Indigenous LNG supporters chide human rights advocates over pipeline comments

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path

A collective of First Nations who support the liquefied natural gas industry in British Columbia say human rights advocates failed to do their research when they called for a pipeline project to be halted.

The First Nations LNG Alliance has issued open letters to the B.C. human rights commissioner and the United Nations Committee to End Racial Discrimination over statements they made about the Coastal GasLink project.

They called for the project to be stopped in the face of opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs who say the project has no authority without their consent.

Both said the free, prior and informed consent of all affected Indigenous groups should be granted before any project is allowed to proceed.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path but the Wet’suwet’en chiefs say within their territory, those councils only administer small reserves and it’s the hereditary chiefs who hold jurisdiction over a broader area covering 22,000 square kilometres.

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations Alliance, says in the letter to commissioner Kasari Govender that the pipeline was approved through a democratic process that Indigenous people participated in freely, and neither the committee nor commissioner consulted supportive Indigenous groups before taking a position.

WATCH: Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

No one could be reached for comment at the UN committee and Govender was not available for an interview Tuesday.

“It is disheartening to see that the input from 20 First Nations, who participated extensively during five years of consultation on the pipeline, and have successfully negotiated agreements with Coastal GasLink, is so easily dismissed by the B.C. Human Rights Commission,” Ogen-Toews says in one of the open letters.

Ogen-Toews was elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation representing 255 members on and off reserve lands for six years. The Wet’suwet’en First Nation covers a smaller area than the Wet’suwet’en Nation over which the hereditary clan chiefs claim authority.

The letter accuses Govender of ignoring the social and economic benefits already realized by workers and communities from the project. More than one-third of work on the project has been completed by Indigenous people and Coastal GasLink has earmarked $620 million in contracting opportunities for First Nations in the province, it says.

The letter also accuses both the provincial commission and the UN committee of issuing public statements without talking to supportive First Nations.

“Both groups know nothing about the importance we place on finding a way out of endlessly trying to manage poverty, and finding the kind of opportunities for our First Nations people that non-Indigenous people have enjoyed for centuries,” the letter says.

The UN committee also called the federal government to stop two other major resource projects, the Site C dam and Trans Mountain pipeline expansions.

Na’moks, a spokesman for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs, has said they will never consent to the project.

The chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink after the B.C. Supreme Court extended an injunction on Dec. 31 to the company.

The RCMP has established a checkpoint along a logging road that leads to a pipeline work site, as well as two camps and a small settlement established by supporters of the hereditary chiefs.

Last year, 14 people were arrested when the RCMP enforced a previous injunction granted to the company.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wally Oppal says policing ‘too important’ to be left to the police

Oppal keynote speaker at a Surrey Board of Trade “Hot Topic Dialogue” breakfast event this morning

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 14-year-old has been found and is safe

Brayden Ritchat, 14, had been last seen in the 10800-block of 141st Street in Whalley on Feb. 21

BC Liberals firing at NDP due to fact new Surrey hospital not in budget

But Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims says business case is needed first

White Rock seeks assistance for park rain damage

City applies for provincial funding following closure of Ruth Johnson Park and ravine

United Nations designates Surrey a ‘Tree City’

Surrey is one of 59 cities in the world to receive the designation

Rail disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

COLUMN: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

Our reactions to a forestry downturn reflect the past, not the present

Caught on camera: Police release video of man who allegedly stole seaplane in Vancouver

Police say the man broke into the Harbour Air terminal and then got into one of the seaplanes in the harbour

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning northern B.C. pipeline

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Fake meat and a latte? Starbucks adds Beyond Meat in Canada

The Seattle roaster has talked about introducing plant-based patties in the U.S., but has yet to do so

Groundhogs got it wrong: spring isn’t coming soon, Weather Network says

The only part of B.C. to warm up early will be Victoria

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Most Read