Coastal GasLink stops work on pipeline over trapline dispute in northern B.C.

RCMP officers look on as contractors pass through their roadblock as supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp and Wet’suwet’en First Nation gather at a camp fire off a logging road near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 9. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A company building a pipeline has stopped work on the project in northwestern British Columbia where 14 people were arrested earlier this month.

Coastal GasLink says in a notice posted on its website on Thursday that it stopped work in an area south of Houston because traps had been placed inside construction boundaries and people were entering the site, raising safety concerns.

The company says it was working with the RCMP to address the issue.

Earlier this week, the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation alleged on social media that pipeline contractors had driven a bulldozer through the heart of one of their traplines south of Houston, which they say violates the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping.

The company says its work in the area has been fully approved and permitted, and it reminded the public that unauthorized access to an active construction site where heavy equipment is being used can be dangerous.

The pipeline will run through Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat.

Opponents say Coastal GasLink has no authority to build without consent from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The company says it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the route, including some Wet’suwet’en elected council members

Those council members say they are independent from the hereditary chiefs’ authority and inked deals to bring better education, elder care and services to their members.

Hereditary chiefs say they have authority over 22,000 square kilometres of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory while elected band members administer the reserves.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, says the dispute is an example of how the Indian Act, which imposed the band council system on First Nations, is still creating confusion and conflict over Indigenous governance.

The Canadian Press

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