Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise

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‘Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?’ Photo by Michael Toledano.

It’s the same old story Indigenous Peoples have heard for generations.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tells the public “the rule of law” demands the Coastal GasLink pipeline go ahead. Permits are in place, and the courts have approved construction.

The opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is not important to Horgan, as he points to 20 First Nations that have signed agreements to allow the pipeline and negotiated benefits. The five clans who have not agreed don’t seem to count.

Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?

Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province?

What would I expect from the premier in this new era, in this particular situation when he needs credibility with First Nations if his commitment to UNDRIP is to be taken seriously?

I would expect the premier to look back on past decisions and ensure they were made in the spirit of UNDRIP — including approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. His party was making political promises to uphold UNDRIP long before the NDP were in government.

In the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, the justices stated clearly that provincial and federal governments need to be prepared to cancel already approved projects if First Nations establish title to the land and oppose them.

“Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward,” the judgment says. “For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.” (Emphasis added.)

The court also sets out the correct path for governments.

“Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

Horgan should heed the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada and revisit the decision to proceed with the pipeline, especially in light of his commitments to resolve land titles, implement UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The court advised getting the consent of Indigenous people; that’s what he should do.

The right to self-determination

Furthermore, UNDRIP is very clear that all Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. Self-determination means that Indigenous Peoples will freely determine their own political status. That means governments and companies cannot decide which is the right governing body for a nation. That is a matter for Indigenous Peoples.

The Indian Act imposed a system of government on First Nations, attempting to dismantle a governance system that had functioned for centuries. It made chiefs and councils the owners of the land and gave them total power.

But traditional government systems have not been eradicated.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposing the pipeline, and some are questioning their legitimacy.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched the lawsuit and took the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Surely this should indicate to the government and companies who has title and rights to the land. And surely, they should recognize that it is up to the Indigenous people to determine this, not the provincial government. Clearly the hereditary chiefs must be part of this decision on whether the pipeline proceeds.

Free, prior and informed consent

Free, prior and informed consent has been and will continue to be an issue in relation to UNDRIP, because governments and Indigenous people do not agree on its meaning.

Horgan’s government has said it was waiting for the UNDRIP legislation to pass before working to reach agreement about what free, prior and informed consent means. He has not tried to work this out with First Nations in advance, even though that would have been prudent.

We have heard Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations Scott Fraser say that the requirement for free, prior and informed consent does not give First Nations a veto over projects in their territories.

Then what is consent under UNDRIP? Is it a simple yes or no? Does it give a veto because no means no? These are good questions that must be answered by Indigenous Peoples and governments.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are saying no. No consent. No project. No access. Not on their lands.

In criminal law, a woman can say no to a man and no means no. If he proceeds against her wishes, he can be guilty of a crime. Why doesn’t the requirement for free, prior and informed consent give the same right to Indigenous Peoples?

So what does consent mean to this B.C. government? That they have the final say? That they can decide no does not mean no. That the status quo continues when it comes to development?

That would not reflect a new era of reconciliation, or the principles of UNDRIP. That would be the Crown asserting jurisdiction over First Nations laws and title once again.

Sending in the RCMP to remove protesters is also the same old story — a show of force against defenders of the land who are not armed, who are elders, youth and chiefs. RCMP assert their power under a court order that hasn’t taken into account Indigenous laws.

This pipeline dispute is not new. It has been ongoing for years. That it has not been resolved speaks volumes about the unwillingness of this government to sit down at a table with the hereditary chiefs and talk about why they are opposed and try and resolve differences.

If we are in the era of reconciliation, there needs to be more efforts to come to agreements. If agreements cannot be reached, there needs to be impartial tribunals established to help find those solutions. And if no solutions are found, then there is no project.

If the principles of UNDRIP are being implemented and being placed into laws, the government has to start respecting its provisions now.

For instance, Article 18 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law. This has not happened.

Article 26 gives them the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess through ownership, and says the state must give legal recognition and protect their lands and resources. None of this has occurred to date, and it doesn’t look like B.C. is even considering it. The government is saying this is Crown land, the company has Crown permits, so therefore the development must happen.

Article 25 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to strengthen their spiritual relationship with the land, waters and resources in their territories. But if their territory is destroyed for a pipeline, their relationship with their land will also be destroyed.

Article 29 gives them the right to the productive capacity of their territories, and a pipeline does not allow for this.

There are many more articles on implementing laws and protecting sacred and cultural sites that B.C. is violating by continuing with the pipeline project over Wet’suwet’en objections.

These statements by Horgan set back the ambitious, positive agenda set by his government in implementing UNDRIP. They signal to First Nations’ people in B.C. that the government is not serious about the new law.

And they strongly signal trouble ahead as B.C. continues with its status quo agenda that claims government has final say over developments on First Nation title lands, and the requirement for free, prior and informed consent will not be taken seriously.

Many First Nations peoples in this province are hearing Horgan and asking what has changed?

The answer is nothing. B.C. is moving ahead with the government’s economic agenda at the expense of First Nations rights, title and all the requirements set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations people thought we were throwing out the old book and beginning a new one. Sadly, it looks like the same old story. This is not the new decade we were looking for. SOURCE

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Coastal GasLink posts injunction order giving opponents 72-hours to clear way toward its work site in B.C.

Na’moks, centre, a spokesman for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, speaks during a news conference in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020. The order stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who say the project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

A natural gas pipeline company has posted an injunction order giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way toward its work site in northern British Columbia, although the company says its focus remains finding a peaceful resolution that avoids enforcement.

The order stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who say the Coastal GasLink project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

It comes one year after the RCMP’s enforcement of a similar injunction along the same road sparked rallies across Canada in support of Indigenous rights and raised questions about land claims.

The order requires the defendants to remove any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.

If they don’t remove the obstructions themselves, the court says the company is at liberty to remove them.

It gives authorization to the RCMP to arrest and remove anyone police have “reasonable or probable grounds” to believe has knowledge of the order and is contravening it.

“The police retain discretion as to timing and manner of enforcement of this order,” it says.

Coastal GasLink, however, says posting the order was procedural and the company has no plans to request police action.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 31. The order stamped Tuesday provides details of the court injunction.

Previous injunction and enforcement orders remained in effect until the new order was issued, Coastal GasLink spokeswoman Suzanne Wilton said.

Obstructing access was already prohibited under the previous orders and they also included enforcement provisions.

“We continue to believe that dialogue is preferable to confrontation while engagement and a negotiated resolution remain possible,” Wilton said in an email.

The company declined an interview request.

The order does not apply to a metal gate on the west side of a bridge outside the Unist’ot’en camp, unless it is used to prevent or impede the workers’ access.

Hereditary chiefs negotiated last year with the RCMP for the gate to remain outside the camp, which is home to some members of one of the First Nation’s 13 house groups, so long as it would not be used to prevent workers from accessing the work site.

Fourteen people were arrested by police officers at a checkpoint constructed along the road leading to both the Unist’ot’en camp and the Coastal GasLink work site on Jan. 7, 2019.

The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, but the five Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs say no one can access the land without their consent.

The pipeline is part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project that will export Canadian natural gas to Asian markets.

Coastal GasLink shared photos Tuesday of what it says are more than 100 trees that have been felled across the logging road.

The RCMP said its officers came across the fallen trees on Monday as they were conducting regular safety patrols along the Morice West Forest Service Road. In a statement, the RCMP said some trees along the road are a safety hazard because they were partly cut and the wind could cause them to fall without warning.

Police say they also found three stacks of tires covered by tarps and trees, which contained several jugs of gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags of fuel-soaked rags.

The RCMP say the hereditary chiefs were advised of what was found and have been told police are conducting a criminal investigation over traps that are likely to cause bodily harm.

“We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved,” the Mounties said. “We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”

At a news conference Tuesday, hereditary chief Na’moks called for construction to cease and for the B.C. government to revoke the company’s permits.

He said the Wet’suwet’en felled the trees to protect their own safety.

Members of the Gidimt’en, one of five Wet’suwet’en clans, and supporters reoccupied the area along the logging road in April near the site where the injunction was enforced last year.

Jen Wickham says her fellow members are concerned that it could be enforced before the 72 hours is up, since a previous injunction was already in place.

Lawyer Michael Lee Ross, who represents the Wet’suwet’en members named in the injunction, said once the new injunction order was stamped, the previous one became a historic document.

However, he said the RCMP could step in at any time if they find reason to.

Ross said his clients are discussing a possible appeal of the order.

“A challenge of an order is normally a challenge of the legal basis on which the order is grounded. So that is one of the avenues that is still open to them,” he said Wednesday.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs held a press conference calling for construction to cease and for permits to be suspended on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Spokesman Na’moks says the First Nation won’t meet with industry representatives, only “decision makers” like the provincial and federal governments.

PLAY THE VIDEO


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Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Cheifs Issue Eviction Notice to CGL!

 

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“The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.”

Smithers, BC

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued an eviction notice to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company. The eviction of CGL is effective immediately, and applies to “Camp 9A” on Dark House territory, as well as the neighbouring Gidimt’en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Hereditary chiefs have gathered on Gidimt’en and Gilseyhu territories to monitor the eviction.

Coastal Gaslink has violated the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps. Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony.

Canada’s courts have acknowledged in Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa v. The Queen that the Wet’suwet’en people, represented by our hereditary chiefs, have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000km2 of Wet’suwet’en territory. The granting of the interlocutory injunction by BC’s Supreme Court has proven to us that Canadian courts will ignore their own rulings and deny our jurisdiction when convenient, and will not protect our territories or our rights as Indigenous peoples.

Anuc ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) is not a “belief” or a “point of view”. It is a way of sustainably managing our territories and relations with one another and the world around us, and it has worked for millennia to keep our territories intact. Our law is central to our identity. The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.

We reaffirm that Anuc ‘nu’at’en remains the highest law on Wet’suwet’en land and must be respected. We have always held the responsibility and authority to protect our unceded territories. Protection of our yintah (traditional territories) is at the heart of Anuc ‘nu’at’en, and we will practice our laws for the future generations.

The Wet’suwet’en have always controlled access to our territories. At Unist’ot’en Village, a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol has been practiced over the past ten years whenever access to the territory is requested by someone outside of Dark House membership. Dark House has not been able to implement this protocol since the enforcement of the interim injunction in January 2019. This protocol aligns Wet’suwet’en law with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to obtain free, prior, and informed consent for development on our territories.

We expect Coastal GasLink to peacefully comply with our eviction notice, and ask that British Columbia uphold its commitment to implement UNDRIP and instruct RCMP to respect our rights and refrain from interference in Wet’suwet’en law.

TAKE ACTION! THE TIME IS NOW!

Use the Supporter Toolkit to organize where ever you are!

Donate now to support ongoing efforts

Register to come to camp if you are able.

-Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade


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News Indigenous Pipeline Opponents Seek Court OK for Blockade Protest

Clouds hang over the island of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, Canada, on Aug. 26, 2016. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    • Wet’suwet’en First Nation members seek to stop court order preventing their blockade
    • Coastal GasLink pipeline construction in British Columbia would be boon to Canada’s LNG industry

A First Nation in northern British Columbia will seek June 10 to quash orders preventing them from blockading a natural gas pipeline seen as crucial to Canada’s nascent liquefied natural gas sector.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation will ask the the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Prince George to reverse a temporary injunction that allows Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. to proceed with construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke up a blockade of First Nations members and their supporters Jan. 7 on a remote logging road after the orders were made in December.

The national police force made over a dozen arrests, but those criminal charges later dropped.

‘Unprecedented Support’

TC Energy, which until recently was known as TransCanada Corp., wants the orders made permanent.

“There is unprecedented support for this important natural gas pipeline project from local and Indigenous communities along the route,” Suzanne Wilton, a spokesperson for TC Energy-owned Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., said in an email June 7. “The continuance of the injunction will ensure continued safe and unimpeded access.”

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation opposes Coastal GasLink because of environmental concerns, and the pipeline’s representatives have tried to subvert its authority by engaging with Indigenous organizations that do not represent Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the First Nation said in a February court filing. MORE

Province, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announce reconciliation

A potlatch feast will be held in March by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to discuss with clans.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs lead a march in mid-January down Smithers Main Street in opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Work on reconciliation is moving ahead between the Province and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

A media release late Thursday afternoon reads that a bahtlats (potlatch or feast) will be hosted by the hereditary chiefs in March to share information and initiate discussion with the Wet’suwet’en clans and house groups.

The ultimate goal is for B.C. to affirm Wet’suwet’en rights and title.

While the release stresses the effort is not about any one project, it comes as legal action against and resistance to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is still in full force, with the company moving forward on construction of a work camp south of Houston and the Unist’ot’en camp of the Wet’suwet’en Dark House accusing the company of activity going beyond an interim injunction and agreement with the RCMP. MORE

Judy Wilson’s Message for Canadians: ‘The Land Defenders Are Doing This for Everybody’

RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory can’t bring justice, reconciliation or a better future, Neskonlith chief says.

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Chief Judy Wilson: ‘We have to change to ensure that our young people have a future. That’s what the Indigenous land defenders are talking about when they say we need to protect the land and the water.’ Photo by Zoë Ducklow.

What are your thoughts on how governments are responding to the RCMP action in the Wet’suwet’en territory?

I was just reading Premier [John] Horgan’s response to the Unist’ot’en, and I think he was trying to stay on the middle ground. He mentioned the bands who signed these agreements [to allow the pipeline], but to me, the issue is clearly about the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs. They are the proper titleholders to their unceded territory, and they already made a decision. They said no pipelines in their territory.

B.C. chiefs gather in Smithers to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

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Chief Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said she was planning to attend the meeting and other members of the group had already flown to Smithers.  (JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia are holding a gathering of solidarity on Wednesday that is expected to attract Indigenous leaders from across British Columbia.

…the difficulty that the hereditary chiefs have had in getting their authority recognized by industry and government is familiar.

Elected band councils are based on a colonial model of governance, she said. Under the tradition of her Secwepemc First Nation in the B.C. Interior, title belongs to all of the people within the nation.

“Collectively, people hold title for our nation.” MORE