RCMP arrests another 7 as Wet’suwet’en efforts wrap up

Exclusion zone will be lifted pending word from Coastal GasLink, Mounties say

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

CMP say they wrapped up enforcement of a court order in the traditional territory of a northern B.C. First Nation on Monday, after arresting another seven people who were blocking a service road needed for construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Mounties arrested seven people for breach of the injunction and on Monday evening said — once Coastal GasLink confirms that it can access the Morice West Forest Service Road and its infrastructure — they plan to lift a exclusion zone along the logging road.

“I am very satisfied that this operation was conducted safely and there were no injuries sustained by anyone,” Chief RCMP Supt. David Attfield said in a news release.

“This was a very challenging situation, and I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our members.”

Earlier in the day, police moved into Unist’ot’en, where the Wet’suwet’en have, for more than a decade, been re-establishing a presence in what began as an effort to block proposed energy projects through the area.

People at the site, including journalists, provided updates on Twitter and Facebook on Monday, reporting that RCMP arrived with dogs, tactical members of the force and that some police had been dropped on the backside of the checkpoint via helicopter.

In one of the livestreams posted by the Unist’ot’en, police were heard reading the injunction to a group of women standing in the road — but the women didn’t acknowledge the RCMP presence and instead continued drumming and singing in a circle.

Among those arrested Monday were Karla Tait, the director of clinical programming for the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and Freda Huson, longtime spokesperson for Unist’ot’en and one of the named efendants in the injunction brought forward by Coastal GasLink.

Tensions are rising in Wet’suwet’en territory where the RCMP are following through on an injunction and blocking access to an area where supporters of the hereditary chiefs are trying to prevent the construction of a major natural gas pipeline. 2:22

The Wet’suwet’en set up an access checkpoint at Unist’ot’en in 2009, controlling who could come into the area. But that checkpoint has since grown, and the area has morphed into a permanent settlement that includes a healing centre.

It’s unclear how many people are currently staying in Unist’ot’en. The RCMP said in an email to CBC News on Sunday it would be taking action there on Monday as part of the injunction enforcement.

Acts of civil disobedience and solidarity gatherings have been taking place across the country to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who maintain no pipelines can be built through their territory without their consent.

Supporter camp growing

The chiefs and their supporters have defied the injunction, asserting Wet’suwet’en law instead and demanding that the province and federal government come to the table to sort out their rights and title to the territory.

In recent days, their access to that territory has been shrinking.

The hereditary chiefs and their supporters have been slowly pushed farther out of the area as police move, camp by camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road.

As of Sunday, police were not allowing people past the four-kilometre mark on the road, saying that would be the boundary of an expanded exclusion zone that had previously been applied at the 27-kilometre mark.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Kaliset at the four-kilometre police checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road on Sunday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“You know, I never ever thought that we as We’tsuwet’en people would ever be faced with such a crisis as we’re facing today,” hereditary chief Kaliset told CBC News on Sunday while being kept out of the territory at the police roadblock.

“Us elders, we’ve sat back and we’ve watched — we support our young people with the work that they’re doing. Today we’re speaking out.”

On Monday morning, hereditary chief Smogelgem said police had once again shifted their checkpoint to the 27-kilometre mark.

The $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has received approval from the province, and 20 First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

First Nations that signed agreements with the company stand to benefit through a number of avenues — with direct cash payments at different stages of the project’s lifespan, contracting and employment opportunities, and other agreed upon conditions.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — leaders in place before the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

Not everyone within the Wet’suwet’en nation is standing behind the chiefs, however.

Bonnie George is a Wet’suwet’en woman who previously worked with Coastal GasLink. She told CBC News she believes the conflict has become “blown way out of proportion.”

She stressed there are Wet’suwet’en people who want the project to go ahead and have taken jobs with the project. She also said that the nation is “hurting terribly” through this conflict and welcomed those who are taking action in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs “to refocus that energy on helping us try to live in harmony.”

Construction elsewhere

Construction continues along the length of the project at other sections, but Coastal GasLink says it can only put off getting back into the area subject to the injunction for so long before construction timelines are disrupted.

For weeks the company has not been able to move freely along the forest service road at the geographic centre of this conflict.

The Morice West Forest Service Road leads into the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory, about 300 kilometres west of Prince George. It is also the only access road for workers to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline through the area.

Weeks after the injunction decision came out on Dec. 31 it became increasingly clear that those involved in the dispute were at an impasse.

Early Thursday morning, police began the first wave of arrests on the road, at a camp set-up at the 39-kilometre mark.

After that, enforcement took place at the 44-kilometre Gidimt’en checkpoint.

The next day, people were cleared from an area established as a warming centre and gathering space at the 27-kilometre mark.

Between Thursday and Monday, police arrested a total of 28 people as they worked to gain control over the area to ensure Coastal GasLink contractors could clear the road of obstructions from Houston past Unist’ot’en.

Several of those arrested were scheduled to make court appearances on Monday.

Police continue to investigate alleged criminal acts on the territory, including mischief and setting traps likely to cause bodily harm.

SOURCE

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One of the hundreds of protesters who marched in Vancouver on Monday. Small protests have emerged across Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’ens fight against a gas pipeline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Wet’suwet’en RCMP standoff sparks national protests
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RCMP breach final Wet’suwet’en camp in the path of Coastal GasLink pipeline

Day 4: RCMP continue enforcement against Wet’suwet’en over pipeline injunction

More than 20 people have been arrested since enforcement actions began

RCMP are seen pulling an arrestee out of the warming centre area on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

t is day four of the RCMP’s enforcement of an injunction order in northern B.C. to ensure that Coastal Gaslink and its contractors can resume work in a disputed area of the pipeline route in the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

Since Thursday the RCMP have been moving in, kilometre-by-kilometre, camp-by-camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road, to enforce the injunction against named Wet’suwet’en defendants and supporters.

The forest service road begins at a turn off from Highway 16 in Houston, B.C. It twists and curves, forking off in different directions and is a roadway Coastal Gaslink is depending on for construction work on a $6-billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline that has received approval from the province.

Twenty First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en nation.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — who are the leaders of the nation’s governance system in place before the imposition of the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

First Nations and other organizers have been rallying in support of the hereditary chiefs across Canada — holding solidarity protests, putting up roadblocks and blocking railways across the country while others grow increasingly frustrated with the people defying the injunction order and want to see the pipeline go ahead.
Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en in Ontario are blocking a rail line in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs. Dozens of Via Rail are cancelled between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. 3:42

More than 20 people arrested since Thursday

By Saturday night, police had arrested a total of 21 people. Eleven of those people were arrested on Saturday at a site referred to as the warming centre, after police announced it had become part of an expanded exclusion zone.

Police told the people at that warming centre on Friday night they have to leave the site by Saturday morning or face arrest for breaching the injunction. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs objected to people being removed from the area and the relationship between chiefs and the police was visibly strained on Saturday.

“We’ve been fed a bunch of lies ever since we met you guys,” hereditary chief Madeek told RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield in a heated phone conversation on Saturday when the chiefs were being kept out of their territory at a checkpoint marking a expanded exclusion zone.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Madeek speaking to RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield on the phone while being prevented from crossing a police checkpoint into his territory. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC News)

RCMP say the exclusion zone was expanded on Saturday based on the actions of people at the warming centre in recent days “that could possibly endanger those who travel the road, and a blockade of parked vehicles.”

CBC has asked the RCMP for clarification about what precisely an “exclusion zone” is and has yet to receive a response.

Unist’ot’en next reoccupation site facing enforcement 

Much of Saturday’s police activity involved police removing people from the warming centre area.

As the injunction enforcement continues for the fourth day, there remains one main site where police have yet to take action — the Uniost’ot’en healing village.
It’s not clear how many people are staying there or what kind of obstacles stand in the way of Coastal Gaslink and its contractors.

Police said in a news release that members of the Indigenous Police Division and Division Liaison team approached Unist’ot’en “to facilitate conversation” on Saturday but said “the occupants of the Healing Centre declined to engage.

Social media posts and news reports from journalists embedded at the centre reported the police arrived by helicopter and that people at Unist’ot’en did not engage in conversation with the police because they were holding a ceremony.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Police said in their release that they travelled to the site “by alternative means of travel” because they couldn’t travel over a bridge leading to the site.

The bridge over the Lamprey Creek, about 20 kilometres away from Unist’ot’en, is impassable, said police. They’ve said a criminal investigation into the situation is going to be undertaken, saying officers noticed on Friday that support beams on the bridge appear to have been cut.

CBC is unaware of what kind of enforcement actions might take place at Unist’ot’en, and when, but will be watching for developments throughout the day. 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.

Hundreds take to the streets for pipeline protest

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver pipeline protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BC human rights commissioner asks Canadian government to halt Coastal GasLink

Indian Act to blame for pipeline gridlock in northern B.C.: federal minister

Canada’s Indian Act blamed for creating a gridlock in northern British Columbia where some hereditary clan chiefs say a liquefied natural gas pipeline doesn’t have their consent.

 

VANCOUVER — Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous relations is pointing her finger at the Indian Act for creating a gridlock in northern British Columbia where some hereditary clan chiefs say a liquefied natural gas pipeline doesn’t have their consent.

Carolyn Bennett would not say whether she believes the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have jurisdiction over the 22,000 square kilometres they claim as their traditional territory, saying that it is up to each community to determine its leadership structure.

But she says the situation is an example of why the federal government is working to increase First Nations capacity for self-governance, including a new funding program to rebuild hereditary structures. MORE

This pipeline is challenging Indigenous law and Western law. Who really owns the land?

Pipeline owners say they have consent, but Wet’suwet’en leaders are divided


A security check-point at Mile Marker 27 where the RCMP have blocked further access to the Unist’ot’en near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 8, 2019.

Under Canadian law, the elected chiefs have authority over the reserves created by the Crown. But authority over the 22,000 square kilometres of traditional Wet’suwet’en territory involves a matrilineal system of 13 unique houses, five clans and 38 house territories. Under that system, Na’moks, who belongs to the Beaver house under the Tsayu clan, is one of the hereditary leaders obligated to manage how those lands and resources are used.

The project has sown deep divisions and put a spotlight on the conflict between those two systems of leadership – one ancient, passed down through oral tradition, the other established and codified by federal law. It has demonstrated the messy but necessary processes resource companies and governments must confront when pursuing projects in British Columbia. And it has forced Indigenous groups to face the tensions within their own communities – the painful trade-offs between economic development and ancient obligations of land stewardship. MORE

 

Pipeline spat pitting hereditary leaders against elected band councils reveals intricacies of B.C. Indigenous governance

This situation is sort of a uniquely B.C. problem. Because the First Nations there don’t have treaties title over traditional lands hasn’t been dealt with

Elected chiefs are elected under processes established either through the Indian Act, the First Nations Elections Act, band custom or, in the case of self-governing First Nations, under the band’s constitution, explains The Canadian Encyclopedia. James Dempsey, a Native Studies professor at the University of Alberta, said in many places, a chief and council has simply become the accepted form of government.

“But you also have others that are trying to, to whatever degree they can, re-institute the traditional way of government and sometimes it comes into conflict with the chief and council,” he said.

From the time of birth the child would be groomed or tutored to be a wise, strong and responsible leader

Hereditary chiefs are just that, hereditary — a traditional form of government.

“Before non-native contact, a Wet’suwet’en heir began their journey to becoming a hereditary chief while still inside the mother’s womb,” says the Wet’suwet’en website. “Elders, Shaman’s and Chiefs would often feel the womb of an expectant mother and determine if the baby was destined to be a future Chief or Shaman. From the time of birth the child would be groomed or tutored to be a wise, strong and responsible leader.” MORE

The wrong chiefs are signing pipeline benefit agreements

Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition director reminds of hereditary chiefs’ authority.

TransCanada’s press release about their Coastal GasLink pipeline project having 100 per cent sign on with all the elected Indigenous bands is an incredibly misleading statement.

What the average Canadian does not know is that some of those bands (band councils) only have jurisdiction within their reservation boundary while the hereditary chiefs have jurisdiction over the traditional territories.

What I begrudge are the repeated efforts of industry and the complicity of the B.C. government in creating these deals with band councils when they know there are hereditary systems they need to consult.

In the case of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan, the hereditary system has been tested in court several times and has helped form the very laws from which most aboriginal rights and title cases have been based. “The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs’ have never ceded nor surrendered their territory, nor have we lost it to war,” from time immemorial the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs mandate has been and continues today and into the future is to protect the land and its people. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs do not endorse nor support pipeline projects that threaten the health and well-being of our lands and our people.” –DebbiePierre, executive director of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. MORE

 

Nine Things You Need to Know about the Unist’ot’en Blockade

The RCMP moved Monday to break up a First Nations protest. Here’s how we got to this point.

RCMP-Pipeline-Camp.jpg
Heavily armed RCMP officers arrived Monday to shut down Indigenous checkpoints blocking a natural gas pipeline. Photo by Michael Toledano.

Where is the Unist’ot’en blockade and what’s it about?

The gated checkpoint is on a forest service road about 120 kilometres southwest of Smithers in Unist’ot’en territory at the Morice River Bridge. Two natural gas pipelines are to cross the bridge to serve the Kitimat LNG project. Unist’ot’en is a clan within the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claim title to the land, based on their pre-Confederation occupation and the fact that they’ve never signed a treaty. Their claim has not been proven in court.

The gated checkpoint is meant to control access to their traditional territory. A protocol for entry, based on principles of free, prior and informed consent, is publicly available. While the first checkpoint was built by the Unist’ot’en clan, all the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have affirmed that their consent is required prior to any development. MORE