COVID-19: Union of B.C Indian Chiefs urges halt to Coastal GasLink pipeline work

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      In an open letter to federal and provincial politicians, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) today pleaded for the shutdown of the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline project in north-central B.C.

      The letter—dated March 30 and addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. premier John Horgan, and the federal and provincial health ministers, Patty Hajdu and Adrian Dix, respectively—urged swift action to protect the public's health from "the heightened risks of COVID-19 transmission posed by ongoing construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project".

      The construction project, which has been opposed by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and allies for years because of its route through unceded traditional territory, recently finished what it terms its "winter work" and is about to embark on spring work during the coronavirus state of emergency declared by B.C. on March 18. 

      The province has not ordered major energy-related construction projects in the province to shut down because of the global pandemic, including the LNG Canada natural-gas export facility near Kitimat on the central coast, the terminus of the 670-kilometre pipeline started in 2019 that will deliver fracked gas from northeast B.C.

      The letter continued: "As Coastal GasLink continues their spring work, the 'critical activities' they are undertaking include pipe delivery and stockpiling, in addition to site preparation and maintenance. With the urgency to move materials comes the associated movement of people and spillover risks to every person and community they interact with delivering supplies to the project."

      Grand Chief and UBCIC president Stewart Phillip, UBCIC vice president and chief Don Tom, and secretary-treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson signed the letter.

      The same three UBCIC executive members signed a March 26 open letter to Horgan and Dix calling for "immediate action" to stop construction of the B.C. Hydro Site C dam project in northeastern B.C.

      "We are writing to request that immediate action be taken to compel BC Hydro to halt all construction at Site C Dam due to the risk COVID-19 now poses to vulnerable workers and nearby Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in northeast B.C.," the letter stated.

      It continued: "This negligence and irresponsible continuation of utterly inconsistent with the health advice provided by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry."