Canadian Police, First Nation Agree on Blockade Removal
Coastal GasLink (CGL) will be able to begin work on its right-of-way in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory in northern BC after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reached an agreement January 9 with the First Nation’s hereditary chiefs to remove a second blockade.
CGL is building a 670-km gas line to bring gas to the planned LNG Canada export facility, which last year reached a final investment decision: the first of its kind in Canada.
According to media reports, the hereditary chiefs of the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans will allow CGL access to the Morice River Bridge – the only way into the pipeline right-of-way in the area – while the RCMP will allow a nearby Unist’ot’en camp, which includes a healing lodge where First Nations members receive treatment for various addictions, to remain in place.
On January 7, RCMP breached a blockade established late last year by the Gidimt'en clan in support of the Unist'ot'en camp and arrested 14 people. The Morice River Bridge blockade has been in place since at least 2012.
Further discussions were to continue today between the chiefs and the RCMP regarding a gate across the road that services the bridge. The Unist’ot’en say the gate is “vital” to the safety of the camp’s residents and supporters.
In a statement posted on the CGL website, CGL CEO Rick Gateman said the pipeline company was committed to continuing its dialogue with all BC First Nations, including the Wet’suwet’en.
“Development of our project will be conducted according to rigorous environmental standards, including the recognition of specific indigenous values,” Gateman said. “Coastal GasLink is committed to continuing dialogue with all parties as we go about fulfilling our investment in delivering a world-class project [and] employment and economic benefits to BC communities and First Nations.”
But a statement posted on the website of the Unist’ot’en Camp cast a very different light on the issue.
Headlined “This is Not Over”, the statement says that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs – who control what activities take place on traditional territories – “have by absolutely no means agreed to let the Coastal GasLink pipeline tear through our traditional territories.”
The agreement was struck, the statement says, in order to protect the camp’s residents and supporters, who “faced an incredible risk of injury or death” by initially defying a temporary injunction against the camp’s blockade of the bridge issued in December 2018.
“The agreement we made allows Coastal GasLink to temporarily work behind the Unist’ot’en gate,” the statement said. “This will continue to be a waste of their time and resources as they will not be building a pipeline in our traditional territory.”