OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada welcomes the decision by Coastal GasLink (CGL) to remove its workers from Wet’suwet’en territory in response to an eviction notice issued by five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The chiefs are opposed to construction of the CGL fracked gas pipeline on their unceded territory in northern B.C.
Paul Manly, the Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, says this dispute is a fight for Indigenous rights and climate justice. “We know that this pipeline and the LNG project in Kitimat that it serves are a climate disaster in the making,” he said. “The hereditary chiefs not only need to be consulted, they need to be heard. I stand with these chiefs who have peacefully protested to protect their land and call on the provincial and federal governments to respect the stand they have taken.”
Tensions are mounting in the area near Houston, B.C. On New Year’s Eve a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted CGL an injunction against protestors, whom the company said were blocking access to the project.
In a letter delivered to CGL representatives, the hereditary chiefs said all staff and contractors must leave the territory immediately. According to news reports they have done so.
Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands) says this situation poses a challenge for the B.C. government, which is the first legislature in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). “You cannot say you respect UNDRIP and then send in the RCMP to remove hereditary chiefs from their own land when they have not provided consent,” said Ms. May.
The Alberta company that is building the pipeline, TC Energy, says it has negotiated agreements with 20 First Nations band councils along the route of the pipeline.
Jenica Atwin, the Green Party MP for Fredericton, is also monitoring the situation closely. “What happens in B.C. is of particular interest to Atlantic Canada as we also operate under peace and friendship treaties where no land was surrendered. How this conflict is handled will set an important precedent,” said Ms. Atwin.
“With the adoption of UNDRIP in B.C., traditional governance is recognized in the duty to consult, defined as free, prior and informed consent. For the rest of Canada it is vital to understand that certain forms of extraction and development will be stalled due to Indigenous protests over environmental and cultural concerns deriving from grassroots movements even if companies or government officials claim they have the approval of elected chiefs and councils. These types of interventions will continue as long as there is confusion about collective inherent Indigenous rights to the land.”
“This is a situation that could easily escalate,” observed Mr. Manly. “We call on TC Energy and the RCMP to respect the position being taken by the Wet’suwet’en chiefs and take no further action until meeting with them to discuss the reason for this recent impasse.”
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