Wet’suwet’en Protests Continue Against Pipeline Development

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Wet’suwet’en protests continue against the development of a natural gas pipeline in their territory.

Wet’suwet’en protests continue after a natural gas pipeline project began in their northern British Columbia territory. Coastal GasLink, the company building the pipeline, claims it has taken all aspects, including environmental and indigenous, into it’s decision. In light of this, the government and police are getting involved.

After a B.C. court handed down an injunction regarding the protests, RCMP authorities arrested over 20 people last week. Now, protesters have gathered in various transportation hubs to attempt to persuade the courts and the gas company to alter it’s plans.

In response to this, continuing police actions seek to remove the obstacles outlined in the injunction. The primary service road, Morice West Forest Service Road , has become one of the epicentres for these sweeps. multiple camps and roadblocks have been taken down, and protesters either removed, or outright arrested.

This is the latest chapter in the ongoing conflict between natural resources development companies and advocates for indigenous rights. Rail lines, ports, and even city streets have become the stage for the Wet’suwet’en and other environmental organisations to gather.

As a result, commercial transportation industries have felt the effects. This past weekend, CN Rail reports that about 15 people blocked 33 trains from delivering their cargo. The blockage resulted in over $1 million in estimated revenue.

CN Rail’s Chief Legal Officer, Sean Finn remarked on how this is not helping the situation for either party.

“Obviously we recognise the right for our First Nation partners to protest, the only issue we have is that blocking our track is not the best way probably to get their message across. And it impacts all Canadians and has a major impact on the economy going forward.”

Wet’suwet’en and resource company tensions run deep.

The $6 billion and 670-kilometre project runs from a compression station near Dawson’s Creek to an LNG facility in Kitimat. Of this length, Almost a third of this runs through the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory near Houston. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have not given consent, and argue that the permits should not have been issued without this.

These tensions are only the tip of the legal iceberg that has been growing since Coastal GasLink received permission in December last year.

Justice Marguerite Church allowed Coastal GasLink to proceed with their project after already receiver a long list of permits. These permits came from both governmental and NGO regulatory bodies, as well as agreements with other First Nations groups.

One week later, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued their own action against the gas giant. This eviction notice ordered a cessation of all construction activities.

20 First Nations councils agreed to the project. In spite of this, the hereditary chiefs argue that these are not traditional forms of government for the indigenous peoples. As such, ultimate decision power comes down to them.

The hereditary chiefs derive their power from the matriarchal system; the traditional method of tribal governance for ages. These different forms of government, in addition to the provincial and federal Canadian governments, have had their own tensions in the past.

Despite this, Coastal GasLink claims that their injunction grants them access, and thus negates any third-party decisions. In addition, they claim they have already done their due diligence on the matter, as stated on their website.

The pipeline route was determined by considering Indigenous, landowner and stakeholder input, the environment, archaeological and cultural values, land use compatibility, safety, constructability and economics.