The Coastal GasLink pipeline project doesn’t need a settlement with hereditary chiefs on how their territory is governed to complete its link to supply natural gas to the LNG Canada export project at Kitimat, Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin says.
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross questioned Rankin on the project during debate in the B.C. legislature this week. He referred to ongoing talks that began in 2020 involving B.C., the federal government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are at odds with elected Wet’suwet’en councils over the project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern B.C.
“Is the completion of that pipeline dependent on the outcome of these negotiations that the province is currently undertaking?” Ross asked Rankin in debate on his ministry budget May 9.
“The conclusion of the negotiations is not dependent on the pipeline at all,” Rankin replied, noting that it has full permits to proceed.
Rankin said the talks are to resolve rights and title in Wet’suwet’en territory in light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision more than 20 years ago, which found the hereditary government to have aboriginal title to the region but left the terms undefined.
“Our government has continued to work on those matters through COVID, through some of the difficulties that everyone in this place will be aware of,” Rankin told the legislature. “The progress, I can confirm, has not been as quick as we had hoped due to these factors and others, but we are, of course, hoping to meet them in the near term. In fact, I’ve invited both the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and elected leaders to a summit in the hopes that we can make progress on Wet’suwet’en reunification.”
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) took part in his latest protest news conference May 11, along with Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc “Tiny House Warriors,” Molly Wickham, spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint protest camp near Houston B.C., and other Indigenous opponents. They cited a third letter from the UN Human Rights Committee demanding that both Coastal GasLink and TransMountain pipeline expansion projects be stopped. Both are more than half complete, with TransMountain now owned by the federal government.
A national network of protesters is also targeting the Royal Bank of Canada over their financing role in the LNG Canada project, which both Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have hailed as the largest private investment in Canadian history and a way to displace coal-fired power generation in Asia.
In April, people describing themselves as Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo took part, gluing and chaining themselves to the doors of the RBC branch in Nanaimo. Organizers have said more demonstrations will be held at RBC branches across the country this Friday.
On Tuesday, protesters representing Wilderness Committee, Stand.earth and Dogwood targeted an LNG conference held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, attended by B.C. Energy Minister Bruce Ralston and industry executives. They projected messages on the side of the building saying “Clean LNG is a dirty lie” and “Fracking can’t be clean.”