TransCanada has conditionally awarded Surerus Murphy Joint Venture, SA Energy Group, Macro Spiecapag Joint Venture and Pacific Atlantic Pipeline Construction Inc. contracts to construct the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline, pending an investment decision by LNG Canada for a proposed natural gas liquefaction facility in Kitimat.
“If and when LNG Canada makes their decision for that final investment we need to be ready to start getting out preparing stuff in the field, hiring people, hiring sub contractors, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” TransCanada director of project planning and execution Greg Cano said of the decision to hire the contractors.
The contractors would be responsible for hiring the projected 2,500 to 3,000 workers for the pipeline over its four-year construction period.
“I think the benefits of the project for the communities involved is going to be really, really, great and we look forward to building those relations and maintaining them,” Cano said.
The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline project would be 670 km in length. The pipeline would deliver natural gas from Dawson Creek to a facility in Kitimat for export by LNG Canada.
Part of the pipeline would be built in Wet’suwet’en territory.
Individuals opposed to the pipeline have joined the Unist’ot’en camp which is located south of Houston and in the path of the proposed pipeline. The Unist’ot’en camp was established over a decade ago and has opposed all pipeline projects in the area.
In 2015 Witset, formerly known as the Moricetown Band, signed a benefits agreement with the province for Coastal GasLink and Pacific Trails pipeline projects.
After receiving backlash from the community another a vote on the agreement was scheduled last year. The results of the vote are unknown.
The Ministry of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation referred any questions regarding the status of the agreement to TransCanada and the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
“Out of respect for our First Nation partners we don’t release information unless they want it released,” Cano said. “I think any information or any comments with regards to a benefit agreement should come from them.”
Witset could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Earlier this month the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW) sent out a press release that said the Hereditary Chiefs said all of the affected Wet’suwet’en house groups — Gilseyhu, Laksamishu, Gitdumden and Tsayu clans — rejected TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink project as it infringes on Wet’suweten title, rights, and interests.
In the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Wet’suwet’en rights and title had never been extinguished across their territory.
The press release from the OW said Aboriginal title includes the right to exclusive use and occupation of land and the right to decide its use.
“The federal government talks about reconciliation and they undermine their own words by trying to shove pipelines down our throat, or industry down our throat,” Dinï ze’ Madeek, head chief of the Gitdumden Clan, said in the press release. “As we stated in 2006, there will be no pipeline to enter Wet’suwet’en territory.”
B.C. Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser visited Wet’suwet’en territory last month to meet with leaders and elders to build relations, a ministry spokesperson said via email.
The Interior News asked if the minister talked about the pipeline issue.
“We are engaging with the Wet’suwet’en Nation focused on reconciliation — establishing a government-to-government relationship that supports self-governance and promotes healthy communities, economy and environment,” was the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation response via email. “Our engagement with the Wet’suwet’en Nation is about advancing meaningful reconciliation based on the recognition of rights.”
Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson facilitated the meeting between minister Fraser and Hereditary Chiefs from Wet’suwet’en and elected chiefs from Witset.
“Part of being a minister from the North and a minister from Stikine is to try to get as many cabinet ministers into the area to meet with first nations governments and local governments,” Donaldson said. “Just so people have a better appreciation of what we’re facing up here and what our point of view is.”
Last Wednesday was the official launch of the Connect program in Smithers.
Connect is a partnership between LNG Canada and TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink Project and is managed by the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA). The initiative aims to connect job seekers to employment opportunities in the construction industry.
The program first launched in the Bulkley Valley two years ago in Terrace and has put over 200 applicants in job placements to date BCCA president Chris Atchison said.
“By coming to Smithers we’re building on that success,” Atchison said. “We want to keep the local labour market relevant and engaged with construction opportunities.”
Atchison said anyone willing and able to work, especially women, Indigenous people and youth, can apply to the program.
Job seekers and employers can participate in the program by contacting regional employment placement specialist Bruce Hobson either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-917-8568.
“Anytime there’s a program that helps connect perspective employees with employment opportunities I think that’s important for our community,” said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.