Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs seek UN's help after Premier John Horgan says Coastal GasLink pipeline will be built

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      B.C.'s premier is committed to proceeding with a $40-billion liquefied natural gas plant near Kitimat—and the pipeline that will supply fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C.

      In his first news conference of the year yesterday, John Horgan declared that the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline will be completed.

      “All the permits are in place for this project to proceed," Horgan told reporters. "This project is proceeding and the rule of law needs to prevail in B.C.”

      He noted that there are agreements "from the Peace Country to Kitimat with Indigenous communities", referring to deals that the company has made with elected chiefs and councils.

      The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline, however, say that the jurisdiction of these chiefs and councils only applies to reserve lands and not to traditional unceded Indigenous territories.

      And after the premier made his remarks, they announced that they've submitted a formal request to the United Nations "to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink actions on our traditional unceded territory".

      This comes in the wake of the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination urging Canada to halt the pipeline project.

      "Neither the provincial or federal governments have agreed to meet with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to address this crisis, despite serious ongoing human rights violations, protests across Canada and international attention," the hereditary chiefs stated.

      Their news release also included a quote from UBC Allard School of Law professor Margot Young, who specializes in constitutional issues.

      “International law is absolutely central to resolution of this situation," Young said. "All levels of government are bound by treaties signed by Canada, and Canadian constitutional law is to be informed by these human rights obligations. United Nations concerns are not to be lightly cast aside.”

      Constitutional expert Margot Young says international law is central to resolving a dispute between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and federal and provincial governments.

      Methane emissions cause concern

      The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs claim that they are title holders to the land. And they've already issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink.

      The company has obtained an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to prevent Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters from blocking the project.

      Justice Marguerite Church ruled that the defendants "have obstructed lawfully permitted activity and their recourse to self-help remedies is contrary to the rule of law". 

      Opponents aren't only concerned about incursions on Indigenous title. They're also disturbed by the Coastal GasLink project's impact on the atmosphere.

      The proponent, LNG Canada, has claimed that it will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions because its product will displace the use of coal in Asia.

      Critics such as Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reject that analysis, saying it overlooks potentially massive releases of methane through the extraction, transport, and liquefaction and regasification processes.

      "If exports go to Japan or Korea, the two biggest LNG importers, they would most likely displace cleaner energy sources and therefore increase global GHG emissions," Lee wrote last year. "Even to the limited extent that China may be able to reduce its emissions by switching from coal to gas, it is not suddenly going to hand over the emissions credit to Canada. That’s not how emissions accounting works."

      Dark House spokesperson Freda Huson was one of the Wet'suwet'en people named as defendants in Coastal GasLink's injunction application.
      Invasion screen shot

      RCMP sets up a checkpoint

      In the meantime, the RCMP is trying calm the public while maintaining a heavy presence in the traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en people.

      "Our duty is to preserve the safety of everyone involved in this dispute, and to prevent further contraventions to the B.C. Supreme Court ordered injunction," the Mounties said in a statement yesterday. "As a result, an access control checkpoint has been established at the 27 kilometer mark of the forestry road. The purpose is to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway, as well as to allow emergency service access to the area."

      Police also stated that the B.C. RCMP's commanding officer, Jennifer Strachan, has informed Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs that the force's "primary concerns" are public and officer safety. 

      This came less than a month after the Guardian reported that the RCMP used "lethal overwatch" when it dispatched heavily armed officers to enforce an interim injunction on January 7, 2019.

      The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' recent submission to the UN mentions the "imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet'suwet'en villages and lands".

      The hereditary chiefs have called on the federal government "to comply with UN directives that Canada withdraw RCMP, halt Coastal GasLink, and seek free, prior, and informed consent for any development occurring on our lands".