Deal reached in B.C. pipe­line im­passe

Medicine Hat News - - WEST-NATION -

SMITHERS, B.C. Hered­i­tary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion have reached a deal with the RCMP to al­low a nat­u­ral gas com­pany ac­cess across a bridge that had been blocked in their ter­ri­tory.

Fol­low­ing sev­eral hours of meet­ings, Chief Na’Moks told re­porters Thurs­day that the agree­ment is be­tween the chiefs and the RCMP to en­sure the safety of the First Na­tion’s mem­bers after 14 ar­rests were made on Mon­day when a court in­junc­tion was en­forced by po­lice.

He said rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Coastal GasLink were in­vited to the meet­ing to en­sure they are on the same page, but em­pha­sized it is not a deal with the com­pany and the hered­i­tary chiefs are op­posed to a pipe­line project planned on their ter­ri­tory by the com­pany.

“One of the bar­ri­ers will be taken down, but that does not mean we sup­port this project,” he said.

“It must be re­it­er­ated, we are adamantly op­posed to this pro­posed project and that will never change, but we are here to en­sure the safety of our peo­ple.”

Coastal GasLink pres­i­dent Rick Gate­man said the com­pany can do its work as a re­sult of the meet­ing.

“I can say that our dis­cus­sions were ex­tremely re­spect­ful and ex­tremely pro­duc­tive. As a re­sult of these dis­cus­sions we have worked out many of the de­tails that are re­quired for us to have free ac­cess across the bridge and be­yond,” Gate­man told re­porters.

“We look for­ward to fu­ture di­a­logue and con­tin­u­ing this re­la­tion­ship.”

Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment, Na’Moks says com­pany work­ers will be al­lowed across a bridge and the RCMP will also re­move a road­block that was prevent­ing some mem­bers of the na­tion from ac­cess­ing a Unist’ot’en heal­ing camp near the bridge.

He says mem­bers of the First Na­tion will not face ar­rest and the Unist’ot’en camp will re­main in­tact.

The agree­ment ap­plies to an in­terim court in­junc­tion, which is meant to pre­vent any­one from im­ped­ing the com­pany’s work un­til the de­fen­dants, which in­clude mem­bers of the Unist’ot’en camp, file a re­sponse.

The agree­ment was reached Thurs­day at the Of­fice of the Wet’suwet’en, a day after the chiefs an­nounced a ten­ta­tive deal would see mem­bers of the First Na­tion ob­serve the in­junc­tion by al­low­ing Coastal GasLink work­ers and con­trac­tors ac­cess to a work site where the nat­u­ral gas pipe­line is planned.

On Wed­nes­day, res­i­dents of the heal­ing camp said they were “reel­ing” from the sit­u­a­tion and had asked that a gate that they see as vi­tal to their safety re­main in­tact.

Na’Moks said a metal gate will re­main, but a wooden gate will be re­moved. It is too wide for the bridge and con­sti­tutes an ob­struc­tion, he added.

When the RCMP en­forced the in­junc­tion they also dis­man­tled a nearby check­point erected by mem­bers of the Wet’suwet’en, who say the com­pany does not have au­thor­ity to work on their ter­ri­tory with­out con­sent from the na­tion’s hered­i­tary clan chiefs.

Tran­sCanada Corp. says it has signed ben­e­fit shar­ing agree­ments with the elected coun­cils of all 20 First Na­tions along the pipe­line route. Its Coastal GasLink pipe­line would run though the Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory to LNG Canada’s $40 bil­lion ex­port ter­mi­nal in Kiti­mat, B.C.

In Kam­loops on Thurs­day, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said the events of this week when the in­junc­tion was en­forced show the need to build a dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ship with First Na­tions.

Trudeau said he was pleased ten­sions had eased be­tween po­lice and the First Na­tions over the pipe­line on Wed­nes­day night, and the time will come to an­swer ques­tions about what was done and how it could have been han­dled dif­fer­ently.

“The way we are do­ing re­source de­vel­op­ment, con­struc­tion, ex­port­ing of our re­sources is chang­ing in this coun­try,” he said.

CP PHOTO CHAD HIPOLITO

Hered­i­tary Chief NaMoks is joined by fel­low chiefs as he speaks to me­dia fol­low­ing their meet­ing with RCMP mem­bers and Coastal GasLink rep­re­sen­ta­tives after dis­cussing ways of end­ing the pipe­line im­passe on Wet’suwet’en land dur­ing meet­ings at the of­fice of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion in Smithers, B.C. on Thurs­day.

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