Grand Chief Stewart Phillip & Peter McCartney: Canada must stop violating Indigenous human rights for megaprojects

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet'suwet'en members.

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet’suwet’en members.

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Peter McCartney

There’s no way around it—Indigenous peoples are the proper title and rights holders over their territories, and their human rights cannot be trampled just because a megaproject floats the dream of big money to investors.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently called on Canada to immediately stop construction on three major industrial projects until affected Indigenous Nations have given their consent. The Coastal GasLink pipeline, Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the Site C dam have all been met with consistent opposition from many of the nations whose territories they would cross and infringe upon. Community members have been violently removed from their lands for asserting their title and rights and exercising their inherent right to control and develop their lands, territories and resources.

As we write this, the RCMP is preparing to descend upon Wet’suwet’en territory to clear the path of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, as the company recently won a court injunction that the RCMP is obliged to enforce. Meanwhile, land defenders who oppose the federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline have faced harassment, surveillance, intimidation, and violent arrest.

These events highlight the concerns of the UN for the rights and safety of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Police violence and human rights violations are only likely to escalate unless political leaders step in. Their courage or cowardice will define whether reconciliation becomes yet another hollow promise to Indigenous Peoples or a chance to build this country upon principles of equality and respect—the way it should have been from the beginning.

We’ve visited the Tiny House Warriors, the Rocky Mountain Fort, and the Unist’ot’en healing lodge in the path of these megaprojects. Friends have told us how they’ve been turned away from local businesses, constantly harassed and surveilled by police, and even injured in violent arrests. It does not and should not have to be like this.

We can have an economy that reflects our values. There’s a right way to provide jobs and prosperity, but it requires patience, humility and prioritizing the relationships that we are trying to build. Indigenous Peoples have laws and governments that have been in place on these territories long before Canada’s. Respecting their right to make decisions about those lands means accepting our shared future in this place is more important than any one resource project.

For generations, Canada has proudly supported human rights on the international stage at the United Nations forums while consistently failing to apply the same moral compass here at home. If we are going to live up to our ideals rather than repeat the mistakes of the past, and if British Columbia is to advance its commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we must heed the call and stop Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink and Site C. Only once we stop straining the fragile bonds between us can we move forward in partnership. SOURCE

Hundreds take to the streets for pipeline protest

The project has received opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs (File photo)

ANCOUVER — Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project.

“It’s our territory. It’s not Canadian land. It’s not the Queen’s. It’s not the RCMP’s. It’s Wet’suwet’en land. It’s our land,” said Jerome Pete, who grew up on the traditional territory where Coastal GasLink plans to build its pipeline.

The company posted an injunction order Tuesday, giving people at a protest camp near Houston 72 hours to make way for construction workers.

“I’m here as an indigenous youth standing with Wet’suwet’en Nation in their resistance to Coastal Gaslink pipeline and colonial forces that seek to remove indigenous people from our lands and our futures,” said Ta’Kaiya Blaney as she addressed the crowd at Victory Square.

Vancouver pipeline protest

Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project. (CTV)

Coastal GasLink has agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route, but not the support of hereditary chiefs.

“It’s really quite simple. Elected band councils have jurisdiction and authority to the reserve land system. Period,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs. “The hereditary chiefs have authority over the territory – the broad territory.”

This week, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged a halt to the project, saying it does not respect the rights of indigenous people. That prompted a response from B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner.

“We have obligations to ensure free, prior, and informed consent exists for all impacted Indigenous groups before projects impact lands,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender in a statement in support of the pipeline’s opponents.

Environmentalist David Suzuki made some remarks at the Saturday rally, but it was young indigenous voices that spoke the loudest.

“Standing with Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters means that I am standing with my future,” said Blaney.

With Coastal GasLink’s 72-hour injunction notice now expired, people at Saturday’s march and rally feared the RCMP would move in to arrest protesters at the camp. SOURCE

RELATED:

BC human rights commissioner asks Canadian government to halt Coastal GasLink

Judy Wilson to Sonya Savage: Get educated on land rights

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, pictured in 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

A prominent First Nations leader says Alberta’s energy minister “needs to be more educated” on Indigenous land rights, after an urgent warning by a United Nations committee provoked the province’s anger.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, told National Observer that she felt Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage was misguided when she slammed a UN directive calling on Canada to halt construction on energy projects.

“I think that she doesn’t understand what the proper title-holders are,” Wilson said. “I think she needs to be more educated on that.”

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir also told National Observer that Savage’s remarks show the UCP government in Alberta refuses to respect Indigenous rights.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage on May 2, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade 

The UN directive calls on Canada to stop construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the Site C dam and the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the government can properly carry out its constitutional duty to consult and obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was concerned large projects in Canada could cause “irreparable harm to Indigenous peoples rights, culture, lands, territories and way of life.” It also said it was disturbed by law enforcement’s “harassment and intimidation” and alarmed by the “escalating threat of violence.”

After news broke Tuesday of the December directive from the UN, Savage issued a statement criticizing the international body as “unaccountable” and “unelected” and suggesting it was “beyond rich” that its work would “single out Canada.”

“We wish that the UN would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink,” Savage wrote.

“First Nations leaders increasingly recognize that responsible natural resource development can serve as a path from poverty to prosperity for their people. Yet this UN body seemingly ignores these voices.”

Sonya Savage@sonyasavage

With all the atrocities in the world, many committed in other oil producing countries, UN efforts would be better directed there than at Canada…

My full statement on the UN Racism Commitee calling for the halt of major resource projects:

View image on Twitter

In the case of Coastal GasLink, the proper title-holders are hereditary, Wilson said. While the company has indicated it has signed agreements with all elected First Nations councils, five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are demanding the province suspend permits for the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs have cited Wet’suwet’en trespass laws when they sent an eviction notice recently to the company. Hereditary chief Na’moks even cited the UN directive in comments: “The world is watching; the United Nations is watching. This is not just the Wet’suwet’en,” said Na’moks, according to CBC News.

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir said in a statement that “we believe the economy, environment, and Indigenous rights can, and must, go hand-in-hand.” The former Alberta NDP government led an anti-racism initiative and formed the Indigenous Climate Leadership Initiative, he noted.

“As a result, we were able to move much needed resource development forward in a responsible manner,” said Sabir. “The current UCP government’s dismissive attitude towards the environment, refusal to respect Indigenous rights, and lack of vision will only lead to further delays and more projects being questioned.”

The UN directive is not the first time that the organization has cast a critical eye on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and its pursuit of fossil fuel and energy projects, in the context of discrimination.

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, speaks to media in Ottawa on June 6, 2019. Photo by Carl Meyer 

In June 2019, Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, concluded that Indigenous communities in Canada are “disproportionately impacted” by toxic industrial byproducts to the point that it raised questions of discrimination.

In addition to its warning about resource projects, the new UN directive recommends Canada “establish, in consultation with Indigenous peoples, a legal and institutional framework to ensure adequate consultation” and to incorporate free, prior and informed consent into domestic legislation.

In British Columbia, the province passed legislation in November to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It has not yet been passed federally.

The UN body also urged Canada to “prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against Indigenous peoples.” RCMP were “prepared to shoot” land defenders blockading Coastal GasLink construction, the Guardian reported in December, citing internal police documents.

“Canada needs to heed these international bodies, international law, and they keep talking about upholding the rule of law, but Canada isn’t doing that as a country,” Wilson said.

“The rule of law is very clear with regards to discrimination, we should be moving as a country past that. We should be working on a better direction, instead of reinforcing the old fossil fuel and oil industry. We’re wasting a lot of time because of climate change.” SOURCE

 

First Nation looks ahead after court sides with natural gas company

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in favour of Coastal GasLink on its $6.6-billion pipeline, to be built through Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks speaks near Houston, B.C., in a Jan. 9, 2019, file photo. Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wasn’t surprised that the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an interim injunction against members of the First Nation and others who oppose the pipeline. CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

SMITHERS, B.C.—A hereditary chief with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation says the community is expecting further police action after the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in favour of a natural gas company that wants to build a pipeline through its territory.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wasn’t surprised that the court granted Coastal GasLink an interim injunction against members of the First Nation and others who oppose the pipeline.

The Dec. 31 ruling came just under a year after the RCMP enforced an injunction granted by the same court that drew international attention with the arrest of 14 people on Jan. 7, 2019.


Related: B.C. Supreme Court grants natural gas pipeline company interlocutory injunction


“We do expect the RCMP to bring it to another level. They did it last year, they’ll do it again this year,” he said in a telephone interview.

The RCMP said in a statement that it respects the ruling and the judicial process, but it would not say if or when police would enforce the latest injunction.

“The RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe protest and we are committed to facilitating a dialogue between all parties. We are impartial in this dispute and it is our hope that this can be resolved peacefully,” Corp. Madonna Saunders said.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport natural gas across 670 kilometres from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.

The company has said it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the path, however five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suweten First Nation say the project has no authority without their consent.

Na’moks said the First Nation is also exploring options for court action, including an appeal of the decision and a constitutional challenge.

“We have a number of avenues open to us that we’re looking at right now.”

The latest ruling expands the existing interim injunction.

Following police enforcement last year, the hereditary chiefs reached an agreement with RCMP that Na’moks said at the time was to ensure the safety of local members. Under the agreement, the company must give the First Nation 24-hour notice of workers entering the site, he said.

The agreement did not represent consent for the project and Na’moks said members remain firm in their opposition.

“Our stance hasn’t changed,” he said Thursday. “Our people have said no to this, so we’ve said no.”

Over the past year, Coastal GasLink has begun what it calls “pre-construction” work at the site, drawing criticism from members of the First Nation who say that work threatens or destroys historic artifacts, trails and hunting grounds.

The company issued a statement following the court ruling saying its work is approved and permitted.

Coastal GasLink will continue trying “to engage with any affected groups to ensure public safety while (its) field crews continue to progress their critical activities,” it said.

Unist’ot’en spokeswoman Freda Huson, who is named in the injunction, said the court decision fails to recognize the authority of Wet’suwet’en law even though the First Nation has never ceded its territory.

According to the decision, Indigenous laws do not become an “effectual part” of Canadian common law or domestic law until there is a means or process to do so that is already recognized by Canadian law, such as through treaties, Aboriginal title declarations in the courts or statutory provisions.

That has not occurred in the Wet’suwet’en case, it said.

Wet’suwet’en title claims have not been resolved by either litigation or negotiation, the decision said.

The court also said some of the constitutional questions posed by the Wet’suwet’en go beyond the scope of the injunction application. It said those questions would have to be determined in a trial.

Huson has lived on the land in question for a decade and what started as a camp now has several permanent structures, including space that is used as a healing centre, which she said she will keep running.

“We’ll continue to exercise Wet’suwet’en law, it’s what has sustained us,” she said.

“We’re not feeling defeated because we know what we’re doing is right.” SOURCE

Wet'suwet'en Supporter Toolkit 2020

‘Deliberate extinction’: extensive clear-cuts, gas pipeline approved in endangered caribou habitat

Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest

Inland-Temperate-Rainforest-TheNarwhal-0099-2

Standing near the summit of a clear-cut mountain in B.C.’s interior, overlooking the brown and emerald green Anzac River valley, scientist Dominick DellaSala has a bird’s eye view of why the Hart Ranges caribou herd is at risk of extinction.

Only a fringe of forest remains around the distant mountain peak where the declining herd seeks protection from wolves and other predators in ever-shrinking habitat northeast of Prince George.

“The difference between this and Borneo is that there aren’t any orangutans behind me,” says DellaSala, pointing to extensive clear cuts covering much of the mountain side.

“You’ve got caribou at upper elevations. That’s their habitat out there. And they’re being squished to the top of the tallest mountains because all the habitat’s been taken out down below. The species is migratory, it goes up and down.”

DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is touring parts of B.C.’s ancient inland temperate rainforest as part of an Australian-led study documenting the world’s most important unlogged forests.

Scientist Dominick DellaSalaScientist Dominick DellaSala stands at the fringe of a clear-cut in B.C.’s interior. DellaSala, who has studied forests and logging in countries such as Brazil and Borneo, describes clear-cutting in B.C.’s northern forests as some of the worst he’s ever seen. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

The rare inland rainforest, with cedar trees more than 1,000 years old, is part of an ecosystem called the interior wet belt that includes the Anzac valley bottom, a hodgepodge of green far below where DellaSala stands with Michelle Connolly, director of the Prince George-based organization Conservation North.

But there will soon be significantly less green in the lower reaches of the Anzac valley, whose old-growth spruce and subalpine fir trees are draped in hair lichen, a crucial winter food for caribou.

Since October, the B.C. government has granted approval to forestry giant Canfor for six new logging cutblocks in the valley, according to Geoff Senichenko, research and mapping coordinator for the Wilderness Committee. The cutblocks total 332 hectares, making them a little smaller than Vancouver’s Stanley Park in size.

Those permits are among 78 logging cutblocks the government approved over the same period in the Hart Ranges herd critical habitat, with 62 of them going to Canfor, Senichenko’s research shows.

“This seals the caribou’s fate,” says Connolly, a forest ecologist.

Caribou were given a very small amount of habitat,” Connolly says. “It’s not enough … There’s very little chance of that habitat recovering in those cut blocks below the tops of the mountains, and therefore of those areas serving caribou the way they used to.”

The Hart Ranges caribou herd also faces another new threat: the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will transport fracked gas from the province’s northeast to Kitimat, where it will be liquefied by LNG Canada and shipped overseas. MORE

 

Why the Coastal GasLink pipeline may never be built.

Trans Mountain
Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain expansion project lies at a stockpile site in Kamloops, British Columbia, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Dennis Owen

This video outlines why  pipelines will not be allowed by the Wet’suwet’en People on their unceded territory. Hereditary Leaders from Across BC stand behind Wet’suwet’en and the assertion of their Traditional Laws.

The  Wet’suwet’en are reoccupying their land to assert their sovereignty.

The Trudeau government continues to talk about ‘the rule of law‘ while ignoring the traditional hereditary chiefs and indigenous law.

Robert Hamilton asks, can state and Indigenous legal regimes co-exist? For example,

“In January 2019, Wet’suwet’en peoples were forcibly removed from the path of the [Coastal GAsLink] pipeline. This conflict showed the displacement of Indigenous law in two ways. The first was the displacement of traditional governance institutions with imposed Indian Act governance. The second was the imposition of a rights regime that excludes Indigenous modes of tenure and jurisdiction until they are proven in court through an Aboriginal title analysis.”

MORE

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Tŝilhqot’in Nation sends mining company home in peaceful protest


Members of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation held a peaceful protest against an exploratory drilling program that they say will have devastating effects on Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding area. Photo by Nolan Guichon

 

B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report

Province avoids investigation of human health impacts of fracking, despite independent scientific review warning of unknown risks to air and water

Image result for the narwhal: B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report
A fracking well head connected to fracking pumps. B.C.’s northeast is going to see a fracking boom to support the LNG Canada natural gas export terminal. Photo: Shutterstock

The B.C. government has quietly released its response to an independent scientific panel’s report on hydraulic fracturing as it ushers in a fracking boom to supply the LNG Canada project with unconventional gas.

Notably absent from the government’s news release — posted on its website Thursday but strangely not sent out to media — is any commitment to investigate the human health impacts of fracking in the province’s northeast.

The issue was flagged by Dawson Creek doctors as a potential cause for concern after they saw patients with symptoms they could not explain, including nosebleeds, respiratory illnesses and rare cancers, as well as a surprising number of gioblastomas, a malignant brain cancer.

The independent scientific review did not include an examination of the public health implications of fracking, in keeping with the government’s quiet assurance to the industry lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers that the hot button issue would not be included in the panel’s mandate.

Even so, the panel found that fracking entails numerous unknown risks to human health and the environment.

Panel members cautioned the severity of those risks is unknown due to a lack of data, noting they were not aware of any health-related studies being conducted in northeast B.C., which is already covered with thousands of fracking wells, including in the middle of communities and on farmland.

‘Highly toxic compounds’

Image result for Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau, MLA Cowichan Valley for the BC Green Party.

B.C. Green Party environment critic Sonia Furstenau pointed out that other jurisdictions around the world have identified human health impacts as a reason for banning fracking.

“We know that the mix of chemicals being used and being pumped into the ground include highly toxic compounds and we should absolutely be determining what any impacts are to human health,” Furstenau told The Narwhal.

“There’s no way these kinds of things should be proceeding without that information.”

The government’s decision to proceed with fracking and liquefied natural gas development is “deeply troubling,” Furstenau said.

The fracked gas will be shipped through TransCanada’s new Coastal GasLink pipeline to Kitimat, where it will be cooled in massive compressors to minus 162 degrees Celsius, the point at which gas turns into liquid and becomes easier to transport in ocean tankers. LNG Canada will burn its own natural gas for the energy-intensive compression process, resulting in substantial greenhouse gas pollution.

The LNG Canada project will emit 3.45 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the provincial government, which promised the cleanest LNG in the world even though claims of “clean LNG” have been thoroughly debunked. MORE