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Wet’suwet’en chiefs say pipeline not welcome; Coastal GasLink seeks meeting

Trees felled across the Morice River Forest Service Road blocking access to construction of a pipeline south of Houston. Coastal GasLink photo

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say there will be no access to their traditional territory without consent while Coastal GasLink, currently building a natural gas pipeline through the disputed area, says it has written to Chief Namox in hopes of setting up a meeting.

On Tuesday, the chiefs released a list of five demands regarding construction of the billion-dollar pipeline south of Houston.

The demands are:

  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people.

Following a December 31 Supreme Court injunction allowing construction of the pipeline, Wet’suwet’en chiefs demanded that the company remove its equipment from the area.

“While Coastal GasLink is re-starting work generally across the right-of-way, we believe that dialogue is preferable to confrontation and will delay re-mobilization near Workforce Accommodation site 9A while engagement and a negotiated resolution remain possible,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “Coastal GasLink has informed the Unist’ot’en that we will periodically need to visit sites in and around site 9A for safety and environmental reasons while the accommodation site remains unoccupied. Based on Chief Namox public comments, we anticipate a positive response to our meeting request and hope that a meeting can be set up quickly to resolve the issues at hand.”

The Wet’suwet’en chiefs are also calling on the province to get involved.

“The province has proclaimed they will implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes free, prior and informed consent, but has failed to intervene in this issue,” the chiefs said in a statement. “Currently, the province, federal government, RCMP, and CGL have all violated Wet’suwet’en law.”

The province, however, is not about to get involved in the issue.

“On December 31, the Supreme Court of B.C. made a determination and its ruling confirmed the company is lawfully permitted to conduct their work,” Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said in a statement released to the Province newspaper. “Construction activities have been taking place across northern B.C. for the last year, and it’s the provincial government’s role to ensure this work is in line with regulatory and legislative obligations. Any enforcement considerations related to the court’s ruling is an operational matter for the police to consider, independent of government.”

Opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson says that’s not good enough and is urging the province to get directly involved in the dispute.

“John Horgan needs to immediately show leadership on this issue and end the standoff with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who now say they will only talk to the provincial or federal government,” said Wilkinson. “It’s time for John Horgan to do his job and get this fixed. It’s the least he can do after mocking LNG development for so many years. His silence on this issue speaks volumes to the communities along this pipeline who no longer have certainty that the NDP will follow the law of Canada. This is a crucially important project and the constant delays and threats are hurting local communities as well as the rest of our province.”

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