LNG Canada is made up of Royal Dutch Shell, PetroChina, KOGAS, Petronas, and Mitsubishi. These partners hired TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Energy) to create and operate Coastal GasLink (CGL). The purpose of CGL was to install a pipeline for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from the interior of British Columbia, Canada, to its coast to be shipped to Asia. TC Energy recently sold shares of LNG Canada to Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCO) and Kolberg, Kravis, Roberts (KKR). The British Columbia government has given $830 million in subsidies to this project and the government of Canada has contributed $275 million in subsidies.
THE UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE WET’SUET’EN FIRST NATION
The pipeline route goes through unceded (never conquered, nor treaties signed for) territory of the Wet’suet’en First Nation. There are several clans within the Wet’suet’en and the LNG pipeline route goes through the territory of the Unist’ot’en clan. For all of their history the Wet’suet’en have been governed by hereditary chiefs. Colonial rule imposed a system of band councils over that. Hereditary chiefs maintain jurisdiction over ancestral lands. In 1997 the Supreme Court of Canada — Delgamuukw v. British Columbia — ruled that the Wet’suet’en legally retained control of their territories. Government and industry immediately began to plan ways to get around that ruling.
THE BRITISH COLUMBIA PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT
The current government of British Columbia is led by Premier John Horgan, of the New Democratic Party (NDP). In 2017 he defeated the BC Liberal Party with election promises to stop the LNG pipeline as well as the Site C Dam. After he was elected he reversed those promises and now champions LNG and other invasions of Indigenous territory. He rationalises that by declaring that the version of UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) he legislated into law (to much applause and many photo ops) is not retroactive
Horgan’s government has continued environmentally damaging BC Liberal policies. His sham climate change program, CleanBC, gives false information about the fracking required for LNG and refuses to consider human health in the environmental assessment.
The BC Oil & Gas Commission and the Environmental Assessment Offices are the “arms-length” agencies that issued the permits for CGL’s invasion of Wet’suet’en territory, despite instances of incomplete documentation and non-compliance by CGL. These agencies put the burden of Indigenous consultation solely on CGL who consulted only the band councils, not the hereditary chiefs. The hereditary chiefs have steadfastly refused pipelines but offered at least one alternative route which CGL rejected. In February 2020 the Wet’suet’en filed a court challenge to review the environmental assessment.
POLICING BY THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE (RCMP)
The RCMP are contracted as BC provincial police. In January 2019 they enforced a court injunction allowing CGL to construct the LNG pipeline through Unist’ot’en territory. Both sides adopted a safety protocol. In December 2019 it was revealed that the RCMP had been authorised for “lethal overwatch” (snipers) and other violence on Unist’ot’en land. In January 2020 the Wet’suet’en evicted CGL.
Beginning February 2020, RCMP again are enforcing the court injunction on Unist’ot’en land, though under much more public scrutiny than in 2019.
“WET’SUET’EN STRONG” — SOLIDARITY & SUPPORTERS
Enduring the RCMP and CGL invasion for the second year, the Wet’suet’en have asked for public support and received it. The United Nations, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the BC Human Rights Commissioner are among many who have declared solidarity with the Wet’suet’en. A list of others is here.
Demonstrations and blockades in solidarity with the Wet’suet’en have sprung — and continue to spring up — coast to coast in Canada and also in other countries. Train schedules have been cancelled because of rail blockades and ships are crowding ports waiting to be unloaded/loaded. Demonstrators surrounded the BC Legislature which cancelled some pomp and ceremony and delayed the throne speech for the opening of the 2020 sitting of the legislature. Demonstrators also appeared at the Premier’s home to make a citizen’s arrest of him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t home.
THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA & THE COLONIAL BACKDROP
While the solidarity response can be described as unprecedented, the incidents prompting it are not. The federal inquiry into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG), mentioned the abuses perpetrated by the residential schools, the RCMP, and the “Sixties Scoop” (where Indigenous kids were “scooped” from their families and communities and placed in foster homes or for adoption). Indigenous communities have been forced to live in poverty and unhealthy conditions for years. One example is the Grassy Narrows reserve in Ontario which has spent 50 years enduring mercury contamination left over from industry.
RCMP tactics have been denounced not only by MMIWG but also in a report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP which addressed the same RCMP overstepping of power in 2013 in New Brunswick. It has been pointed out that Prime Minister Trudeau points at other countries for human rights infractions but doesn’t clean up his own. Currently his administration is appealing a court order to compensate Indigenous children for federal discrimination in health and welfare programs.
Sunday, February 23, 2020: the two main players, BC Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continue to refuse to meet with Wet’suet’en hereditary chiefs and only offer to send their lackeys. BC Deputy RCMP Commissioner Jennifer Strachan claims orders have been changed for RCMP but social media indicates officers still onsite in Wet’suet’en territory claim to know nothing about that change and have increased harassing activities. Federal conservatives have been muttering about vigilantism and using the military. The slogan going around with Wet’suet’en allies is “Reconciliation is dead. Shutdown Canada.” Wet’suet’en chiefs are meeting with Mohawk supporters back east.
Late Friday, February 21, social media then mainstream media announced the BC Environmental Assessment Office will not approve CGL’s final report due to lack of information. This should have happened months ago according to Dr. Karla Tait:
“We identified the gaps in CGL’s report months ago, by letters and in person,” said Tait in the press release. Had the province intervened to confirm the reports’ shortcomings, they could have prevented the injunction enforcement, sparing us the violent removal from our lands and sparing the country the subsequent economic pressures of solidarity actions. The continued presence of the CGL and the RCMP on our territory is unlawful and this decision by EAO gives the province grounds to call for their immediate evacuation.”
Following the weekend, It remains to be seen if that rejection will spur withdrawal of CGL and RCMP, thus meeting hereditary chiefs’ preconditions for talks and saving face for Horgan’s government.
The reconciliation is a lie on Twitter: “Surprise surprise… It turns out that most of the groups undermining the #Wetsuweten Nation’s fight against colonial violence and for Indigenous Rights are connected. Weaponized “both sides” reporting and lots of PR $$$ sure makes them look much larger than they actually are: https://t.co/NAAvEnB2kY” / Twitter
Role of Government and Industry
International Solidarity with the Wet’suet’en