First Na­tion tells court it should have been con­sulted

The Sudbury Star - - CANADA - AMY SMART

HOUS­TON, B.C Mem­bers of a north­ern Bri­tish Columbia First Na­tion are ar­gu­ing in court that they should have been con­sulted on an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mit­i­ga­tion plan pre­pared by a nat­u­ral gas com­pany on their tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

The Unist’ot’en house group of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion and hered­i­tary chief Knede­beas filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for ju­di­cial re­view in B.C. Supreme Court on Tues­day.

It chal­lenges the de­ci­sion of the B.C. Oil and Gas Com­mis­sion and pro­vin­cial Ar­chae­ol­ogy Branch to ac­cept a mit­i­ga­tion plan pre­pared by Coastal Gas Link that the First Na­tion mem­bers say did not in­volve con­sul­ta­tion.

The plan fol­lowed the dis­cov­ery of stone tools on Feb. 13 at a con­struc­tion site for the com­pany’s planned pipe­line, which would trans­port nat­u­ral gas from north­east­ern B.C. to Kiti­mat on the coast as part of the $40-bil­lion LNG Canada project.

Work was tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended while the com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gated, and it an­nounced on March 8 that arche­ol­o­gists had found four stone ar­ti­facts that were likely not in their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion.

Coastal GasLink says in a state­ment that it is limited in com­ment­ing be­cause the mat­ter is be­fore the courts, but says it has a valid en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment cer­tifi­cate and per­mit from the com­mis­sion.

“Our pref­er­ence is al­ways to re­solve our dif­fer­ences through re­spect­ful and mean­ing­ful di­a­logue. We re­main fo­cused on con­tin­u­ing to ad­vance this fully ap­proved and per­mit­ted nat­u­ral gas pipe­line, which is un­der con­struc­tion and de­liv­er­ing jobs, op­por­tu­ni­ties and eco­nomic ben­e­fits to Bri­tish Columbians and In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties,” it says.

The com­pany says in the March 8 news re­lease that it con­tracted an ar­chae­ol­o­gist to de­velop the mit­i­ga­tion plan in case of dis­cov­er­ies that would in­volve soil test­ing, vis­ual in­spec­tions and on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing.

It shared the plan with the Unist’ot’en mem­bers’ lawyers, “should they wish to dis­cuss the mit­i­ga­tion” with the com­mis­sion, it says.

The site was en­tered in a pro­vin­cial arche­ol­ogy data­base fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of the ar­ti­facts.

The com­mis­sion re­ferred ques­tions to the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, which de­clined to com­ment as the mat­ter is be­fore the courts.

In the 17-page court pe­ti­tion, the First Na­tion mem­bers say the Wet’suwet’en have never re­lin­quished or sur­ren­dered their title and rights to the land and re­sources.

A check­point is seen at a bridge lead­ing to the Unist’ot’en camp on a re­mote log­ging road near Hous­ton, B.C.

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