Canada Stays Violating Indigenous Rights and Land| Wet'suwet'en vs. Pipeline
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” - Cree Indian Proverb
What you need to know regarding the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in Wet'suwet'en territory:
The $4.8 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, owned by TransCanada Corp., is a 675-kilometre pipeline that is set to move natural gas from Groundbirch, B.C., to Kitimat, B.C., for international export.
The proposed pipeline will go through the traditional land of the Wet’suwet’en community in B.C.. The company said they signed agreements with 20 First Nations territories the pipeline will be running through, including Wet’suwet’en.
Wet'suwet'en peoples land is on unceded territory meaning it has not “relinquished title to its land to the government by treaty or otherwise”. This is where the disagreement within the Wet’suwet’en arises. The band council support the pipeline project, and the hereditary chiefs do not.
Band Councils: a structure introduced by the government through the Indian Act.
Hereditary chiefs: a form of Indigenous governance that precede British colonization.
A camp called Unist’ot’en was set up years ago to manage access to the Indigenous territory. Gidumt’en camp is a blockade that was set up further across the road in protest of such pipelines.
Coastal GasLink was granted an interim injunction issued by the B.C. supreme court ordering protestors to remove the blockade.
The RCMP arrested fourteen people at Gitdumt’en camp for failing to obey the court injunction that required the removal of the blockade they set up to protest the pipeline. It was one of the two checkpoints set up by Wet’suwet’en First Nation opponents of the Coastal GasLink.
Hereditary leaders from the Wet’suwet’en First Nations have reached a deal with the RCMP to allow pipeline workers temporary access. The chiefs wanted to stop the situation from escalating any further and to prevent more violent arrests by the RCMP.
The legitimacy of this pipeline is being questioned for lacking the required federal approvals which prompted a request for a full National Energy Board review.
This dispute has been going on for years:
There are unceded territories all over Canada. Most of B.C., large areas of Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and other parts of Canada are unceded. Meaning, they were never signed away through a treaty process. There were plans for Canada to eliminate Indigenous rights to these lands. The government wanted the First Nations peoples to eliminate “95%” of their traditional territories in exchange for some money.
That narrative changed when Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015. Under his leadership, the Canadian government pledged to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) after the previous government opposed to it for nearly 10 years. This declaration promises Indigenous peoples to have the right to free, prior and informed consent before resource development projects proceed across their lands. Bill C-262 (UNDRIP) passed its 3rd reading in May of 2018, however, it cannot be enforced as a law until it receives Royal Assent.
Because of B.C.s recent oil discovery, there are plans for many oil companies to join the extraction. However, majority of B.C. is unceded territory which raises an issue for these companies as we’ve seen over the past few days. Bill C-262 is not an enforceable law yet, so companies like TransCanada Corp. are able to plan pipeline constructions on unceded territories. If Bill C-262 becomes a law (which is meant to ensure Indigenous peoples to have the right to free, prior, and informed consent before resource development projects proceed across their lands), oil and water companies cannot extract resources unless all members of those lands agree.
Every Canadian needs to be aware of this situation, and not tolerate when the government and the police violate the rights of Indigenous people and their land.