No easy an­swers in pipe­line im­passe, Hor­gan says

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Amy SMART Cit­i­zen news ser­vice

HOUS­TON — The ar­rest of 14 peo­ple who op­pose a pipe­line on the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion in Bri­tish Columbia brought back dif­fi­cult mem­o­ries for Alexan­der Joseph.

Sit­ting by a fire Wed­nes­day out­side a po­lice road­block near Hous­ton, Joseph said the RCMP ac­tions felt per­sonal to him.

“I come from res­i­den­tial (school), I come from the ‘60s Scoop,” said Joseph, 61. “It feels like the same thing is hap­pen­ing over and over again. The RCMP and the gov­ern­ment com­ing in, tak­ing away us, from our own cul­ture, our own na­ture. And that’s not right.”

The po­lice road­block stopped ac­cess to a log­ging road that leads to a gate erected years ago by the Unist’ot’en house group, which is part of one of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion.

On Mon­day, 14 peo­ple were ar­rested af­ter the Moun­ties took apart a dif­fer­ent gate that blocked ac­cess to an area where Coastal GasLink wants to build a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line.

Joseph is a mem­ber of the Lake Babine First Na­tion more than 100 kilo­me­tres away, but he said he wants to show sol­i­dar­ity with other In­dige­nous peo­ple who feel threat­ened on their land.

“I’ve got so much anger right now, I want to stay here un­til this is re­solved in a pos­i­tive way,” Joseph said.

Mon­day’s ar­rests were made as the RCMP en­forced a court in­junc­tion against mem­bers of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion who op­pose the pipe­line by pre­vent­ing ac­cess to the area where the pipe­line is planned.

The Coastal GasLink pipe­line would run through the Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory to Kiti­mat, B.C., where LNG Canada is build­ing a $40-bil­lion ex­port fa­cil­ity.

TC En­ergy, for­merly Tran­sCanada Corp., says it has signed agree­ments with the elected coun­cils of all 20 First Na­tions along the path, in­clud­ing the Wet’suwet’en.

How­ever, mem­bers of the First Na­tion op­pos­ing the pipe­line say the com­pany failed to get consent from its five house chiefs, who are hered­i­tary rather than elected. They ar­gue the elected coun­cil only has ju­ris­dic­tion over the re­serve, which is a much smaller area than the 22,000 square kilo­me­tres that com­prise the Wet’suwet’ens tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

Pre­mier John Hor­gan said when plans for the LNG ex­port fa­cil­ity were an­nounced in Oc­to­ber the B.C. gov­ern­ment con­cluded all the con­di­tions for the project to pro­ceed had been met.

“All na­tions, from well­head to wa­ter­line, have signed im­pact ben­e­fit agree­ments,” he told a news con­fer­ence in Vic­to­ria.

“We were, of course, mind­ful of the chal­lenges at the Unist’ot’en camp,” Hor­gan added. “But we were in dia­logue and con­tinue to be open for dia­logue for hered­i­tary lead­er­ship in that com­mu­nity.”

Hor­gan said he spoke to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau about the im­passe on Tues­day night.

“He un­der­stands, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­der­stands, that Bri­tish Columbia is unique in Canada.

“We have un­ceded ter­ri­tory in ev­ery cor­ner of the prov­ince. We have court rul­ing af­ter court rul­ing that has af­firmed we need to find a bet­ter way for­ward.”

Hor­gan said there are ju­ris­dic­tional chal­lenges fac­ing B.C. that are dif­fer­ent in ev­ery cir­cum­stance when it comes to abo­rig­i­nal land claims and rights.

“I know peo­ple would pre­fer to have, what’s the an­swer, yes or no, but there isn’t one,” he added.

New Demo­crat MP Nathan Cullen, who rep­re­sents the area, said the con­flict has been de­vel­op­ing for years – in part be­cause of a fail­ure to rec­og­nize the nu­ances be­tween elected and hered­i­tary In­dige­nous gov­ern­ments.

He said Wet’suwet’en band coun­cils have au­thor­ity over re­serves and ser­vices, while hered­i­tary chiefs con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties on their tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries.

“This is the clash of two forms of gov­ern­ment,” he said in an in­ter­view Tues­day.

Cullen be­lieves the hered­i­tary lead­er­ship is look­ing for guid­ance from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and ex­pects Ot­tawa to rec­og­nize and ac­com­mo­date their rights and ti­tle.

“There is a whole se­ries of Supreme Court (of Canada) de­ci­sions that say if there are es­tab­lished rights and ti­tle-hold­ers, if you are go­ing to in­fringe on those rights, then you have to jus­tify and ac­com­mo­date for it,” he said.

Trudeau was vis­it­ing Kam­loops on Wed­nes­day and high­lighted the ben­e­fits of the LNG ex­port fa­cil­ity in a speech at a Lib­eral fundraiser.

“We moved for­ward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest pri­vate sec­tor investment in Canada’s his­tory, $40 bil­lion, which is go­ing to pro­duce Cana­dian LNG that will sup­plant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.


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