TransCanada reported pipeline activists to the RCMP today after a convoy of their workers were refused access to Wet’suwet’en land by members of a Unist’ot’en clan blockade.
Four vehicles carrying Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project workers were turned away at a checkpoint on Chisholm Road south of Houston about 11 a.m. this morning.
The checkpoint is one of two camps blocking pipeline proponents from accessing the traditional territory of the Unis’tot’en clan, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
The TransCanada Coastal GasLink Pipeline was originally routed to cross about 1km south of the Unist’ot’en Camp on its way from north-east B.C. to an LNG processing facility in Kitimat.
The company is considering an alternate route about 5km north of the camp but both of the proposed routes cross Unist’ot’en territory.
Unist’ot’en member Freda Huson said her clan had a legal right to block access to its traditional territory, citing the 1997 Delgamuukw decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada determined that aboriginal title did exist.
“We just keep telling the same thing, you do not have consent because according even to all laws they must gain consent and have meaning[ful] consultation with my clan and they haven’t done that,” she said.
“We are not doing this because we want money we are doing this because we want our land.
“We don’t want our lands impacted by these projects.”
Coastal GasLink project planning and execution director Greg Cano said his workers were attempting to carry out environmental fieldwork for the proposed alternate route when they were turned away.
“This environmental fieldwork is necessary so that cultural and historical resources are identified, respected and protected, and so that the project can be designed, constructed and operated in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said Cano.
He said his company had made more than 90 attempts to contact hereditary chief Knedebeas of the Dark House, an Unist’ot’en house which operates the checkpoint were the workers were stopped.
“They have simply refused to discuss the project, even though they have a legal obligation to do so,” said Cano.
“As a result, we have unfortunately to date been unable to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to accessing the Dark House territory.”
Huson said her chief would not negotiate with TransCanada after a bad experience with the company.
Today’s encounter was one of several between Coastal GasLink workers and members of the Unist’ot’en clan.
TransCanada said it contacted the police because it had been denied the ability to use a public road.
RCMP media relations officer Corporal Janelle Shoihet said police remained impartial in the ongoing dispute.
“Our efforts all along have been in keeping the peace, negotiations, and bringing the affected parties to the table for a fruitful discussion in the hopes of coming to a resolution,” said Shoihet.
“We will continue to work with all stakeholders and provide assistance as necessary in maintaining peace and keeping everyone safe.”
Both Cano and Huson said they planned to approach future encounters in a “peaceful” manner.