by Flavio Nienow
At an all clans meeting, Wet’suwet’en clans voted to not accept any pipelines through Wet’suwet’en lands, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline projects.
In December 2014, Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) signed an agreement with the province for the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline project. Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransCanada PipeLines Limited, proposes to develop a natural gas pipeline from near Dawson Creek, to the proposed LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export facility near Kitimat.
One day after the all clans meeting, LNG Canada received an environmental assessment certificate to proceed with construction of their plant near Kitimat.
Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale (Na’Moks), who attended the meeting via teleconference, said the position of the hereditary chiefs hasn’t changed.
“There are elected bands and councils that have supported it [construction of pipelines], but as a nation, as hereditary chiefs and clans and house groups, we never have supported this. It’s a re-affirmation of each of the five clans,” said Ridsdale.
A camp set up by the Unist’ot’en house group is currently trying to block efforts by TransCanada to do work on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline project.
A new You Tube video was recently posted by supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp showing a Unist’ot’en member asking a third party contractor to leave their territory.
“This is technically trespassing,” says the Unist’ot’en member in the video. “We’ve asked nicely and people keep coming; this is very disrespectful.”
“This continues to be our territory,” she continues. “We haven’t lost it to war, so you’re not coming through here; you need consent to be here.”
According to Unist’ot’en members, throughout May and June, TransCanada has made repeated attempts to survey the area.
“The Unist’ot’en, they’re looking after their territory,” said Ridsdale. “And we believe, at this current time, they’re doing the proper thing; they are evicting trespassers, which would be these pipeline companies.”
Despite opposition from Wet’suwet’en clans, Chief Karen Ogen said her government will continue supporting LNG projects.
“We are fully committed to protecting the environment while pursuing economic opportunities that will provide sustainability to our community. We remain opposed to oil and bitumen projects because they could have serious environmental impact on our territories and our traditional hunting grounds,” she said. “By signing agreements in support of LNG projects, we have ensured the inclusion of a clause which states at no time with this pipeline agreement, even if sold to another company, be converted to transporting oil or bitumen.”
“We have signed agreements wiath the province with the explicit understanding that the environmental assessment process has to ensure the best practices in the world. Our community members mandated us to engage with gas pipeline companies and make sure that the highest environmental standards are met. By participating in these projects and engaging with the government and proponents, WFN is able to extend a positive influence on their development,” she said.
“Our door is always open for dialog and discussion with the hereditary chiefs to explain our position. Beyond that, WFN is marching forward so that our people will benefit and their quality of life will finally improve – socially, economically and environmentally,” she added.