Taylor Bachrach (left) and Nathan Cullen pictured at Bachrach’s campaign office opening in Smithers on Sept. 5. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Taylor Bachrach (left) and Nathan Cullen pictured at Bachrach’s campaign office opening in Smithers on Sept. 5. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Bachrach votes against motion for solidarity with elected, hereditary chiefs who support CGL

The motion was defeated by a final vote of 199 to 115

CORRECTION: This story previously included a quote from Prince George MP Todd Doherty claiming that eight of the 13 hereditary chiefs had indicated their support for the Coastal GasLink project.

The Interior News’ own research contradicts this claim. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is organized into five clans, of which each has between two and three houses. At the house level there are 13 hereditary chef seats. Currently four of those sit unfilled. Of the remaining nine, eight have voiced their opposition to CGL operating on Wet’suwet’en territory in an early January eviction letter that was presented to the company.

A motion put forward by Cariboo — Prince George MP Todd Doherty has failed in the House of Commons after being defeated by an overwhelming majority of NDP and Liberal members of parliament.

The wording proposed that the House “stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route, the majority of hereditary chiefs, and the vast majority of the Wet’suwet’en people, who support the Coastal GasLink project.”

Speaking in support of his motion Doherty spoke to his own Tsilhqot’in First Nation heritage. He said the vast majority of Wet’suwet’en elected bands are in support of the project and have voted in favour of the economic benefits it would bring to the region.

READ MORE: Bachrach calls on Trudeau to meet with hereditary chiefs in CGL dispute

However Doherty said individuals that support the project have had their voices silenced and are experiencing harassment from within their own community for supporting the pipeline. He said this vocal opposition to the project has undershadowed the economic benefits it would provide the region.

“Today is about the 875 million dollars’ worth of contracts that have been let on this project so far,” said Doherty during a Feb. 20 session of Parliament.

He added that over a third of those employed by the project self-identify as Indigenous.

“Today is about the 400 indigenous and first nations people who are employed by the Coastal GasLink project.

“Today is about the over $1 billion of economic opportunity and partnerships the first nations have signed on for with the Coastal GasLink project.”

In his support of the motion Doherty called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for what he characterized as inaction on the issue.

“The Prime Minister jetted all over the world for 14 days, 13 days or nine days, however long it was, and hid overseas,” he said.

“He is refusing to acknowledge that we are in a crisis.”

Doherty said that even if the various railroad blockades going on across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the project were to stop today, it would still take months for the economy to recover.

Both CN Rail and Via Rail announced temporary layoffs last month, to the tune of over 1,450 workers across the country.

Doherty said the blockades effect everyone.

“Those lost jobs are not just non-first nation jobs,” he said.

“They are first nation jobs too. These workers are employed as truck drivers. They are the folks laying pipe. They are working to do whatever they can to make a better living for their families and put a roof over their heads.”

The motion was defeated in the house by a final vote of 199 to 115 on Feb. 24.

One of those “nay” votes belonged to Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach.

Bachrach told The Interior News the reason for his vote was he felt the motion made a number of assertions regarding the dispute — namely regarding a majority of support for the CGL project within the Wet’suwet’en community — without providing evidence for them.

“It refers to the vast majority of Wet’suwet’en people and it refers to the majority of hereditary chiefs, and my understanding of the issue does not align with those assertions,” said Bachrach.

“I believe that what we need at this point are approaches that bring people together, not further divide them. And I couldn’t see how the motion contributed towards a positive resolution of the issue.”

In the past the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP has voiced concerns about respect for the rights and title of Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership who have voiced opposition to the project.

During a Feb. 18 emergency debate on Relations with Indigenous Peoples he responded to an assertation by Haliburton — Kawartha Lakes — Brock MP Jamie Schmale that 85 per cent of the Wet’suwet’en community support the project, a statistic repeated by Doherty on Feb. 20, with skepticism.

“I have heard that before, but I have yet to trace where that particular number comes from or what it is based on,” said Bachrach.

Doherty’s motion also condemned what he described as “radical activists who are exploiting divisions within the Wet’suwet’en community, holding the Canadian economy hostage, and threatening jobs and opportunities in Indigenous communities.”

He said the division within the community needs to end and that the majority of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the area support the project.

“I know that my colleagues across the way will say that we do not stand with hereditary chiefs and that we are failing to recognize the hereditary chiefs who voted against this,” he said.

“I will remind the House that all 20 elected bands signed up for the Coastal GasLink project,” said Doherty, while also claiming a majority of hereditary chiefs had done the same.

The Interior News’ own research contradics this claim.

The Wet’suwet’en Nation is organized into five clans, of which each has between two and three houses. At the house level there are 13 hereditary chef seats. Currently four of those sit unfilled. Of the remaining nine, eight have voiced their opposition to CGL operating on Wet’suwet’en territory in an early January eviction letter that was presented to the company.

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who represents the Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies riding voted in support of the motion.



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com

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