Tag Archives: Unistoten

Coastal GasLink to resume construction in Morice River area on Monday

Right-of-way clearing for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Photograph by: COASTAL GASLINK

Coastal GasLink releases statement after discussions between Hereditary Chiefs and Government representatives

Following the conclusion of discussions between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and representatives of the federal and provincial governments, Coastal GasLink President David Pfeiffer has issued the following statement:

“Coastal GasLink appreciates the dialogue that has occurred over the past several days and the fact that significant progress has been made to address the concerns of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink would like to express our thanks to the Hereditary Chiefs, Minister Carolyn Bennett, Minister Scott Fraser and liaison Nathan Cullen for their time and effort in advancing these discussions.

Coastal GasLink appreciates that a path has been identified to address significant issues of Aboriginal Title and Rights of the Wet’suwet’en people while recognizing that Coastal GasLink is fully permitted and remains on track for a 2023 in-service date.

While much has been accomplished, much work remains and we wish all parties success as their work continues and the Wet’suwet’en people consider the proposed arrangement.

Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities in the Morice River area on Monday, March 2 following the four-day pause to allow for constructive dialogue between the parties.

Coastal GasLink remains committed to dialogue and engagement with all Indigenous groups along our route, including the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Dark House. We are encouraged by Chief Woos statement that he is open to dialogue and look forward to an opportunity to meet with the Hereditary Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink will continue to abide by key terms of the previous access protocol that enhance safety near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre and will be reaching out in the coming days to offer a meeting in the hopes of resolving outstanding issues with representatives of Dark House and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.”

Posted on March 01, 2020 by: Coastal GasLink

LNG Line Eyes New Route Over Aboriginal Concerns

A model at the LNG Canada offices in Kitimat shows the proposed liquified natural gas liquification plant and marine terminal that would be fed by the proposed Coastal GasLink line. Photograph by: Robin Rowland , THE CANADIAN PRESS

A model at the LNG Canada offices in Kitimat shows the proposed liquified natural gas liquification plant and marine terminal that would be fed by the proposed Coastal GasLink line. Photograph by: Robin Rowland , THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Gordon Hoekstra | Vancouver Sun, Oct 25, 2015

Change in northwest B.C. is in area where Unist’ot’en are blocking LNG developers

TransCanada is making pipeline route changes to lock up First Nation support for a leading proposed liquefied natural gas mega-project on the northwest coast of B.C.

The Calgary-based company has announced it will apply in November for an alternative route along a stretch of the pipeline on its $4.7-billion Coastal GasLink project that will supply the Shell-led LNG Canada export terminal with a price tag of $40 billion.

TransCanada said it did so after “extensive” consultations with aboriginal groups in the area of the alternative route.

The company already has approval from the B.C. government following an environmental assessment for its 650-kilometre pipeline from northeast B.C. to Kitimat. The 56-kilometre alternative — about nine per cent of the pipeline distance — would be subject to a review by the province, which would not be complete until next year.

But TransCanada says it wants to have the option to construct the section about five kilometres north of the approved route to address concerns of aboriginal groups about the potential effect of pipeline construction and operations on groundwater flows into the Morice River, an important salmon-bearing river.

The Kitimat terminal and pipeline enjoys support from at least nine First Nations, but the Unist’ot’en, a clan of the Wet’suwe’ten people, have set up a camp and blocked entry at a bridge over the Morice River to energy pipeline companies, including TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink.

The company said the alternative route does not cross through the camp, but neither did the first route.

“We are confident both routes could be built, and both options reflect TransCanada’s high standards and commitment to safety and environmental protection,” TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said in an email on Sunday.

“We’ll decide on the route once we have all of our regulatory approvals, and when we’ve had the opportunity to fully assess both options,” he said.

The Unist’ot’en could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Shell and other leading LNG proponents like Chevron and Petronas have yet to make final investment decisions and face headwinds from reduced available capital from low oil prices, increased global LNG supply coming on stream and lower natural gas prices in a jittery global economy. In the past, TransCanada officials have said a decision could come in 2016.

It’s unclear how the alternative route proposal could affect that timing.

TransCanada, like many companies, are seeking to reach agreements with First Nations in B.C., as successive court victories provide increasing clout to aboriginals over land and natural resources.

While the Unist’ot’en have been adamant in their opposition to pipeline projects, some First Nations have distanced themselves from the group, issuing a statement this summer saying the clan does not speak for them.

Those include the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Nee Tahi Buhn, Burns Lake Band and Skin Tyee Nation in north-central B.C.

The four First Nations formed the First Nations LNG Alliance, a group that supports LNG development in the province.

In an interview on Sunday, Wet’suwet’en First Nation chief Karen Ogen said they were aware of TransCanada’s plans for an alternative route and have no issue with it.

Ogen said the No. 1 priority in LNG development is the protection of the environment. She noted an existing natural gas pipeline in place in northern B.C. since 1968 has not caused harm to First Nation traditional territory.

Ogen said LNG development also brings potential economic benefit, employment and training for her community.

The four First Nations and others have signed project agreements with Coastal GasLink and benefit agreements with the province worth millions of dollars.

TransCanada does not yet have a cost estimate for the alternative section.


Wet’suwet’en Chiefs Challenge Recent Unist’ot’en Camp Media Coverage

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen.

Wet’suwet’en Chiefs Say Unist’ot’en Do Not Speak For Their Nations

BURNS LAKE, BC, Aug. 31, 2015 /CNW/ – Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen, Nee Tahi Buhn Chief Ray Morris, Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George, and Skin Tyee Nation Chief Rene Skin, say they are disappointed at recent media coverage that represents the Unist’ot’en as speaking for their Nations, and that fails to represent the complexity of the issues.

“We have long believed it is short sighted to turn down projects such as the Coastal GasLink project before understanding the true risks and benefits; that is just an easy way to avoid dealing with complex issues,” says Chief Ogen, spokesperson for the four Chiefs and for the First Nations LNG Alliance, a group of First Nations that support LNG development in British Columbia. Chief Dan George states, “Our Nations support responsible resource development as a way to bring First Nations out of poverty and bring opportunities for our young people.”

The Chiefs say they are also concerned with the number of individuals and groups, some Aboriginal, some political, some environmental and others, who have signed the We Stand with the Unistoten petition. “The definition of sustainability for some of the groups who signed the petition and live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, elsewhere in Canada and outside the country, is very different from what it means for Nations in northern British Columbia that are anxious to climb out of poverty and find meaningful opportunity. This issue needs to be resolved by the Wet’suwet’en people, and not by others who hold no interest in our land,” says Chief Skin.

After careful study and consideration of the dedicated natural gas pipeline, a number of First Nations entered into benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink once they were satisfied that economic and social benefits would be balanced with the protection of the environment.

The Chiefs also point out that should the Coastal GasLink project proceed, the Unist’ot’en Camp that has been established at the Morice River Bridge, could continue to operate, as a proposed route option, requested by some of the Hereditary Chiefs for Coastal GasLink to consider, if selected, would not conflict with the continuance of the Camp.

“It is in times of crisis where we have the greatest opportunity to come together as Wet’suwet’en leaders,” says Chief Ogen. “There is a way to work together to find a path forward and keep everyone safe.” “We are urging all Wet’suwet’en leaders – First Nation and Hereditary Chiefs – to meet as soon as possible to discuss a path forward. We as leaders are responsible for the collective well being of Wet’suwet’en people. We have an obligation to work together in our collective interest to represent our people,” states Chief Morris.

By participating in these processes with industry, and by collaborating among First Nations, the Chiefs believe that First Nations have the opportunity to raise the bar on environmental protection. “Environmentalism must mean more than just saying no,” Chief Ogen said. “There is no doubt sustainability means protecting our environment. But sustainability also means ensuring our people have access to real opportunities and a decent standard of living. Sustainability means standing on our own two feet, providing our young people with good paying jobs, and reducing the 40 to 60% unemployment we now experience. Already, many of our members have been working on this project, which brings tangible benefits to our communities.”

The four Chiefs are confident the path forward for First Nations is to collaborate and find ways to balance environmental protection with economic opportunity, and in the process, create a more sustainable future for all.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen
Nee Tahi Buhn Chief Ray Morris
Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George
Skin Tyee Nation Chief Rene Skin

SOURCE: Wet’suwet’en First Nation


TransCanada Reports First Nations Pipeline Protestors To RCMP


Smithers Interior News, Posted Aug 27, 2015

TransCanada reported pipeline activists to the RCMP today after a convoy of their workers were refused access to Wet’suwet’en land by members of a Unist’ot’en clan blockade.

Four vehicles carrying Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project workers were turned away at a checkpoint on Chisholm Road south of Houston about 11 a.m. this morning.

The checkpoint is one of two camps blocking pipeline proponents from accessing the traditional territory of the Unis’tot’en clan, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

The TransCanada Coastal GasLink Pipeline was originally routed to cross south of the Morice River on its way from Dawson Creek to an LNG processing facility in Kitimat.

The company is considering an alternate route north of the river but both of the proposed routes cross Unist’ot’en territory.

Unist’ot’en member Freda Huson said her clan had a legal right to block access to its traditional territory, citing the 1997 Delgamuukw decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada determined that aboriginal title did exist.

“We just keep telling the same thing, you do not have consent because according even to all laws they must gain consent and have meaning[ful] consultation with my clan and they haven’t done that,” she said.

“We are not doing this because we want money we are doing this because we want our land.

“We don’t want our lands impacted by these projects.”

Coastal GasLink project planning and execution director Greg Cano said his workers were attempting to carry out environmental fieldwork for the proposed alternate route when they were turned away.

“This environmental fieldwork is necessary so that cultural and historical resources are identified, respected and protected, and so that the project can be designed, constructed and operated in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said Cano.

He said his company had made more than 90 attempts to contact hereditary chief Knedebeas of the Dark House, an Unist’ot’en house which operates the checkpoint were the workers were stopped.

“They have simply refused to discuss the project, even though they have a legal obligation to do so,” said Cano.

“As a result, we have unfortunately to date been unable to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to accessing the Dark House territory.”

Huson said her chief would not negotiate with TransCanada after a bad experience with the company.

Today’s encounter was one of several between Coastal GasLink workers and members of the Unist’ot’en clan.

TransCanada said it contacted the police because it had been denied the ability to use a public road.

RCMP media relations officer Corporal Janelle Shoihet said police remained impartial in the ongoing dispute.

“Our efforts all along have been in keeping the peace, negotiations, and bringing the affected parties to the table for a fruitful discussion in the hopes of coming to a resolution,” said Shoihet.

“We will continue to work with all stakeholders and provide assistance as necessary in maintaining peace and keeping everyone safe.”

Both Cano and Huson said they planned to approach future encounters in a “peaceful” manner.


In British Columbia, Indigenous Group Blocks Pipeline Development


Al Jazeera America

To stop oil projects from moving forward, the Unist’ot’en have set up an encampment on traditional territory

HOUSTON, British Columbia — In a remote mountain pass connecting the Pacific Coast to the interior of British Columbia, a region brimming with wild berries and populated by grouse and grizzly bears, felled and painted trees have been laid across a logging road to form an enormous message. Directed at air traffic, it reads “No pipelines! No entry!” The warning marks off land where the government of Canada and a First Nations clan hold irreconcilable views of what should happen to a 435-square-mile area each claims as its own.

Starting in 2009, the government of Canada began to issue permits for a pipeline corridor to link British Columbia’s fracking fields and Alberta’s tar sands with export facilities and tankers on the Pacific coast. Seeking to become a global energy superpower, Canada staked its economic future and legislative agenda on the rapid expansion of its resource and fossil fuel sectors, envisioning pipelines as the arteries of trillion-dollar hydraulically fractured gas and bitumen industries.

That year the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation began to establish a permanent community directly in the path of three approved projects — Enbridge’s $6.1 billion Northern Gateway, Chevron’s $1.15 billion Pacific Trail Pipeline and TransCanada’s $3.7 billion Coastal GasLink. These pipelines were to run through land that Unist’ot’en were forced from in the early 1900s, and after reoccupying the territories, the clan banned all pipelines under a hereditary governance system that predates Canada.

Although the Unist’ot’en clan, along with most other First Nations peoples in British Columbia, never relinquished its territories to Canada by way of treaty, land sale or surrender, the provincial and federal governments assert jurisdiction over these lands and have authorized widespread development. While the government maintains that First Nations must be consulted about development — though they ultimately lack veto power — by controlling access to their traditional territories, the Unist’ot’en clan is attempting to require that the government gain “consent for any activities and development that take place,” as the clan put it in an Aug. 6, 2015, declaration.

“The Unist’ot’en do not recognize or honor any permits by provincial or federal regulatory or governing bodies related to our unceded traditional territories,” read a letter sent by the clan to pipeline giant TransCanada. “We honor only our traditional law and are guided by our ancestors’ direction to protect our territories from destruction.”

Since June, the hereditary chiefs of the Unist’ot’en clan and dozens of supporters have physically impeded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and TransCanada and Chevron pipeline work crews from entering the territory. Although the pipeline companies have modified their projects to skirt the Unist’ot’en’s main encampment, they remain intent on building through land traditionally used by the clan.

Rejecting this prospect, the Unist’ot’en have fortified their perimeter. With heavy chains, a pickup truck, a newly installed plywood and barbed wire gate, spotlights and an emergency siren, the clan transformed a bridge to their traditional territory into an international border, monitored by a fluctuating crew of volunteer guards.

Holding their ground

Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en, pipeline development, British Columbia

Freda Huson confronts RCMP oficers on the bridge to traditional Unist’ot’en territory. Michael Toledano

In the past three months, a series of encounters with pipeline companies and law enforcement officials have occurred at checkpoints on logging roads that lead to the clan’s traditional territories. To access these roads, visitors are required to answer five questions posed by a clan representative: “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “Do you work for industry or government that’s destroying our land?” “What skills do you bring?” and “How will your visit benefit the Unist’ot’en?” The protocol is inspired by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and by the clan’s history of monitoring its territorial boundaries and enforcing trespass laws.

Though loggers, tree planters and a guide outfitter have been granted access to the territory since the clan instituted this protocol, pipeline contractors have been turned away. Throughout June, safety officers and TransCanada crew members, some wearing body cameras, repeatedly approached the boundary and asked camp supporters their names and if crews would be in danger if they entered the territory. Clan members believe that energy companies are gathering information to obtain a court injunction, which would oblige police to force the roads open in order to ensure that pipeline crews can work unimpeded.

On two occasions, helicopters carrying TransCanada crews were found entering the traditional territory without permission. The first crew was confronted by Unist’ot’en supporters and immediately complied when asked to leave. The second crew, escorted by an ex-military pilot and security staff, completed a day of work before volunteers grounded their helicopter by staging a sit-in beneath its rotor blades.

At the end of July, representatives of the Chevron-backed Pacific Trail Pipeline arrived at the Unist’ot’en boundary. “We’re here to talk to you about doing work on your land and are requesting access onto your territory,” said pipeline vice president Rod Maier.

“We’ve already written you letters saying that you guys don’t have our consent,” Freda Huson, a spokeswoman for the clan, replied. “We’re not letting the last stitch of our land be taken over so we can’t hunt, fish and trap or teach our young ones who they are and where they belong.”

Huson’s home, a cabin built five years ago in the path of Enbridge and Chevron’s projects, has transformed into a base of operations for the northwestern anti-pipeline movement. Pipeline maps sprawl across her living room table, two-way radios and scanners bleat updates from remote outposts throughout the territory, and quarters of bear meat are canned in her kitchen. Her front door swings open and shut as a steady stream of activists from across North America and beyond rush in and out to grab supplies.

Outside the cabin, a community thrives in the pipelines’ paths. A permaculture garden, a solar-powered electric grid, a bunkhouse, elders’ trailers, campgrounds, a root cellar, a traditional Wet’suwet’en pithouse and a two-story healing center with an industrial kitchen and counseling space have all been built with crowd-sourced funds and volunteer labor.

Zeroing in

As pipeline crews have increased their presence throughout the region, so too have the RCMP. In late June, police initiated what the clan called “a campaign of harassment and intimidation on and around Unist’ot’en territory.” Two police checkpoints were established on roads used by the Unist’ot’en under the pretense of ensuring safety.

For approximately two weeks, officers asked drivers and passengers traveling in the region for identification and information about their travel plans. The driver of a vehicle associated with the Unist’ot’en was stopped and questioned in a nearby town.

Some American tourists visiting the Unist’ot’en reported that they were stopped four times by RCMP officers and warned that they could be criminally charged, deported and banned from Canada if their vehicle was found impeding road access. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association expressed concern in a letter to police that “the sudden and repeated presence of mandatory checkpoints at this location has the appearance of targeting people who are lawfully traveling to and from the camp.”

‘This is Unist’ot’en territory. It’s not Canada. It’s not [British Columbia]. We make our own laws here.’ Freda Huson Unist’ot’en spokeswoman

Brett Rhyno, a longtime supporter of the clan, was stopped three times by police in two hours.

In the first stop, an officer rested his hands in the vehicle and indicated that he had prior intelligence on Rhyno. At the next, officers pointed a camera into the vehicle and photographed me in the backseat. I was asked to identify myself but declined, in compliance with Canadian law. At the final stop, officers asked me to identify myself again. When I remained silent, officers identified me by name, without having been provided my personal information.

“They were using scare tactics to try and scare our supporters away,” Huson said. “It worked a bit.”

Several weeks later, two officers of the RCMP attempted to cross into Unist’ot’en territory and were stopped by clan supporters. Blocked by a volunteer who repeated, “You do not have jurisdiction to walk through here,” Sgt. Steve Rose of the Houston RCMP insisted, “Yes, I do,” and threatened to make arrests. “The RCMP have access to all of Canada to enforce the laws of Canada,” he told Huson.

“This is Unist’ot’en territory. It’s not Canada. It’s not B.C.,” Huson replied. “We make our own laws here.”

Surveilling First Nations

Unist'ot'en, British Columbia, pipeline development

On Unist’ot’en territory, a large sign made of wood warns aircraft, “No pipelines, no entry.” Michael Toledano

On Aug. 7, a suspicious person was removed from the Unist’ot’en encampment for taking photos and video without permission — the third time that the clan has suspected a police infiltrator among their supporters.

Police attention to the community dates back to at least 2010, when direct action workshops held by the clan were subject to RCMP surveillance. An RCMP intelligence report from September 2011 devotes a section to the Unist’ot’en.

More broadly, the RCMP has monitored First Nations and environmental groups at hundreds of protests, on the Web, with drones and through the use of field agents or spies. Police investigated a 71-year-old woman as a terrorist threat after she took photos of a petroleum storage facility in Vancouver. They violently dismantled an indigenous anti-fracking blockade in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick. And last year they made over 100 arrests on Burnaby Mountain, where members of the public used civil disobedience to resist the construction of a tar sands pipeline.

RCMP officials have held regular meetings with energy corporations and granted industry representatives security clearance and access to classified information. A report prepared for the petroleum industry by the RCMP’s critical infrastructure intelligence team, deemed activists with “anti-petroleum ideology” a “realistic criminal threat to Canada’s petroleum industry, its workers and assets and to first responders.”

In the report’s appendix, an article on the Unist’ot’en published in British Columbia’s Georgia Strait is reproduced in full. Summarizing threats to the Enbridge Northern Gateway, a project that the Unist’ot’en community obstructs, the report reads, “The [second] most urgent anti-petroleum threat of violent criminal activity is in northern British Columbia, where there is a coalition of like-minded violent extremists who are planning criminal actions to prevent the construction of the pipeline.”

“They’re trying to categorize us as violent extremists so they can legitimize what they’re doing, so they can try and force their projects through here,” Huson argued. “The RCMP are there to enforce the government’s permits, even though they’re illegal.”

Since the clan issued a call for support on July 19, reinforcements and supplies have arrived daily. Helicopters and low-flying planes have conspicuously circled the camp and photographed its occupants. In Toronto, Montreal,Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle, activists have dropped banners, occupied investors’ offices and held rallies in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en. At a Montreal rally, police arrested one protester and fined eight others for obstructing a roadway.

Despite being on high alert, over a long weekend in honor of British Columbia, the Unist’ot’en and their supporters sang and danced to celebrate Knedebeas Day — a holiday named for a clan head chief who instructed her grandchildren, “Let no man take this land.”

They ate wild salmon pizza from a wood-fired oven and drank river water as kids played on a teeter-totter made of 2-by-4s. Elders cleaned buckets of huckleberries, and a warrior sat by the campfire sharing stories fromKanehsatake and Gustafsen Lake — armed standoffs in which Canada used military force against indigenous activists asserting their sovereignty.

On the other side of the border, Chevron crews and security teams move closer to the Unist’ot’en every day as they conduct studies and survey for a pipeline right of way. Yet, aside from the distant whir of helicopters and the occasional siren of an emergency preparedness drill, the community lives quietly, in peace.

This is the second in a two-part series on Canadian government monitoring of First Nations groups over land and environmental issues. Read the first part here.