Ar­rests all too fa­mil­iar for some

Eyes turn to sec­ond bar­rier in B.c. pipeline dis­pute

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - AMY SMART

hous­ton, B.c. — The fate of a sec­ond bar­rier block­ing ac­cess to a pipeline pro­ject be­came the fo­cus of First na­tions lead­ers in north­ern British columbia Wednes­day as they waited to see whether the rcmp would dis­man­tle it.

rcmp road­blocks re­mained in place for a third day around the ter­ri­tory of the Wet’suwet’en First na­tion, where 14 peo­ple were ar­rested on mon­day af­ter the moun­ties forcibly took apart a first gate block­ing ac­cess to an area where coastal Gaslink wants to build a nat­u­ral gas pipeline.

sit­ting by a fire out­side the rcmp road­block, alexan­der Joseph said the ar­rest of indige­nous peo­ple on their own tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory brought back some dif­fi­cult mem­o­ries.

“i come from res­i­den­tial (school), i come from the ’60s scoop,” Joseph said. “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.”

Joseph, 61, said he plans to re­main at the po­lice road­block, which stops ac­cess to a log­ging road that leads to a sec­ond 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.

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.

The RCMP is al­low­ing the oil and gas com­pany’s con­trac­tors to pass through the road­block to clear trees and de­bris from the road.

mon­day’s ar­rests were made as the RCMP en­forced a court in­junc­tion against mem­bers of the Wet’suwet’en First na­tion, who had erected the first gate block­ing ac­cess to the planned pipeline.

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 sq. km that com­prise the Wet’suwet’ens tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

Premier John hor­gan said when plans for the lng ex­port fa­cil­ity was an­nounced in oc­to­ber the B.c. gov­ern­ment con­cluded all the con­di­tions for the pro­ject to pro­ceed had been met.

“all na­tions, from well head to wa­ter line, had 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. 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 told the CBC his gov­ern­ment has been work­ing on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, but the dis­pute over the pipeline is “still an on­go­ing process.”

“There are a num­ber of peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties who are sup­port­ive, there are a num­ber of folks who dis­agree with it,” he said in a phone in­ter­view with CBC ra­dio.

Trudeau said he would not visit the block­ade site.

“one of the things that is re­ally im­por­tant is to try to re­duce the tem­per­a­ture a lit­tle bit,” he added. — files from Laura Kane in Kam­loops, B.C.

DAR­RYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Tilly Innes, from the St’at’imc Na­tion, raises a drum in the air and cheers dur­ing a march Tues­day in Van­cou­ver in sup­port of pipeline pro­test­ers in north­west­ern British Columbia.

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