The Wet-suwet conflict echoes bitter battles over oils and water – only this time it's natural gas


British Prime Minister John Horgan is trying to minimize comparisons between this week's protests against the Coastal GasLink gas pipeline he supports and the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipelines that he opposed.

"What is relevant is the problem before us. In that case, it's a pipeline that has the backing of 20 of the 20 bands along the pipeline, including hereditary leadership, "Horgan told a news conference in Victoria on Wednesday.

"I firmly believe that this project, the LNG project in Kitimat, will benefit the region and all those in it," he said.

Horgan made the remarks after the Tuesday and Wednesday protests unleashed by the RCMP, removing a blockade by indigenous protesters opposed to the Coastal GasLink project that would connect BAC's gas fields to the $ 40 billion LNG project Canada in Kitimat, BC

Police were in full force during a vocal counterattack in support of the Transcanada Coastal GasLink gas pipeline in downtown Calgary on Tuesday.

Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

He said that comparisons with earlier protests against resource projects, including War in the Woods, and campaigns against the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipelines were not directly analogous to opposition to this week's events – although many in favor of the project opposite a parallel.

"This is the same fight as the fight to stop Trans Mountain's disastrous pipeline project and diluted bitumen pipeline. The risks are too great – we can not and will not allow them to destroy our way of life. It does not mean no, "said the first Nation member, Tsleil-Waututh, Will George, distributed by Protect the Inlet.

Those who are in favor of the pipeline also see a direct comparison, and believe the current BC. promoted some of the opposition.

"If you go back to when the NDP government was in the opposition, they opposed everything," said the Independent Contractors Association of B.C. President Chris Gardner said.

The position (the NDP) is now in which all those who were allies are very disappointed and continue to oppose the projects.

B.C. Independent Contractors Association Chris Gardner

"The position they are in now is that everyone with whom they are allies is very disappointed and continues to oppose the projects," Gardner said.

RCMP locks remained in place for a third day around the territory of Wet Nation's First Nation, where 14 people were arrested on Monday after the Mounties had dismantled a first gate blocking access to a area where Coastal GasLink wants to build a natural gas pipeline.

"We take legal action as a last resort and only after six years of unsuccessful efforts to find a mutual solution. We remain committed to keeping the lines of communication open, "Coastal GasLink president Rick Gateman said in an open letter to B.C. residents.

"Our only goal was to access the bridge and public thoroughfare so our teams could travel to our pipeline one kilometer away from the camp. Construction and pre-construction will not affect the field, "he said.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an e-mail that contractors were able to pass the second of the two locks thanks to RCMP's help on Tuesday but had to continue to dismantle additional barriers.

"After gaining secure access to the second blockade, our contractors have focused their attention on safely and respectfully starting the removal of roadblocks built in recent weeks," Cunha said.

A vocal counterattack in support of the Transcanada Coastal GasLink gas pipeline occurred in downtown Calgary on Tuesday.

Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the arrest of the 14 people "is not an ideal situation" and that although the situation is currently tense, it would seek to "reduce the temperature slightly."

In an interview with CBC News, Trudeau said that "there are a number of people and communities who support, there are a number of people who disagree with that."

The arrests sparked a series of protests in major Canadian cities, but Horgan said the protests were "not evenly focused" on United Nations land rights issues in the north of the country, which he said was at the center of the disagreement this week .

A group of hereditary chiefs from Wet'suwet & # 39; en in the region opposes the pipeline, while the heads and councilors elected along the route of the pipeline have signed benefit agreements and support the project.

"LNG Canada and Coastal Gaslink have met our standards," said Crystal Smith, chief counsel for Haisla First Nation, in an open letter on Wednesday, adding that the projects have already allowed the band to deploy new programs to its staff.

"We urge you to think hard about how your opposition to LNG development is causing damage to our people and our well-being. The opposition does nothing to empower our nation, but instead discards our rights and titles and works to separate our people from the real benefits, "she said.

Horgan said that these divisions highlight "the challenges that investors have, the challenges governments have, the First Nations have" in B.C.

To complicate matters, there is no clear constitutional response on whether elected councils or hereditary chiefs should be consulted on resource projects, although many companies choose to consult both.

"They all create additional layers of legal complexity and uncertainty because the issues have not been resolved," said University of Saskatchewan law professor Dwight Newman, who is also chair of research on Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law in Canada.

Newman said the issues are especially complex in B.C. because, unlike the Prairie and Ontario provinces, most of the province's indigenous groups have not signed treaties with the provincial government.

An oil pipeline signal is portrayed as indigenous leaders, Costa Salish Water Protectors and others demonstrate against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan, Texas.

Photo of Jason Redmond / AFP Getty

Energy executives and political observers in BC We believe the same approaches used to delay pipelines, such as Trans Mountain's expansion project, which, like Coastal GasLink, had the support of most First Nations along the route, are now being applied to pipelines.

"I think there is an attempt to map the characteristics of the seaSands campaign for this campaign," said Stewart Muir of the industry-based advocacy group Resource Works in Victoria.

He added that opponents of the pipeline were encouraged by successfully blocking or delaying pipelines, and "They do not want to retire having opposing oil pipelines."

Natural gas pipelines have been challenged in the northeastern United States, where protesters opposed fracked gas pipeline projects, including the Mountain Valley pipeline, the Constitution pipeline, the North East Direct pipeline, and others.

"What we have seen in the US is that resistance has gone from very important protests to a much more organized challenge in the courts," said RS Energy Director Jen Snyder, adding that in the case of the Mountain Valley pipeline, delays caused by increased by 60%.

With a file from Canadian Press

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