Marching down Highway 16 in Smithers. B.C. chiefs gather in Smithers to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ position on Unist’ot’en camp and opposition to Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Coastal GasLink talks between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, province break down

Hereditary chiefs say RCMP enforcement is ‘imminent’

After two days of discussion, talks between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the province over a contentious natural gas pipeline have broken down.

The groups announced on Jan. 30 they would meet for a week-long set of talks about the Coastal GasLink pipeline project at a “Wiggus” table.

But late Tuesday night, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en announced those talks had ended.

“Coastal GasLink declined to see this discussion resulting in progress,” said a statement by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. “Therefore, the enforcement of the injunction zone is imminent.”

B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser confirmed in a statement the talks failed.

“While we were not successful in finding a resolution to the current situation, we continue to remain open to dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en leadership on this issue,” Fraser said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.

“We hope that the paramount need for safety stays the top priority for all parties.”

Last night, Coastal GasLink also issued a statement saying they were indeed preparing to go back to work.

“In the coming days, Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities in the Morice River area in accordance with our permits and Interlocutory Injunction,” the statement said. “It is our hope that the resumption of construction activities occurs in a lawful and peaceful manner that maintains the safety of all in the Morice River area.”

The talks stemmed from a year-long battle between the northern First Nation and the natural gas company. The leaders of the First Nation have said they never consent to a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nations along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route from northeastern B.C. to an export terminal in Kitimat but the hereditary clan chiefs say it has no authority without their consent.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted the company an injunction on Dec. 31. The order called for the removal of any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.

It also gives authorization to the RCMP to arrest and remove anyone police have “reasonable or probable grounds” to believe has knowledge of the order and is contravening it.

READ MORE: RCMP pipeline checkpoint ‘arbitrary and discriminatory,’ say B.C. complainants

ALSO READ: Pro-Wet’suwet’en youth group stages sit-in at Manitoba Liberal MP’s office

The enforcement of a previous injunction a year ago resulted in the arrests of 14 people.

Police said they would respect the talks and not take action to enforce the injunction by removing obstructions on the Morice West Forest Service Road leading to the company’s work sites. However, with the breakdown of the talks and Coastal GasLink’s stated intentions, enforcement seems likely as early as today.

The Interior News is currently onsite to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, the David Suzuki Foundation came out this morning with an open letter calling on the federal and provincial governments to take a new approach to

“The issue of who appropriately represents the territorial title and rights of the Wet’suwet’en remains unresolved,” the letter said. “To obtain consent of titleholders as set out in the Tsilhqot’in decision and UNDRIP means true consultation must take place. For that to occur, the Crown must ensure that such consent is obtained from the appropriate titleholders and truly represents the will of the people. This requires a better understanding of each individual nation’s governance and leadership roles. This process has not been completed with the Wet’suwet’en.”

READ MORE: Gidimt’en clan comdemning RCMP action after elder arrested at checkpoint

– with files from The Canadian Press and Thom Barker

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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