The battle between Wet’suwet’en First Nations and B.C.’s gas-pipeline continues

Ahmadullah Rahmat /January 12, 2019

The battle between Wet’suwet’en First Nations and B.C.’s gas-pipeline continues
(Ahmadullah Rahmat / BCIT NEWS)

Protesters walk in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

Helen Tommy, a Wet’suwet’en First Nations member, organized a rally of hundreds of people who gathered at Victory Square in Vancouver. Protestors marched east on Hastings in opposition to the Coastal Gas pipeline in northern BC. They beat drums and chanted in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations members who oppose the pipeline.

While the Wet’suwet’en First Nation had supported the pipeline, hereditary chiefs and some members remain opposed and worried about the risk they say the pipeline brings to their traditional territory.

Tommy is against the First Nations’ elected council who voted in favor of the natural gas pipeline project. She says they do not have jurisdiction over the entire traditional territories.

“For those of you that have said yes to the pipeline and that are with Wet’suwet’en, you are not with Wet’suwet’en. You do not stand for our people and we do not appreciate you talking for our hereditary chiefs because that’s not right. You’re supposed to speak for our people not against them.”

Hellen TommyEvent Organizer

Marchers walked from Hastings and Cambie to the Port of Vancouver. Some participants said people should respect the jurisdiction of the First Nations. They blocked some intersections holding signs and rallying for their cause. Some gave speeches and shouted that the RCMP raid on the checkpoints at the Unist’ot’en camp is a violation of international law.

“We want the government to know that we don’t stand for what they did. We think it’s illegal, and we want them to respect the indigenous communities in this country.”

Ryan SchebekMarch Participant

“I don’t find the Canadian government jurisdiction legitimate on indigenous lands, and they’re going against indigenous laws by impeding their rights by trying to get the pipeline into their lands without their consent.”

Sherine SherineMarch Participant

The RCMP released a statement following the raid saying they tried their best to resolve the matter through negotiations prior to enforcement, but it didn’t work.

“The situation was challenging – the protestors reaction to the police ranged from passive resistance to active resistance to actual assaultive behavior. Also present were fires nearby which caused significant concerns over the safety of protestors, media and the police at the scene. 14 protesters were arrested and others left the area without any further interactions with police.”

According to police, the protestors have already been released, and they had a dialogue with all impacted parties. The discussion with Hereditary Chiefs resulted in an agreement between the RCMP and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

The RCMP’s statement further says the agreement allowed for access by the company across the Morice River Bridge by the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre. As well, the ability for the temporary exclusion zone to be removed, and a framework for the continued police presence in the area moving forward.

According to Coastal GasLink, this natural gas pipeline project will run approximately 670 km (416 miles) in length. The proposed pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area in northern B.C. to a facility near Kitimat, B.C., where it will be converted to a liquid form for export by LNG Canada. From there, it can be shipped to markets in Asia that are currently powered by coal-fired electricity.