Wet’suwet’eh First Nations and RCMP Reach a Deal Regarding Pipeline Construction

In B.C., last week, the Wet’suwet’eh First Nations and the RCMP reached a deal regarding the construction of the pipeline that runs through their territory.

The deal comes after a very complicated dispute about the pipeline being constructed in Wet’suwet’en First Nations, which includes a large region of Northern B.C.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation were upset that the natural gas company only had permission from the elected band councils, and did not have permission from the hereditary chiefs, to work on their land. TransCanada signed a contract with elected leaders of First Nations along the route of the pipeline, however, the hereditary leadership is now saying that the contracts do not apply to traditional territory of the First Nation.

 The Unist’ot’en camp was built in 2010, which blocked a road that the natural gas company needed to access for building. In December, the B.C. Supreme Court gave Coastal GasLink an injuction so the road would not be blocked. The Unist’ot’en camp called this an “act of war”.

Later, another camp called the Gidimet’en camp blocked another road near the town of Houston where the workers were building. On January 7th, after setting up a checkpoint to block access to the public and the media, the RCMP arrested 14 members of the Wet’suwet’eh First Nation who were protesting the proposed pipeline in the Gidimet’en camp.

The dispute has been resolved, at least temporarily, by the deal between the Wet’suwet’en Nations that was made a few days later. The deal states that the First Nation has agreed to let the natural gas company, Coastal GasLink  access to its roads and comply with the injunction given by the B.C. Supreme Court, and in exchange, the RCMP will remove a roadblock blocking a Unist’ot’en healing camp. Chief Na’Moks stated that the hereditary chiefs do not condone the project, citing potential damage to the watershed and wildlife. However, the hereditary chiefs want to protect the First Nation’s members. The deal will allow the construction of a natural gas pipeline through the Wet’suwet’eh territory to Kitimat.

The arrests as a result of the protest sparked national disputes about the tense relationship between the Federal government and the First Nations. Trudeau addressed the issue in a town hall in Kamloops. He described the importance of the the development, construction, and exporting of Canada’s resources. He also briefly mentioned the need to develop a different relationship with First Nations

Additionally, people are concerned about the progress of future pipeline projects in the area.

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