14 arrested after RCMP breach Gitdumt’en checkpoint

RCMP have confirmed they arrested 14 people at the Gitdumt’en checkpoint.

On Monday the RCMP announced they were going to enforce a court injunction to allow Coastal GasLink access to the road and bridge near Houston, B.C.

The RCMP followed through at approximately 2:51 p.m. when several members of the Tactical and Emergency Response Teams forcefully breached the Gitdumt’en camp’s checkpoint.

When police went over top of the barricade there was a scuffle between the advancing RCMP and the first line of Gitdumt’en clan members.

Journalists say the land defenders who were protecting their territory were not armed.

Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., filed for an injunction against Unist’ot’en Camp last month.

According to Vice News, the barricade was built by organizers from the Gitdumt’en clan, one of five Wet’suwet’en clans, with the goal of protecting the Unist’ot’en camp from being raided, further up the road.

The Unist’ot’en camp established in 2010 was set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation with support of Hereditary chiefs to prevent Coast GasLink workers from gaining access.

Monday’s arrests took place at the Gitdumt’en checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road for various offences, including alleged violations of an injunction order against the blockade, reports the National Observer.

Fourteen land defenders, including Molly Wickam, a spokesperson for the camp, were taken into police custody and the blockade dismantled.

RCMP say they entered the blockade, after a meeting with a number of hereditary chiefs and Coast GasLink failed to resolve the issue without police involvement.

Unist’ot’en camp now awaits an RCMP raid after the injunction was enforced at the Gitdumt’en checkpoint.

In a statement, RCMP addressed what police called “erroneous” reports that RCMP jammed communications in the area, and that the military was present during the police enforcement operation.

“We would like to clarify that both of these allegations are incorrect,” the statement says. “The area is extremely remote and even police had limited access to communication.”

A news release issued Sunday on behalf of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says all five Wet’suwet’en clans, including the Gitdumt’en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.

An elder arrested on Monday has already been released. The remainder of the arrestees were taken to Prince George to stand before a Justice of the Peace.

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.


UPDATE: RCMP Have No Intentions Of “Taking Down” Unist’ot’en Camp

RCMP say they will not take down any part of the Unist'ot'en Camp. Photo courtesy of Unist'ot'en Camp Facebook page.

RCMP say they will not take down any part of the Unist’ot’en Camp. Photo courtesy of Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page.

Vancouver Observer

British Columbia RCMP have “no intention of taking down the Unist’ot’en Camp” according to an official press release issued early Friday evening.

The statement was made in response to rumours and media reports that residents of the northwestern B.C. encampment faced threat from an imminent “mass arrest operation” co-ordinated by RCMP near Smithers, Houston, and surrounding detachments.

The BC RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peacefully protest said Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, on behalf of North District RCMP in the release. To clarify, the BC RCMP has no intention of ‘taking down the camp’ set up by the Unist’ot’en. We value the Wet’suwet’en culture, the connection to the land and traditions being taught and passed on at the camp, and the importance of the camp to healing.

Despite what has been portrayed on social media, Shoihet emphasized that police remain “impartial” in the dispute between the Unist’ot’en Clan and the oil and gas companies vying to build pipelines through its territory. Without providing details on what “progress” she is referring to, she further maintained that the RCMP is “very pleased” with recent progress.

“Our Aboriginal Policing Members continue to remain in contact directly with the Unist’ot’en and we will continue to assist in any way we can,” Shoihet promised.

Vancouver Observer has sent multiple requests to the RCMP for details on the possibility of arrests at Unist’ot’en Camp, police occupancy in local hotels, and pressure from provincial and national representatives to cease plans to raid the camp.

So far, the RCMP has only said it  has “nothing further to add” to its statement, other than that its focus on remains “fruitful” negotiation between all parties.


Wet’suwet’en First Nation Signs $13 Million Pipeline Energy Deal

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation, formerly known as the Broman Lake Band, stands to receive $2.8 million dollars from the province for the proposed Coastal GasLink project.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation, formerly known as the Broman Lake Band, stands to receive $2.8 million dollars from the province for the proposed Coastal GasLink project.

By James Murray | NNL

WET’SUWET’EN FIRST NATION, PALLING, BC – ENERGY – The Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) Chief and Council are pleased to confirm the signing of the LNG pipeline benefits agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

The WFN will receive approximately $2.8 million from the province at three different stages for the Coastal Gas Link (CGL) gas pipeline project:

  • $464,000 within 90 days after signing the agreement
  • $1,160,000 when pipeline construction starts (scheduled to begin in 2015)
  • $1,160,000 when the pipeline is in service

The WFN will also receive a yet-to-be-determined share of $10 million in ongoing benefits for the life of the pipeline estimated at 25 to 35 years.

Chief and Council will work collaboratively with the province and other neighbouring First Nations on the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI), to which the province has committed $30 million. The development and inclusion of this initiative was the top priority of Chief and Council before moving forward with the agreement.

Our leaders have signed agreements with the province with the explicit understanding that the environmental assessment process has to ensure best practices in the world.  We have agreed to LNG projects – but maintain our opposition to oil projects in our territory.  In our current agreement with Chevron (formerly Pacific Trails Pipeline) and Coastal Gas Link, we have ensured the inclusion of the clause which states at no time will this pipeline agreement, even if sold to another company, be converted to transporting oil or bitumen. The transportation of natural gas in this form ensures that minimal risk to wildlife and the environment occurs. We would remind everyone that there is already an existing line and the proposed LNG line will not be substantially disturbing the lands (a final expansion of approximately 5 metres per side) This will help minimize any disturbance of wildlife and allow for continued traditional use for hunting, trapping, gathering.

“We are fully concerned about maintaining the environment while pursuing economic opportunities that will provide sustainability to our community.  We have taken a leap of faith to sign these agreements because we are aware that these are time sensitive opportunities,” says Chief Karen Ogen.

Proposed ESI programs include:

  • culvert removal/upgrade,
  • beaver dam management,
  • stream and riparian enhancement and restoration,
  • access to traditional sites,
  • riparian livestock/fencing management,
  • moose winter range enhancement, and
  • road access decommissioning and reclamation.

The province has also announced a $30 million education and training fund. Chief and Council will apply to the fund to develop the required employment skills needed for WFN members to work on the pipeline. Reg Ogen has been tasked with overseeing the creation of an Education and Training plan to get WFN members working in the construction phase of the project.

Most of the funds will not be received until after the in-service date of the pipeline. Chief and Council will be calling a special community meeting in early 2015 to consult with members on spending priorities and schedules. In addition, Chief and Council are recommending immediate spending priorities related to infrastructure development and the elimination of past deficits and debts.

In the lead-up to the signing of this agreement we have held numerous community member meetings, consulted with our hereditary chiefs, and consulted with numerous experts to minimize the environmental impacts of the project while maximizing benefits to the community.

“Although we would have loved to have had 100% support for this initiative, there are still those who speak out against it.  Far too often change is opposed simply for the sake of argument; we fully respect those with differing opinions, but this process has been transparent and inclusive from the start,” says Chief Ogen.

Ogen continues:

Our goal is to show everyone that we are taking a proactive approach, taking part in this process and ensuring that these monies benefit our community now and in the future through the Four Pillars: health and wellness programs, education and training, cultural programs, and housing and infrastructure.

In the recent months, we have seen many different positive developments in our community, including a reduction in those on social assistance and increased education and training for many members. We have great plans to address some of the systemic problems which our community  and many other First Nations face when it comes to the issues of government dependency, shaking the ill effects of the Indian Residential Schools, poverty, housing, health, and language and cultural programs.

This signing isn’t just about the money; this is about ensuring a better future for our members one which would not be realized without this opportunity. It’s important to remember that this is an agreement with the province that ensures WFN has a say in, and will benefit from, all future development which may be implemented.

This is NOT an oil pipeline.

We remain opposed to them because of their serious potential environmental impacts on our territories and traditional hunting grounds. This is liquefied natural gas, which has minimal risk during its transportation through these pipelines. We are confident that this opportunity will be beneficial not only to WFN but many other progressive nations as well.