Coronavirus forces Wet’suwet’en to explore online talks on rights and title agreement

In-person meetings on unprecedented title agreement postponed as communities prepare for COVID-19 pandemic and Coastal GasLink construction continues

A gathering of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 4, 2020. Photo: Amber Bracken

An all-clans meeting to discuss Wet’suwet’en rights and title could be moved online as the COVID-19 crisis upends plans for in-person talks, according to a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en.

“We’re looking at possibly doing something online,” Jennifer Wickham told The Narwhal, saying discussions were also delayed by a death, unrelated to the novel coronavirus, in one of the communities. “I’m not sure what that’s going to look like but there’s definitely multiple things delaying the process.”

Wickham said an all-clans meeting has already been held, but a few clans wanted to meet again before moving forward with decision-making on a draft agreement reached last month between Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, the province and the federal government to expedite the nation’s rights and title process.

“I have no idea when we’re going to reschedule those meetings. Hopefully sometime this week, it could be next week, but it would probably not even be,” she told The Narwhal over the phone.

The Wet’suwet’en traditional territory comprises 22,000 square kilometres in central B.C. If ratified, the agreement could set a new precedent for the affirming of title rights for Indigenous nations in Canada.

In February, opposition to the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline made national headlines with the arrests of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters. The pipeline, which crosses Wet’suwet’en territory, will feed LNG export facilities in Kitimat, including the LNG Canada project, one of the most expensive private investment projects in the province’s history.

The draft arrangement on rights and title does not address the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink project, which Premier John Horgan has said will continue and which a number of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs still oppose.

Coastal GasLink continues to have workers on site, but said in a statement that non-essential workers are working from home and that the company is primarily employing B.C. workers.

“At this time there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases of any individuals working on the Coastal GasLink project,” reads a statement from the company, posted on March 16.

Wet’suwet’en supporters launched an online campaign this week to raise awareness around the ongoing construction of the pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory amid the pandemic.

tweet from Gidmit’en Checkpoint on Tuesday expressed concern over COVID-19 and industrial activity associated with Coastal GasLink, saying “we do not need any more stress on our local health systems and people.”

Coastal GasLink work camp 9A

A Coastal GasLink work camp near Houston in October, 2019. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

First Nations take health precautions

On Wednesday the province confirmed four cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, which covers the entire northern half of the province, an area of 600,000 square kilometres.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation band council elected Chief Maureen Luggi told members via Facebook live on Tuesday that “extra precautionary steps” are in place to deal with the potential of cases in the community.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation, one of six elected band councils of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, has closed its daycare and band office and is only maintaining essential services.

First Nations are taking safety measures but many also express concern over lack of resources compared to other communities.

The Wet’suwet’en Palling community has had a do-not-consume water advisory in effect since 2012.

An all-chiefs phone call to discuss COVID-19 is scheduled for Friday, according to a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The federal government announced funding for Indigenous peoples to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but on Tuesday the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called for more coordinated measures to be taken.

“With the COVID-19 health emergency comes the urgency of alleviating the burdens placed upon Indigenous and vulnerable communities who must confront systemic under-resourcing and barriers to healthcare on a daily basis,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in an online statement.

The Narwhal did not receive a response from Crown-Indigenous Relations by publication time.

Delayed negotiations for title agreement

Details of the Wet’suwe’ten draft agreement have been kept out of the public eye but have been shared with the nation’s communities through a series of house and clan meetings.

On March 1, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said if the nation approved of the agreement, they planned to return to Wet’suwet’en territory for ratification.

In an email to The Narwhal, Sarah Plank, spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said the ministry is “in extraordinary times with the COVID-19 pandemic” which has “affected planned events across the country.”

“The ratification process for the proposed path forward to implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title is no different, and we support the hereditary chiefs’ decision to pause that process to help protect the health and well-being of Wet’suwet’en community members. The Province’s commitment to the proposed arrangement remains unwavering, and we are at the ready to return to the territory to complete the process as soon as the time is right and it makes sense to do so,” Plank said.

In a joint statement, Fraser, Bennett and Hereditary Chief Woos said the arrangement “will breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision,” in which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan peoples had never surrendered their land or had their title extinguished.

B.C.’s most prominent example of Indigenous rights and title is laid out in the Tsilhqot’in decision, which granted the nation rights to 1,700 square kilometres of traditional territory. The nation spent 25 years fighting that legal challenge through the courts. SOURCE

 

The draft deal between the Wet’suwet’en and the government explained

RCMP officers raid Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia on Feb. 10, 2020. Photo from Unist’ot’en Camp on Twitter

Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation struck a proposed deal with British Columbia and federal officials over the weekend in a land title dispute that inspired nationwide rail blockades.

But the tentative agreement, announced Sunday after three days of talks between the hereditary chiefs and officials from the federal and provincial governments, doesn’t address the pipeline at the centre of the controversy. That means the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades are unlikely to stop, for now.

“We’re not standing down, and we’re not asking anybody else to stand down either,” said Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo, a spokesperson for Gidimt’en, a Wet’suwet’en clan.

Several Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are fighting to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a planned natural gas project that’s slated to run through the nation’s unceded traditional territory in northern B.C. The solidarity blockades were sparked last month after the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en camps to clear pipeline opponents out of the project’s path.

Here’s what you need to know about the draft agreement, and how it impacts Coastal GasLink and the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades.

The tentative deal, explained

Graphic by Elias Campbell at Soulfood Productions ​​​​​​

 

The proposed agreement does not address Coastal GasLink directly, focusing instead on the deeper issue of Wet’suwet’en governance and the nation’s right to its traditional territory. The draft agreement essentially sets ground rules for more discussions over what to do about the controversial pipeline.

A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, has previously affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en have the right to their land. But the court didn’t resolve several key questions, leaving the nation to either negotiate with the B.C. government or go back for a costly second trial, neither of which happened.

Now, 23 years later, the proposed arrangement attempts to pick up where the Delgamuukw decision left off.

The hereditary chiefs, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart Scott Fraser announced the broad intent of the draft deal Sunday, but didn’t divulge details. Before the proposed agreement is shared publicly, the nation will review it in the feast hall ⁠— where Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders typically make major decisions ⁠— in accordance with Anuk nu’at’en, or Wet’suwet’en law, in the next few weeks.

On Sunday, Hereditary Chief Woos said the proposed agreement is a milestone, but the “degree of satisfaction is not what we expected.”

The tentative agreement doesn’t address the Coastal GasLink pipeline directly, nor does it mean Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades will end anytime soon.

Traditionally, the Wet’suwet’en Nation is governed by hereditary chiefs from five clans and 13 family subgroups. The hereditary chiefs of each clan have jurisdiction over that clan’s territory.

Canada’s colonial Indian Act also created elected band councils with jurisdiction over reserve lands. Some elected councils have supported the project, though the reserve lands aren’t adjacent to the pipeline.

What does this mean for Coastal GasLink?

Coastal GasLink@CoastalGasLink

Coastal GasLink Statement on the Conclusion of Discussions Between Hereditary Chiefs and Government…

Following the conclusion of discussions between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and representatives of the federal and provincial governments, Coastal GasLink President David Pfeiffer has issued…

coastalgaslink.com

British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said the agreement wouldn’t be retroactive, meaning it wouldn’t affect the government’s previous approval of the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink have said they are unwilling to allow the pipeline to proceed.

It isn’t clear when pipeline construction could begin. Last month, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) rejected a key report from Coastal GasLink Ltd., a subsidiary of TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada), which will construct and operate the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The report must be approved before the company can begin building an 18-kilometre portion of the pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory, near the Morice River (also known as Wedzin Kwah). The company now has 30 days to go back and do more consultation with the Wet’suwet’en.

Aside from area affected by the EAO’s rejection of the report, Coastal GasLink’s backers are free to do construction work on Wet’suwet’en territory. In the area where it’s not allowed to do construction work, the company can still complete other do pre-construction tasks like surveying, the B.C. Ministry of Environment confirmed to National Observer Monday.

Last week, work stopped on Wet’suwet’en territory to allow for talks between the Wet’suwet’en and the Canadian governments.

After the tentative deal was announced, the company said it would resume “construction activities” Monday. The company didn’t specify what that entailled, and didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification from National Observer Monday.

Why aren’t the blockades coming down?

The blockades have led to outcry from several industries that have struggled to move goods, upping pressure on political leaders to resolve the situation.

More Indigenous-led demonstrations have sprung up even as authorities attempt to shut them down with arrests and court injunctions. The pipeline opponents organizing the blockades have said they won’t stop until the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ demands are met.

That hasn’t worked out so far. The chiefs have asked for Coastal GasLink to be halted ⁠— something the B.C. government has said it’s unwilling to do.

They’ve also asked the RCMP to leave Wet’suwet’en territory. The Mounties temporarily stopped patrolling the area to allow for talks between the chiefs and the Canadian governments, but it’s not clear whether officers will return now that initial discussions have ended.

Two of the most prominent blockades, Mohawk-led demonstrations in Belleville, Ont., and Kahnawake, Que., remain in place. A separate one outside of Montreal temporarily blocked VIA Rail service Monday.

Racist backlash has erupted against Indigenous pipeline opponents

Wet’suwet’en

Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Dini’ze Woos: The Hereditary Chiefs are opposed to any pipeline going through their territory (1/3)

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Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Tsake’za Sleydo’: We’re not resting, we’re not giving up, we’re not standing down, we’re not asking other people to stand down. (2/3)

Embedded video

Last week, a bomb threat was reported against the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, who have organized the rail blockade near Belleville. A similar threat was made against Unist’ot’en, a Wet’suwet’en house group.

Some threats have included calls for vigilante violence against protestors, the online media outlet Ricochet reported.

What happens next?

Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Dini’ze Woos: The Hereditary Chiefs are opposed to any pipeline going through their territory (1/3)

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If the clans approve, federal and provincial officials will return to sign the deal. If not, it’s unclear what will happen.

More discussions will be required either way to sort out what to do about Coastal GasLink.

For now, pipeline opponents have planned solidarity actions in various cities through the first week of March. SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en await ‘imminent’ RCMP action as Coastal GasLink negotiations break down

Sabina Dennis holds her hands up as RCMP tactical teams approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 7, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano

Surveillance helicopters circling overhead. Police officers, some carrying tactical gear, pouring into the surrounding towns. An elder arrested, then released, for trying to go past a police checkpoint.

On the ground along a remote forest road in northern B.C., members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation say police presence has been ramping up, despite assurances from the RCMP that officers would stand down as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and officials from the British Columbia government met to try to de-escalate the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

On Tuesday night, the hereditary chiefs announced that the talks had broken down, leaving the looming possibility that the RCMP will “imminently” move into the nation’s territory. Tensions in the region have been high since January 2019, when the RCMP violently arrested 14 people while enforcing a court order to remove the Wet’suwet’en from the path of the pipeline’s construction.

“Efforts to de-escalate the situation on the territories were severed when the province refused to pull the permits they issued to (Coastal GasLink),” said Smogelgem, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief of the Fireweed Clan, on Twitter.

Coastal GasLink, a natural gas pipeline, would run through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory over the objections of the nation’s hereditary chiefs. Members of the nation have set up several camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres north of Vancouver, to reoccupy their traditional lands and block resource projects.

Before the chiefs announced discussions with the province, the RCMP had been preparing to enforce a second injunction the B.C. Supreme Court granted to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 31. After seven days of talks known as Wiggus — the Wet’suwet’en word for respect — were announced, RCMP confirmed more officers were still being deployed in the area.

In a press release late Tuesday, the hereditary chiefs said a mediator had been in touch with the pipeline company after two days of talks.

“Coastal GasLink declined to see this discussion resulting in progress,” the statement said. “Therefore, the enforcement of the injunction zone is imminent.

The chiefs also urged peace, saying they remain committed to the Wiggus process and “will continue discussions with the Province of British Columbia.” A representative didn’t immediately return a call from National Observer.

In a press release, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, emphasized the need for safety.

Talks between the Wet’suwet’en the B.C. government ended without resolution late on the evening of Feb. 4. The community fears violence may be imminent as RCMP stage in nearby towns. #bcpoli

“It was very clear from our discussions that all of us came together in good faith to try to find a way forward together,” the statement said. “While we were not successful in finding a resolution to the current situation, we continue to remain open to dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en leadership on this issue.”

TC Energy, which owns Coastal GasLink, said in a statement that its senior leadership had been in nearby Smithers, B.C. to meet with the hereditary chiefs “if required,” but “unfortunately, we were unable to meet with the chiefs.” The company said it must quikcly resume construction to meet its various business commitments.

“In the coming days, Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities,” the statement read. “It is our hope that the resumption of construction activities occurs in a lawful and peaceful manner that maintains the safety of all in the Morice River area.”

The community now fears more violence may be imminent ⁠— especially as at least three of the same commanding officers who spearheaded last year’s RCMP efforts appear to be again leading the charge.

“They’re exactly the same oppressive violent force of oppression that they were on Jan. 7 last year,” said Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

“They haven’t learned a thing.”

Wickham was one of those arrested last year. In an interview Tuesday, she said three of the same commanding officers from 2019 ⁠— John Brewer, Robert Pikola and Dave Attfield ⁠— are still around now.

“People recognize them,” she said, adding that the hereditary chiefs have unsuccessfully asked for those commanders to be reassigned. “They know who they are, because (the officers) were responsible for what happened last year.”

The RCMP confirmed that Brewer is still deployed in the area, but “we respectfully decline in identifying any other officers from incidents that took place last year,” RCMP spokesperson Staff. Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in an email Tuesday.

According to a report in the Guardian, the officers leading the 2019 effort were prepared at the time to use deadly force against the Wet’suwet’en.

RCMP Silver Command John Brewer and Gold Command Dave Attfield, who oversaw the 2019 actions against the We’suwet’en checkpoint, attempt to visit a Wet’suwet’en camp on Feb. 11, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano

‘Lethal overwatch’

Citing detailed notes from an RCMP strategy session held before the RCMP swept the Wet’suwet’en checkpoint, the British newspaper reported that snipers were present, and officers had been prepared to use “lethal overwatch” ⁠— a police term that is understood to mean an officer is prepared to use lethal force. They were also instructed to use “as much violence… as you want” in “sterilizing (the) site,” the Guardian said.

The notes were stamped with Pikola’s name, the Guardian said.

The RCMP has strongly denied the Guardian’s reporting, saying lethal overwatch “does not indicate action other than observation.” That statement contrasts with a 2010 memo produced by the B.C. RCMP., and a review of military and law enforcement literature in both Canada and the US conducted by the Guardian.

The RCMP has also said snipers were sent as part of larger emergency response teams that are generally deployed all at once, according to a statement released after the article was published. Initially, the RCMP had said it wasn’t able to locate or verify the documents referenced by the Guardian; the organization has since found them, said Shoihet.

“We would also add that information was taken out of context and (there was) significant work done with respect to discussions, meetings, protocols, cultural training, etc.,” said Shoihet in an email.

“We have no intention in contributing to the tensions, but will ensure that allegations or misinformation is corrected when it comes to our actions. As we have stated repeatedly, we have not and will not take action to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court-ordered injunction by removing the obstructions on the Morice West Forest Service Road during this time.”

Brewer in particular is a “veteran, decorated police officer who himself is Indigenous,” though not Wet’suwet’en, Shoihet added. “We have well-trained and experienced personnel, including our operational commanders, overseeing our efforts prior to last year’s enforcement and since.”

Wickham said learning about Wet’suwet’en culture and employing Indigenous officers still doesn’t give the RCMP the right to remove community members from their home.

“Seeing a brown face or another Indigenous person harassing us and oppressing us in those same ways for the benefit of profit and ongoing colonization is quite frustrating, and by no means does it de-escalate the situation,” Wickham said.

“It’s a sad, sad thing… it’s so offensive that they’d even bring it up.”

Lady Chainsaw, a supporter of Unist’ot’en, on the bridge that marks the boundary to the territory of the house within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, on Jan. 26, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano.

‘We are under duress’

The case of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink exposes a stark divide between the traditional Wet’suwet’en legal system and Canada’s colonial legal system. Under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans, who oppose the pipeline. But TC Energy, which owns the pipeline project, received approval to build the pipeline from some elected band councils, ⁠a governing body created by Canada’s colonial Indian Act, which have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the disputed territory.

A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed that the provincial government can’t extinguish the hereditary chiefs’ right to their land. However, the court also sent the case back for a second trial that hasn’t yet happened, leaving key questions unresolved.

Stating concerns about safety after the raid last January, the hereditary chiefs struck a temporary deal to allow Coastal GasLink to access the territory for pre-construction work.

But tensions smoldered in the months that followed, and were re-ignited with the Dec. 20 publication of the Guardian article, and the court injunction granted on Dec. 31

Also citing public safety concerns, the RCMP set up a blockade along the forest road on Jan. 13 and have restricted access to the area, prompting complaints from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. In the weeks since, the Wet’suwet’en community says it has felt under siege.

The RCMP initially denied that it was surveilling Wet’suwet’en camps by air ⁠— until photo evidence surfaced, as reported by Vice. Over the course of several days, community members posted reports on social media of large numbers of police staging in towns near the service road.

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

RCMP helicopter again circling @UnistotenCamp and Gidimt’en Checkpoint this morning. Photographed here over the Wedzin Kwa river and the bunkhouse.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Then, on Friday night, a Gidimt’en Clan elder was arrested and released without being charged after she tried to pass the police blockade without giving RCMP her ID. Carmen Nikal, 73, has been an adopted member of the Gidim’ten Clan’s Cas Yex house for four decades, Gidimt’en Clan said.

“Good faith discussions between the Wet’suwet’en and the Province cannot occur while we are under duress, and while our families and guests face the threat of police violence,” the clan said in a press release.

In a tweet Tuesday, Smogelgem ⁠said “it feels like reconciliation is being brutally killed here in Wet’suwet’en territory.”

Smogelgem@smogelgem

RCMP harassment and build up continues while I sit in talks with the Province. There are a lot of sceptics in the room. There are good reasons for that. The have survived the “Rules of Law” since contact and have become

“But out on the territory, people are strong and gaining strength every single day from being on the land,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of strength.” SOURCE

Pipeline approval record reveals conflict with Wet’suwet’en years in the making

Documents from B.C. approval process reveal fraught battle behind conflict roiling the country

Na’Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, is one of the hereditary chiefs with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have made clear their objections to the Coastal GasLink pipeline from the start of the project. (Dan Mesec)

A battle between the hereditary chiefs of a B.C. First Nation and a company planning to build a natural gas pipeline through their territory in the northwest of the province has exploded into the Canadian consciousness with cross-country protests.

Rail blockades that began earlier this month in opposition to the project have crippled the country’s transportation network, but the paper trail behind Coastal GasLink’s pipeline approval reveals a conflict years in the making.

The root of the current clash can be found in reasons given for an environmental assessment certificate issued by B.C.’s ministers of environment and natural gas development on Oct. 23, 2014.

The province acknowledged concerns from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and other Indigenous groups — and gave the green light to the project anyway.

The very next entry in the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) approval record is a Wet’suwet’en “title and rights” report that same year telegraphing the tensions that would block railroads and ports more than five years later.

It concludes that the chiefs can’t rely on the province, the EAO or the company behind the project — TransCanada — and its technology “to somehow protect our aboriginal title.”

And they draw on a string of broken promises from the time “the first white settler fenced” their lands to the establishment of B.C.’s biggest silver mine in Wet’suwet’en territory and onward.

“The promises have continued, but the devastation of our lands and resources have continued without any long lasting protection and agreement with the Crown,” the report said.

‘Issues, concerns and interests’

The EAO record of the Coastal GasLink project contains thousands of pages of documents filed in relation to the proposal to build the 650 km natural gas pipeline from the community of Groundbirch, 40 km west of Dawson Creek, to LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export facility near Kitimat.

The company’s initial project description was filed in October 2012.

Supporters in Regina voice their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, whose opposition to the natural gas pipeline has drawn protest across the country. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

 

It promised to “build and maintain positive long-term relationships” with potentially affected Indigenous groups, ensure that “input and concerns are gathered, understood and integrated” and to “ensure that concerns and issues with respect to environmental or socio-economic effects … are addressed, as appropriate.”

Although the project ultimately gained the support of 20 elected band councils along the route, the office of the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs has never wavered in its objections.

The first Aboriginal Consultation report, filed in May 2013, details 31 categories of “issues, concerns and interests” ranging from the potential for adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife and water and air quality to concerns about fracking, caribou, medicinal plants and confidentiality around the sharing of traditional knowledge.

‘Lack of capacity, funding and expertise’

Notes filed from a regional meeting held in Prince George in November 2013 give a sense of the challenges facing all First Nations when it comes to environmental assessments and the multitude of companies like TransCanada looking to satisfy requirements for projects.

“There is a lack of capacity, funding and expertise in First Nations to meet what is required,” reads one comment.

“We are inundated by requests: letters, meetings, funding proposals. How do we engage to meet these timelines? We don’t want to miss the opportunity to intervene and disagree.”

This picture, filed as part of a Wet’suwet’en rights and title report, dates back to the 1890s and the construction of a stone trap to harvest salmon in Wet’suwet’en territory. (Office of the Wet’suwet’en)

 

Representatives from a dozen First Nations attended that meeting, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation — a Burns Lake-area band of around 300 people that is a different entity from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. One of the questions was whether the meeting itself was considered consultation.

“There are different levels of consultation,” was the response.

“The courts have found that government does not clarify process very well, so this session is designed to clarify and to hear concerns and have a follow up. This is part of the consultation process, but it is too narrow to be enough to fulfil our entire duty to consult.”

‘Life and death’ for Wet’suwet’en

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en sent EAO manager Brian Westgate a letter in April 2014, six months before the office gave a green light to the pipeline.

At that time, Wet’suwet’en environmental co-ordinator Mike Ridsdale wrote that they considered the pipeline application “incomplete.”

A First Nations protester stands in front of a transport in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

 

“It does not contain sufficient information specific to Wet’suwet’en cultural needs, and it does not consider the specific impacts to Wet’suwet’en territories, which also impacts Wet’suwet’en rights,” Ridsdale wrote.

“The potential for significant adverse impacts upon the Wet’suwet’en environment, culture and constitutionally protected rights is real.”

The EAO responded, citing spreadsheets of data collected to allay the fears of the hereditary chiefs.

But three weeks before the province gave the project ministerial approval, Ridsdale wrote again, complaining that the company’s data lacked “complexity, value and significance” to speak to issues that were “life and death” for the Wet’suwet’en.

Ridsdale claimed the “lack of information” was “an injustice to the Wet’suwet’en people” saying that the significance and magnitude of the pipeline’s potential effects couldn’t be determined because of the weakness of the information.

“How can the Wet’suwet’en have any assurance of the protection of our values, when the supplied ‘conditions’ do not acknowledge Wet’suwet’en title, rights and associated interests of our territories?” he asked.

Obligations ‘fulfilled’

The assessment moved ahead regardless — and five days later the EAO gave the pipeline its recommendation.

That document concludes with a section “weighing impacts on Aboriginal interests with other interests.”

It said natural gas projects “have the potential to bring tens of billions of dollars in investment to British Columbia between 2014 and 2022.”

The EAO conceded that “traditional subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping may be altered,” but said the potential for adverse effect on the Aboriginal rights “has been avoided, minimized or otherwise accommodated to an acceptable level.”

And so they concluded that the provincial Crown “had fulfilled its obligations for consultation.” SOURCE

Stop work on Coastal GasLink to allow meaningful dialogue on B.C. pipeline project, says Indigenous leader

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they will not meet unless the company and RCMP leave their territory

Native leaders are requesting work on the pipeline near Houston, B.C., stop for three to six months, so government leaders and hereditary chiefs can come to the table and have meaningful dialogue. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

A B.C. Indigenous leader says the prime minister needs to immediately come to the table with Indigenous leaders who oppose the construction of a pipeline in northern B.C. and the project should be halted while conversations take place.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is opposed by the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, has mobilized both Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters across the country to blockade ports, railways and roads in solidarity.

“People are at the end of their rope,” said Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Wednesday on The Early Edition.

“The government hasn’t bothered to take First Nations very seriously on these issues. People across the country are acting out on this,” she added.

Sayers said the situation has become a national crisis and it is critical that Ottawa and Indigenous leaders come together now.

She suggested a three to six month moratorium on pipeline construction while conversations take place.

A Wet’suwet’en supporter blocks an intersection in Vancouver on Feb. 10. (CBC/Maggie MacPherson)

 

In the House of Commons Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Canadians to be patient with his government.

“Finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination, hard work and co-operation,” Trudeau said. “We are creating a space for peaceful honest dialogue with willing partners … We need Canadians to show both resolve and collaboration. Everyone has a stake in getting this right.”

Sayers said the prime minister’s words are not enough.

“He could take time out of his busy schedule to begin the conversations,” she said. “He’s making space, but there is not a lot more of a commitment than that.”

A battle between the hereditary chiefs of a B.C. First Nation and a company planning to build a natural gas pipeline has mobilized people across the country to show their support for the chiefs by blocking ports, railways and city intersections. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

 

Former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh said he does not support stopping work on the pipeline.

“It establishes a precedent that you can bring the whole country to its knees and then have a moratorium. I think that’s a problem for a civilized society.” said Dosanjh.

He said if a moratorium is put on the project it could encourage other groups to erect blockades over future issues that do not concern First Nations.

“Forget these issues, imagine other issues,” said Dosanjh. “If other Canadians begin to do the same thing, are we going to accept it?”

On Wednesday, Trudeau reiterated to reporters on Parliament Hill his government is working hard to resolve the Indigenous blockades that have led to hundreds of layoffs at CN Rail. The prime minister has said his government is committed to using dialogue instead of force.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have said they will not meet with Ottawa or Victoria unless the RCMP and Coastal GasLink leave their territory. SOURCE

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Wet’suwet’en: Rule of Law?

Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’moks stands beside Paul Manly at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (Submitted photo)

Paul Manly MP, Green Party

On Saturday Feb. 8th I was invited to speak at a local rally in support of the Wet’suwet’en people. I was grateful for the opportunity because the situation in Wet’suwet’en territory is a complex one. Too often important parts of the story get lost in the public debate. I did my best to to highlight some important points that are not well understood, particularly by those who are citing the “rule of law”as justification for the injunction enforcement that has taken place, and the arrests and removals that were a part of that.

Wet’suwet’en: An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau and John Horgan (02/01/20)

Wet’suwet’en: Pipelines, Politics and UNDRIP (01/26/20)

Transcript:

Three weeks ago I went to Wet’suwet’en territory, and I traveled with Chief Na’Moks for two days. I listened to him for two days about the situation, what was happening in the Wet’suwet’en territory. I also met with the Smithers detachment commander of the RCMP, and the liaison officers there. They weren’t involved in this injunction enforcement. They’re connected to the community. They’re not necessarily happy about this political failure that the RCMP is having to deal with. I also met with the detachment commander at the Community Industry Safety Office, which is a police station in the middle of nowhere. Thirty kilometres off the highway, a series of Atco trailers and storage facilities. The police in there, the detachment commander there, is rotated in every week, and the RCMP are rotated in every week. And they have no connection to Wet’suwet’en territory. They have no connection to the people there. They’re also not happy with having to deal with the political failure of our prime minister and our premier.

This is a political failure. When I met with Chief Na’Moks one of the things that he told me was that they had proposed an alternate route for Coastal GasLink and when you read the injunction it recognizes that the Wet’suwet’en people had asked Coastal GasLink to take another route, and they proposed another route, and Coastal GasLink said no it’s too expensive we’re not going to go that way we’re going to go the way we want to go. And so they drove their pipeline through pristine territory, running right through the historic Kweese trail. This trail is thousands of years old, this trail has burial grounds on it, this trail has archaeological sites on it, this is where they do their cultural training for their young people, this is where they do their hunting and their trapping and their berry picking. This is where they built a healing centre, the Uni’stot’en healing centre, which is being attacked today. This is their territory, and these blockades that they have set up, they are asserting their sovereignty over their territory.

I want to talk a minute about the rule of law because we’ve heard this from the premier, about the rule of law and court injunction from the you know the colonial court system. The Wet’suwet’en have their law, they have the hereditary law. And in 1997 in the Delgamuukw decision the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the hereditary system and their laws. In that Supreme Court case it was the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitxsan that took this case forward. There was not one elected band council member or chief from the colonial imposed Indian Act system. This court decision, the plaintiff in this Court decision, were the hereditary chiefs, that was who was represented and who was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. This was affirmed in the Tsilhqot’in decision. That it is the people who bring the case forward, it’s the hereditary system, that determines the land and title rights of First Nations. This land was never signed over. It was never surrendered. This is Wet’suwet’en territory and they are asserting rights to their sovereignty here.

I want to tell you that we cannot blame anybody who signed onto these these agreements with these gas companies, because in all of these First Nations, in these reservation systems, the band councils that are part of the Indian Act system, they are dealing with poverty. They’ve been struggling with poverty since colonization. And they’re given a choice, this pipeline’s going through anyway, do you want the money or not? And we’ve heard with the Teck Resources mine, this huge oil sands project, the largest oil sands project that’s being proposed in Alberta right now, that First Nations have signed onto that. I heard a chief on CBC say they’re going to do it anyway, the regulator has never turned down one of these projects. So this isn’t consent, they are conceding, they are conceding this is not consent. When you have communities in poverty and, you know, take the money or don’t take the money. I can’t blame the Haisla either, the Kitamaat people, they’re the ones with the LNG facility going onto their territory. their land has been poisoned by Alcan. The Kitimat River was poisoned by the smelter there, their ooligan run is destroyed. Their salmon run is destroyed. The harbour, the Douglas channel, the end of the Douglas channel is poisoned. People have cancer in that community they need economic prosperity and they see that LNG is coming and it’s going to be there or it’s going be somewhere else if do you want the money or not? That’s their choice because they’re ramming this stuff through.

I want to talk for a second about the economics of this situation because we’re sold a bill of goods on this. We’re told that this is good for the economy, we’re told that this is good for the environment. I meet with people in the House of Commons, I’ll meet with any lobbyists, I won’t go to their receptions and drink their wine, but I met with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers this week and had a nice little debate with them in my office. Talked about the economics of this situation, they’re talking about about LNG replacing coal, and that it’s gonna be a transition fuel, and by the end of my argument with them they conceded that LNG has as much of a greenhouse gas footprint as coal does. When you take it from the fracking, and the leaking of fracking, all the way to when you turn on your stove and you release a little methane before it lights up. That is damaging our climate as much as coal burning coal for electricity is. Methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas in the first 15 years it’s released and in 100 years is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gases CO2. It is a climate killer, it is not a solution. And in my little debate with the Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers they admitted that. I wish I had it on video.

I delivered letters to Justin Trudeau, and I sent a letter to John Horgan. I told them that the RCMP should stand down, that we shouldn’t be pushing this project through. And Justin Trudeau said this is a provincial matter It’s not our problem. I said you’re responsible for the relationship with indigenous people, it’s a nation to nation negotiation. British Columbia is not a nation. Canada is a nation and they need to be talking to the Wet’suwet’en people.

I want to mention a couple of other things about this LNG nonsense. They say that it’s going to pay for hospitals and schools and whatnot. You know ten years ago we got 1.2 billion dollars in revenue from natural gas in this province. You know much we got last year? 108 million. And that is in spite the fact that production ramped up by 70 percent, so almost double the production, but we’re getting ten percent of the royalties. Why that is? Because they’re giving royalty breaks to the gas frackers because they’re horizontal drilling. All the fracking is horizontal drilling! They’re giving the resource away. The LNG plant, which is five foreign multinationals, have 5.4 billion dollars in tax breaks, including not paying the carbon tax, not paying PST, they’re getting power from the Site C damn, which is another incident where First Nations, some of them signed on to an agreement because they conceded. Fourteen of them opposed the project, twelve of them ended up signing on because that was their only choice, was to get money. Two of those nations are still fighting in court, the West Moberly and the Prophet River. That dam is being built to provide hydropower to the fracking fields and to the LNG plant. The federal government has put $250 million dollars into LNG Canada, five foreign multinationals, three of them are state-owned corporations from China, Korea, Malaysia, giving our resources away, giving them huge tax breaks, building a damaging dam and making ratepayers like you and me pay for it so that these folks can get to our resources for nothing.

We are being ripped off, the First Nations people are having their rights trampled over this. We’re talking about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, what does that mean? What does it mean? Where is the respectful relationship here? This is… there are so many layers to this, that need to be undone. I got into a 10 minute debate on this because in December, I brought up a question of what was the government’s response to the UN Human Rights office about the Site C damn. The UN has asked that the Site C damn be stopped. Stop construction until you have informed consent from the First Nations involved and they have not stopped. Since then the UN has written again and asked that the Coastal GasLink project be stopped until there’s informed consent. And that the Trans Mountain be stopped until there’s informed consent.

I got my ten minutes of debate in Parliament when I first got back after being up in Wet’suwet’en territory. I also asked the question on Thursday, where is this government on the nation to nation negotiation? Why don’t they respect the rule of law? Why not?

This whole situation is disgusting. We stand in solidarity and support the Wet’suwet’en people, and all of those communities that are being destroyed in the fracking fields in northeastern British Columbia and those communities that are standing against the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. We’ve got to keep on fighting folks. They are on the front line of this climate battle. They are on the front line of the defending the rights of Indigenous people. They are on the front line of the future of our children and grandchildren, and the future of their children and grandchildren. Thank you.  SOURCE

‘Kill the pipeline, save the land’ — Wet’suwet’en supporters block Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls

Hundreds of people marched from Highway 420 to the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls Sunday afternoon to show solidarity for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

Why Coastal GasLink says it rejected a pipeline route endorsed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Alternate route was too costly and posed greater environmental risks, company says

In January, RCMP enforced an injunction, ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing a road and bridge in northern B.C. A second round of injunction enforcement occurred earlier this month. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

As rallies spring up across Canada to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs fighting the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C., an increasing number of people are wondering: Why doesn’t the company use an alternate route to avoid opposition?

Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen raised the idea several times when he was still an elected representative for the region. More recently, Green Party MP Paul Manley returned from a January visit to the region with the idea — one he said came from the hereditary chiefs themselves.

“The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs provided alternative routes to Coastal GasLink that would have been acceptable to them as a pipeline corridor,” he said in a statement last month.

“Coastal GasLink decided that it did not want to take those acceptable options and instead insisted on a route that drives the pipeline through ecologically pristine and culturally important areas.”

The $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline would move natural gas from near Dawson Creek, in northeastern B.C., to a coastal LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat. It is a key component of a $40-billion project announced by the federal and provincial governments last fall.

Manley’s statement has since gone viral, but little about the alternate path proposed by the hereditary chiefs has been reported. Here is what CBC has learned about that route, and the reasons given for its rejection.

Coastal GasLink’s selection process

In an interview with reporters on Jan. 27, Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer was asked why the company wouldn’t move the pipeline’s path in order to avoid conflict.

“We spent many years assessing multiple routes through the Wet’suwet’en Territory, about six years,” Pfeiffer said. “The current route was selected as the most technically viable and one that minimized impact to the environment.”

Construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road, near Smithers, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

 

He said the company explored multiple alternative routes after getting feedback from local First Nations and Indigenous leaders, including the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, a non-profit governed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and used to manage lands and resources throughout their territory.

On its website, Coastal GasLink provides a timeline of its route selection process, including a decision to use the “South of Houston” alternate route, which redirects one portion of the pipeline approximately 3.5 kilometres south of the original path.

The company says the detour was selected after receiving feedback from Indigenous groups in the area.

The Wet’suwet’en alternative

During the planning stages of the pipeline, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en presented Coastal GasLink with an alternate route through its territory referred to as “The McDonnell Lake route.”

According to Mike Ridsdale, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en’s environmental assessment co-ordinator, that route would have followed a path through Wet’suwet’en territory eyed for use by Pacific Northern Gas for an expansion and looping project.

Manley has confirmed this is the route he was referencing in his statement.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline route from Burns Lake to Kitimat passes through Wet’suwet’en territory. (Coastal GasLink)

The rejected McDonnell Lake route would also run through Wet’suwet’en territory, but would pass further north, toward Smithers. Mike Ridsdale of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en said Pacific Northern Gas has considered the route for its own pipeline project, depicted in purple. (Pacific Northern Gas/B.C. Oil and Gas Commission)

 

Ridsdale said the route follows “already heavily disturbed areas along the Highway 16 corridor, and away from highly known cultural areas, as well as away from the Skeena headwaters of salmon spawning areas that the Wet’suwet’en rely on.”

Why it was rejected

In a letter provided to CBC by the Office of Wet’swuwet’en, Coastal GasLink says it explored the possibility of using the McDonnell Lake route through aerial and computer reviews, and by meeting with representatives of Pacific Northern Gas.

The letter — dated Aug. 21, 2014 — also outlines reasons Coastal GasLink rejected the route, including:

  • It would increase the pipeline’s length by as much as 89 kilometers, upping both the environmental impact and as much as $800 million in capital costs.
  • The pipeline’s diameter, at 48 inches, is too large to safely be installed along the route. (Pacific Northern’s pipeline is between 10 and 12 inches, and the proposed upgrade would be 24 inches.)
  • The McDonnell Lake route would be closer to the urban B.C. communities of Smithers, Houston, Terrace and Kitimat.
  • Re-routing the pipeline would impact an additional four First Nations who had not already been consulted by Coastal GasLink, which would add up to one year of delays to the construction process.

“From our perspective, the route was not feasible on the basis of those significant environmental and technical issues and therefore route examination ceased,” said Coastal GasLink spokesperson Terry Cunha in a followup email to CBC.

RCMP are seen pulling an arrestee during the enforcement of a court injunction on behalf of Coastal Gaslink on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Ch
antelle Bellrichard/CBC)

 

Those same reasons were laid out in the B.C. Supreme Court injunction issued Dec. 31, 2019, which allowed Coastal GasLink to proceed with construction of the pipeline.

In a 2014 submission to Coastal GasLink and B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en cites Coastal GasLink’s rejection of the McDonnell Lake route as a sign the company is unwilling to work with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Other proposed routes

Ridsdale said the Office of the Wet’suwet’en also proposed a second route, known as the Kemano, because then the pipeline would have travelled through an area already damaged by flooding from the Rio Tinto Alcan project.

He also said the route ultimately selected by Coastal GasLink travels a portion of terrain known as the “Icy Pass route,” and provided documentation from another pipeline company rejecting the Icy Pass route because of the high risk of erosion, slides and the need to construct numerous new access roads.

There is no mention of the Kemano or Icy Pass routes in either the 2014 submission from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, nor in the B.C. Supreme Court injunction.

In that same 2014 letter, which Coastal GasLink has now published on its website, the company suggested using a “Morice River North” alternate route for approximately 55 km of the pipeline, which it said would take construction three to five kilometers away from the Unist’ot’en healing centre established by the hereditary chiefs in 2015.

In a statement posted on its website, Coastal GasLink said it never received a response to this offer, nor to any other aspects of the letter.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en also did not respond to CBC’s query asking for a response to Coastal GasLink’s reasoning for rejecting the McDonnell Lake route.

“The route that has been selected reflects the best engineering, environmental, cultural and economically feasible criteria possible” Coastal GasLink said in an emailed statement to CBC.

“There is no route available to CGL that would avoid traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.… To change the route to avoid Wet’suwet’en territory at this date would require major environmental assessment work, which would not be feasible under the timelines to which we have committed.”

SOURCE

RELATED:

Benefits agreement asks First Nation to discourage members from hindering B.C. pipeline project

Wet’suwet’en: Why Are Indigenous Rights Being Defined By An Energy Corporation?

Image result for yellowhead institute

AN UNSIGNED AGREEMENT between a Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Coastal GasLink along with financial documents obtained by Yellowhead Institute provide reinforcement to Yellowhead’s assessment of the ways these private contracts can dramatically undermine First Nation rights and jurisdiction.

The Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) and other documents were drafted in 2016, two years before the first payments were made to the First Nation. Because official agreements are not available to the public due to confidentiality clauses, these documents provide a valuable record of Coastal GasLink’s negotiating objectives.

In light of present RCMP raids, these documents provide important insights that support an emerging analysis around how resource extraction companies work with provinces to limit the scope of the Aboriginal and treaty rights.

One of the most alarming clauses in the document positions the band as paid informers to quell internal dissent within the First Nation against the project at the cost of “financial consideration” or payouts.

The document also introduces the possibility of future negotiations with the band on the pipeline’s conversion to crude oil.

Operating on unceded lands

The pipeline, a natural gas project by Coastal GasLink owned by TC Energy, has been approved by the B.C. government, but it is being opposed by Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary leadership in the region.

It has been criticized by Amnesty InternationalB.C.’s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination who say all First Nations affected by the pipeline should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed.

Provincial and federal governments, industry and the First Nations LNG Alliance have responded to criticism about the contentious project by citing the consent of elected band councils along the route. Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 First Nations, including with each band council in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

But the terms of consent this unsigned agreement seek to secure should raise serious concern for those watching the conflict unfold.

Irrevocable consent
According to the IBA, Coastal GasLink aims to secure “irrevocable consent” for the project from the First Nation.

The First Nation must also act to dissuade band members from engaging in any internal dissent within the First Nation against the project. The unsigned agreement reads:

  • “[The First Nation] will not take, and will take all reasonable actions to persuade [First Nation] members to not take, any action, legal or otherwise, including any media or social media campaign, that may impede, hinder, frustrate, delay, stop or interfere with the Project’s contractors, any Authorizations or any Approval Processes.”

Experts on IBAs have been warning for years that serious issues can arise when commercial law is used to interpret Aboriginal constitutional rights. With these agreements, we now see how. The draft agreement states:

  • “[this is the] full and final satisfaction of any present or future claim by [the First Nation]… against Coastal Gaslink… for any infringement by the Project of [the First Nation’s] Section 35(1) Rights.”

The extent of constitutional Aboriginal rights is being defined here by a private energy corporation, specifically limiting the exercise of Aboriginal rights. A separate provision affirms that the band can take legal action against British Columbia.

Future protection is granted to Coastal GasLink in the case that Aboriginal rights are expanded to the nation through legal or policy means. The draft agreement states:

  • “If [the First Nation] obtains any interest in land including Aboriginal title or ownership or jurisdiction over lands used by the Project… [the First Nation] affirms the Authorizations … will continue” and that these changes will not affect the Agreement.

Dayna Nadine Scott, a law professor at York University, has interviewed lawyers with experience drafting IBAs for a research project, due out in the spring. She says this language is highly problematic and is often referred to as “gag orders,” preventing communities from raising concerns when new issues come to light.

Therefore, the unsigned agreement restricts the band from challenging any of the company’s legal rights of development, even in the case of changes to the First Nation’s legal rights, as recognised by courts or governments.

Possibility for natural gas to crude oil conversion?
The unsigned agreement also raises the issue of the possibility of converting the pipeline for other uses.

Previously, First Nations in the region were almost unanimously opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge, because it carried significant environmental risks, such as oil spills in coastal waters. Coastal GasLink garnered significantly more support, in part because of its pipeline would carry natural gas, not bitumen.

The unsigned agreement says: “Coastal GasLink will not convert the pipeline component of the project to use for transportation of crude oil, bitumen or dilbit without the consent of [First Nation].”

That line, “without the consent of First Nation,” means the subject of conversion was very likely raised in negotiations between the parties. The First Nation protected itself by confirming this change would require an amendment or a new agreement altogether to obtain consent for the change.

However, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose the project have not consented and signed an agreement. Therefore, it remains to be seen if Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose the project would be afforded the same opportunity.

Though B.C. introduced a regulation in 2015 against the conversion of LNG pipelines, it has yet to be tested and could be repealed.

A once-shuttered energy corridor could re-emerge if the LNG pipeline is built. Hydrocarbons are Canada’s biggest export commodity, with $129 billion CAD in exports in 2018. Enbridge was unable to secure a corridor through the region previously, but TC Energy, the owner of Coastal GasLink, is aiming to succeed.

Subsidizing dispossession

LNG Canada is already subsidized by the province of B.C. for $5.35 billion. A further $1 billion in estimated subsidies will be provided by the federal government in exemptions from tariffs on steel imports.

The provincial funding arrangement puts B.C. Premier John Horgan in a conflict of interest with Wet’suwet’en hereditary governments opposing the project.

Horgan has expressed concern about First Nations experiencing “systemic poverty” and characterized the Coastal Gas Link investment into First Nations as “a pathway to prosperity,” according to recent statements in the press.

But a substantial amount of financial support to First Nations are derived from public coffers. Rather than alleviate “systemic poverty” in communities directly, the B.C. government is channelling these dollars through energy companies. Therefore, making First Nation funding contingent upon support for pipeline deals.

The summary of financial benefits obtained by Yellowhead shows that B.C. will put up $1 million to the band in signing payments, $5 million in construction and in-service payments, and an estimated $40 million total in annual operation payments over 40 years.
These numbers confirm amounts committed in a Natural Gas Benefits Agreement signed between the parties.
Raid

As the RCMP descend on Wet’suwet’en territory it is worthwhile to reflect on how social license is achieved by industry to access Indigenous territories.

The provincial government has downloaded its constitutional obligations to energy companies to determine the scope and assertion of Aboriginal rights.

A hand-in-glove system, the B.C. government has supported the current raids through financial incentives that have forced communities apart.

With upwards of $7 billion on the line in government subsidies, the interests of Coastal GasLink’s viability appears to have been put far ahead of Wet’suwet’en rights, title and justice. SOURCE

RELATED:

The project of land back is about reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction: breathing life into rights and responsibilities. This Red Paper is about how Canada dispossesses Indigenous peoples from the land, and in turn, what communities are doing to get it back.

READ THE FULL REPORT

Church leaders unite to support B.C. pipeline protest

Na'moks (centre), a spokesman for the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, says they will not meet with representatives of a natural gas company that wants to build a pipeline through the First Nation's traditional territory. (Amy Smart / The Canadian Press)</p>

Two Manitoba bishops are among 71 Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran and United Church of Canada leaders and others from across Canada showing support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs protesting the $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline that will go through their traditional territory.

Both The Right Reverend Geoffrey Woodcroft, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rupertsland, and Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, signed the solidarity statement that calls on the Canadian government and the RCMP “to immediately cease their occupation, arrests, and trespassing on Wet’suwet’en sovereign territory.”

The statement, goes on to note “these unlawful occupations and tactics violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and violate the wishes of the Wet’suwet’en Clan Chiefs who “hold sole title to their unceded territory and unanimously do not support the construction of the pipeline.”

It goes on to say the pipeline project would mar the landscape, cut down trees, harm migration patterns of animals, and put the entire watershed at risk of a leak and contamination.

“We are deeply concerned about the militarized arrests, pressure and trespassing presence of the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en sovereign territory,” it states, adding this treats “Indigenous peoples like prisoners on their own territory.”

The statement concludes by noting the pipeline not only tramples on the rights of Indigenous Nations, but endangers “our collective wellbeing and future.”

For Johnson, signing the statement was a way to remind Canadians “we are not living in to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the commitment to free, prior and informed consent.”

She’s also “deeply concerned about climate justice and about responsible resource extraction. The concerns of the Wet’suwet’en overlap all of these concerns.”

For her, using the RCMP is the wrong way to deal with the issue.

“If we are serious about addressing these concerns, then we need to take time to have a real consultation,” she said.

By signing the statement, she wants members of her denomination, and other Canadians, to know “we stand with the Wet’suwet’en people and hold our government accountable for its actions.”

As for Woodcroft, one reason he signed it because the Anglican community in Manitoba and northwest Ontario is “well connected” with Indigenous people.

He also sees signing it as a way to promote the Anglican Church’s goal of promoting reconciliation with Indigenous people, and of ensuring treaties are fulfilled.

Concern about climate change, and the future of the planet, is also on his mind.

“I am convinced that Creator, God is calling not only me, but all of goodwill, to get on with providing a better tomorrow for all people,” he said.

The church has “always had a voice and a strength to care deeply for God’s creation,” he added, concluding that is something “we somehow forget” until situations like this arise. Then “we are called back to exercise love, justice and humbleness.”

Other signers of the statement include The Most Reverend Mark MacDonald, National Anglican Indigenous Archbishop; The Right Reverend Ron Culter, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; The Right Reverend Andrew Asbil, The Bishop of Toronto; Jennifer Henry, Executive Director, KAIROS; Carragh Erhardt, Justice Ministries, The Presbyterian Church in Canada; Peter Haresnape, General Secretary, Student Christian Movement of Canada; The Reverend Dr. Joanne Mercer, Anglican Parish of Twillingate, Anglican Diocese of Central Newfoundland.

Find the full statement here: https://bit.ly/2uy25MQ.

In addition to the solidarity statement, members of Hope Mennonite Church in Winnipeg signed a petition sent to the Prime Minister to honour the jurisdiction of the Wet’suwet’en traditional governance and publicly affirm the demands of all five Wet’suwet’en Clan Chiefs.

In the petition, they also call on Coastal GasLink to vacate the territory of the Wet’suwet’en; that the Canadian and British Columbia governments uphold their commitments to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and that the RCMP respect the rights of the hereditary chiefs and refrain from interfering with Wet’suwet’en law. SOURCE