Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach says he is hopeful the ongoing dispute between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink (CGL) about use of traditional Wet’suwet’en territory can still have a peaceful ending.
The former Smithers mayor said he recently had a chance to meet with the hereditary chiefs on Jan. 9.
“Coming out of that meeting it seems to me that safety is the shared concern for all of the parties,” said Bachrach.
At a Jan. 7 press conference the hereditary chiefs said they “never will” support the CGL pipeline going through their territory.
Bachrach acknowledged “one of the most important” questions is how the current standoff will affect the project going forward.
He also acknowledged the hereditary chiefs’ concerns relating to rights and title of the land in question calling them “serious concerns” and adding they need to be addressed.
To that point, Bachrach said he would like to see the federal government legislate the findings of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
British Columbia recently voted to adopt provincial legislation which uses UNDRIP as a framework and is the first Canadan province or territory to do so, but Bachrach said the Liberal government adopting similar federal legislation would go a long way in helping with future projects.
“It does point to the need for the federal government to adopt similar legislation and ensure that future development decisions do a better job of obtaining consent and ensuring proper participation from Indigenous peoples.”
Bachrach said his discussions with the hereditary chiefs and the RCMP give him optimism the situation can be solved peacefully.
“I’m encouraged to see that dialogue is ongoing, I don’t think there are very many situations we can point to and say that too much dialogue occurred.
“In general, especially in situations like this where there are very deeply-held positons and concerns the more we’re able to understand all of the aspects of those concerns the better.”
In response to an RCMP investigation into the presence of alleged hazardous materials placed near the Morice West Forest Service Road last week, Bachrach said he didn’t have enough information on the situation to comment in a substantive way, once again stressing the safety of people on the land remains his overriding concern.
He said he is also concerned to see the issue causing such a schism within the community.
“At this point having compassion and empathy for the individuals involved really doesn’t cost us anything,” said Bachrach.
“I’m calling on our community to be as understanding and compassionate as possible as people work through what is a very tense and difficult situation.”
In late December, an unconfirmed report from the U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian alleged police cleared sniper presence and used terms such as “sanitize” the land in their Jan. 7, 2019 raid on the Gidimt’en checkpoint.
In response to those allegations Bachrach reached out to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) to request an independent review of police action on that day.
Bachrach said he recently spoke with the chairperson of the commission and is expecting to hear back from them in the near future.