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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The threat of Aboriginal title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the government and resource companies had other ideas.

Freda Huson Brenda Michell RCMP Unist'ot'en

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

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

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

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

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

Marlie Beets, certainty through surrender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Aboriginal rights quote

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

‘Treaties offer the only long-term solution’

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

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

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

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

Gitxan supporter Wet'suwet'en camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escalating government tactics to ‘sweeten the deal’

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

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

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

sweeten the deal treaty

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘surrender approach’ continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unist'ot'en camp reconciliation is dead flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline RCMP Gidimt'en arrest

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Unist'ot'en camp red dresses MMIWG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

red dress Wet'suwet'en

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

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

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

Huson Tait Unist'ot'en

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freda Huson

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

Coastal GasLink permit extended without due process: lawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man camp 9a Coastal GasLink Wet'suwet'en

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red dresses sentinel as RCMP raid looms

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

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

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

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

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

Red dress unist'ot'en MMIWG

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

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

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

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

Huston Michell Tait Unist'ot'en RCMP arrests

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

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

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

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

 

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

Article Featured Image

Antonello Marangi | Dreamstime Jason Hargrove | Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking: Talks break down between B.C. and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs over pipeline impasse

Wet'suwet'en protestors at Unist'ot'en camp and healing centre on the Morice Forest Service Road.

Wet’suwet’en protestors at Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre on the Morice Forest Service Road. UNIST’OT’EN CAMP

Talks between the B.C. government and Indigenous leaders intended to de-escalate the conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project have broken down two days before their planned finish.

The discussions, announced by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on January 30 and scheduled for seven days, were in response to ongoing conflict over a road blockade that prevented Coastal GasLink crews from proceeding with construction on the 670-kilometre pipeline from northeast B.C. to coastal Kitimat.

According to an unusually timed news release issued Tuesday (February 4) evening by Scott Fraser, minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, both sides “made a committed effort to find a peaceful resolution to the situation”.

Fraser went on to say: “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.”

MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS RELATIONS AND RECONCILIATION SCOTT FRASER.
The four-term MLA for the Vancouver Island electoral district of Mid Island-Pacific Rim added, in an apparent reference to previous conflict between the RCMP and Indigenous protestors on the Morice Forest Service Road in north-central B.C.: “We hope that the paramount need for safety stays the top priority for all parties.”

Chief Smogelgem, one of the hereditary chiefs, tweeted that the province has refused to revoke permits that it had issued to Coastal GasLink.

Smogelgem@smogelgem

Talks have broken down between the Province and the Wet’suwet’en. Efforts to de-escalate the situation on the territories were severed when the Province refused to pull the permits they issued to CGL. CGL felt that further talks with the Province was not enough.

View image on Twitter

B.C. premier John Horgan announced on January 27 that Skeena-Bulkley Valley MLA Nathan Cullen would be the intermediary in talks between the province, the RCMP, hereditary chiefs, and Coastal GasLink, among others.

John Ivison: Pipeline dispute raises important question — who speaks for First Nations?

Reconciliation means making one system compatible with another, not Indigenous law trumping Canadian law at the behest of some self-anointed aristocrats

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline hold a press conference in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020.Amy Smart/The Canadian Press/File

The “territorial re-occupation” of land along the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. by hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people has raised some thorny constitutional questions and some surprising interventions.

The $6.2 billion, 670 km pipeline route runs from Dawson Creek, near the Alberta border, to Kitimat in B.C.’s north coast region, crossing through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.

The pipeline is supported by the five Wet’suwet’en bands, and their elected chiefs and councils. They point out the advantages for local communities – financial benefit agreements worth $338 million for the 20 bands along the route and contract work for indigenous businesses estimated at $620 million. Reginald Ogen, president of a company that has won a $75 million contract to provide camp facilities, has noted that the jobs may be short and medium term but the training “lasts a lifetime and provides future opportunities”.

The project is opposed by the hereditary chiefs who represent the 13 Wet’suwet’en houses (12 are represented by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, while the Dark House operates independently). Small groups of “land defenders” have blocked a bridge crucial to future development.

The project hit the headlines earlier this month when the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for an immediate stop to construction, only to be given pause for thought when it was pointed out to the committee chair that most communities along the route support the pipeline.

B.C. Supreme Court justice, Marguerite Church, extended an injunction late last year that found in favour of the pipeline proponent and against the hereditary chiefs blocking construction.

This has sparked a debate about who speaks for the Wet’suwet’en. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould weighed in with an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail last week that raised eyebrows.

The independent MP for Vancouver Granville argued that Indigenous reconciliation requires moving beyond the Indian Act to systems of Indigenous governance that are created on the ground and recognized by others.

Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. Mike Bell/Postmedia/File

So far, so good. But deconstructing the colonial reality, in Wilson-Raybould’s eyes, means blowing up the band councils.

“The legal reality is that band councils are a creature of the colonial Indian Act and have limited delegated authority tied to reserves,” she said. “They do not have inherent authority, nor are they self-governing or an expression of self-determination. They cannot simply represent the proper rights holder – the broader group that shares a common language, culture and tradition – and typically there is more than one band within a given territory of an Indigenous people.”

Nowhere in her article does it stress the imperative point – they are elected and those claiming to speak for the broader First Nation are not.

She doesn’t explicitly come out in favour of the hereditary chiefs over the elected band chiefs but she comes close – an extraordinary inclination from a democratically elected MP.

In the case in question, all the band chiefs in the given territory are in favour of the pipeline proceeding.

Most people would probably agree that it should be up to Indigenous people to decide on how they are governed. The government has suggested moving from 670 small bands to larger First Nations more capable of delivering services.

There are no simple answers to these tough questions

But one would hope that whatever structure evolves is based on universal suffrage and democratic principles, rather than on some form of feudal genealogy.

The hereditary chiefs contend that the Wet’suwet’en are represented by traditional governance structures and that, since the pipeline’s proponents were not given permission to enter unceded territory, they are in violation of Wet’suwet’en law.

The elected chiefs beg to differ, resulting in considerable tension between the two groups. Reginald Ogen, who is a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, contends his section 35 rights are being infringed by the blockade.

Further confusion has emanated from an internal debate about who qualifies as a hereditary house chief. The lead defendants in the B.C. Supreme Court case claim to represent the Unist’ot’en people, which is not a governing body of the Wet’suwet’en.

Madam Justice Church resolved that Indigenous customary laws are not an “effectual” part of Canadian law until they are somehow recognized in treaties or court declarations. As such, she said the idea that Indigenous laws supersede Canadian law and the B.C. government’s approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline does not stand up to scrutiny. Her ruling gives RCMP the right to arrest people and remove camps designed to block pipeline construction.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and who oppose the Costal Gaslink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Jan. 10, 2020. Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/File

However, she did acknowledge that the question is complex and raises “significant constitutional questions.” Wilson-Raybould covered some of this terrain in her article, which called for a “foundational legislative shift through the development of a recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights framework”.

What does foundational shift look like? In her last act as justice minister, Wilson-Raybould issued a directive on civil litigation involving Indigenous people that promoted negotiation and settlement, instead of drawn out court battles. Critics in the justice department felt the effect was to instruct government lawyers to litigate badly.

Dwight Newman, the Canadian research chair in Indigenous Rights at the University of Saskatchewan, said the task of reconciling how Indigenous law intersects with Canadian law will be problematic.

“There are no simple answers to these tough questions,” he said.

But reconciliation means making one system compatible with another. As the B.C. Supreme Court rightly concluded, it does not mean Indigenous law trumping Canadian law at the behest of some self-anointed Indigenous aristocrats. SOURCE