aftermath of that raid, the hereditary chiefs said they were concerned about safety and agreed to allow GasLInk in for pre-construction work on the pipeline. But the hereditary chiefs evicted the company shortly after a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted Coastal GasLink the second injunction on Dec. 31.

The RCMP began steadily increasing police presence on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 13, putting up a blockade at the 27-kilometre mark of the road. Officers poured into the surrounding towns as they prepared to enforce the second injunction.

Though the hereditary chiefs and the province agreed last week to seven days of talks to de-escalate the situation, the discussions broke down Tuesday night. The next day, the RCMP warned they would begin enforcing the injunction imminently.

The first round of raids began hours before dawn Thursday. Officers with the court injunction in hand stormed a media camp and supply post at the 39-kilometre mark of the road, arresting four.

Officers arrested six more during Friday’s raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, the result of a seven-hour standoff that left the camp still standing.

Police had also tried to get people barricaded inside a trapping cabin off the road near Gidimt’en Checkpoint to leave Friday. “Heavily armed” officers tried again Saturday, but Unist’ot’en said the people inside that cabin remained inside.

The six people arrested Thursday were released without charges, while the four arrested Friday will have their first court appearance Monday in the nearby town of Smithers, B.C., Unist’ot’en Camp said.

The situation has been condemned by the B.C. Human Rights Commission, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Meanwhile, solidarity demonstrations have played out across the country since Thursday, with Wet’suwet’en supporters blocking highways and major rail lines ⁠— including the VIA Rail route between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. SOURCE

Ottawa to promise long-term fix for N.L.’s Muskrat Falls, could spare province steep rate hike

The 824-megawatt hydro project in central Labrador has been plagued by delays, cost overruns and political controversy in the decade since it was first announced. (Nalcor Energy)

The federal government has agreed to negotiate a financial restructuring of the Muskrat Falls hydro project to make it financially sustainable over the long term, potentially sparing Newfoundland and Labrador from a massive spike in electricity rates, CBC News has learned.

As a first step, Ottawa has temporarily waived conditions of the Muskrat Falls federal loan guarantee, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

Under the terms of that federal loan guarantee, the provincial government is required to set aside money to cover additional cost-overruns on the project, which have doubled in cost to nearly $13-billion since it was first announced a decade ago.

But Ottawa has agreed to a temporary deferment of that condition as part of a package of short-term measures, meaning the provincial government won’t have to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to cover higher-than-expected costs, at least until the project comes on stream later this year.

Those measures will be back-stopped by the larger federal promise to help secure a long-term financial restructuring of the controversial hydro project, according to multiple sources familiar with the details.

The 824-megawatt hydro project in central Labrador has been plagued by delays, cost overruns and political controversy in the decade since it was first announced.

Soaring costs

In 2010, former Progressive Conservative premier Danny Williams pitched it as a $6.2-billion green energy solution that would bring Labrador power to the island of Newfoundland and into Nova Scotia through a series of subsea cables.

By the time the project was sanctioned in 2012 by Williams’ successor Kathy Dunderdale, the cost estimate had risen to $7.7-billion. It’s now expected to deliver power for the first time in late 2020 with a final price tag that could be more than $13 billion.

Premier Dwight Ball, above, and federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan will announce the specific details Monday afternoon in St. Johns. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Finding a way to keep electricity rates low as those costs spiked has been a key issue in federal-provincial relations for well over a year.

Premier Dwight Ball and federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan will announce the specific details Monday afternoon in St. John’s.

Ottawa’s stake in the project is due to the federal loan guarantee first promised by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2012 when he agreed to guarantee up to $6.3-billion in debt. The Trudeau government increased the loan guarantee by an additional $2.9-billion in 2016.

Finding a way to limit the damage of Muskrat Falls is one of the most pressing political issues in Newfoundland and Labrador. Without significant mitigation, average electricity bills will spike by 75 per cent to cover the cost of the project when it delivers power sometime in late 2020.

Electricity rates would jump from 13 cents per kilowatt hour to just under 23 cents.

The province’s Public Utilities Board — which sets electricity rates — completed a study of mitigation options that found ways to hold rates to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Rate increases

But the utilities board warned that a price increase of that magnitude would be too much to absorb for people in a province with high unemployment, and could make major employers less competitive.

It concluded that limiting rates further would require significant help from the federal government that could include a financial restructuring of the project.

The current provincial Liberal government and its taxpayer-owned energy company, Nalcor, have been trying to find a combination of cost savings and revenue options to cap that massive rate increase.

But that would require hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep rates low at a time when the provincial government is already running record deficits.

But by the time the Muskrat Falls project was sanctioned in 2012, the cost estimate had risen to $7.7-billion. It’s now expected to deliver power for the first time in late 2020 with a final price tag that could be more than $13 billion. (Twitter/Nalcor)