1. The pipeline
A pipeline by TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink is to carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat, B.C.
In October, LNG Canada announced it was moving ahead with its plans for the Kitimat export facility, where the pipeline is to end.
B.C. Premier John Horgan has said LNG Canada’s decision to build a $40-billion liquefied-natural-gas project in northern B.C. ranked on the historic scale of a “moon landing.” He has also emphasized how much the project means to an economically deprived region of the province.
Construction on the pipe — some 670 kilometres long — is scheduled to begin this month.
2. The pushback
Members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have set up a camp and a checkpoint southwest of Houston, B.C., on a forest-service road that leads to a pipeline construction site.
Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route.
Demonstrators argue Wet’suwet’en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent.
“Our people’s belief is that we are part of the land,” said Freda Huson, a Unist’ot’en hereditary spokesperson. “The land is not separate from us. The land sustains us. And if we don’t take care of her, she won’t be able to sustain us, and we as a generation of people will die.”
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Stewart Phillip also said in a statement on Sunday that all five Wet’suwet’en clans, including the Gidimt’en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.
Separate protests took place across the country Tuesday in support of the Gidimt’en clan members who are opposed to the pipeline.
3. The protest camp
Hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the pipeline intensified last month when the company secured an interim injunction in B.C. Supreme Court.
The court ordered the removal of any obstructions interfering with the Coastal GasLink project.
TransCanada has said it is not asking for the camp to be dismantled, only for access to the pipeline route.
4. The RCMP moved in
Monday night, RCMP say, they arrested 14 people from the blockade.
The Mounties say they were enforcing the injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court in removing anyone who interferes with the Coastal GasLink project in and around the Morice River Bridge.
The RCMP also say they are not taking sides in the dispute:
“The conflict between the oil and gas industries, Indigenous communities, and governments all across the province has been ongoing for a number of years,” the force says in a statement. “This has never been a police issue. In fact, the B.C. RCMP is impartial and we respect the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe protest.”
5. The broader concerns
Phillip said in his statement the RCMP’s actions are in “direct contradiction” to stated federal-government commitments to true reconciliation and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met,” he said.