‘I don’t know if we’ll come together again’: B.C. chief says pipeline created scar that will take years to heal - APTN NewsAPTN News

‘I don’t know if we’ll come together again’: B.C. chief says pipeline created scar that will take years to heal



Members of the media wait at an RCMP roadblock for news of the raid many kilometres up the road.

Kathleen Martens
The economic boom promised by a natural gas pipeline is coming at a steep human price for a northern B.C. First Nation.

“I’ve had looks that would kill,” said Chief Victor Jim.

“I should be dead many times over.”

Jim, elected to Witset band council a year ago, said the battle over the Coastal GasLink (CGL) project has left a deep scar on his Wet’suwet’en community of 2,000.

That battle led to the RCMP moving in Monday to arrest band members from the Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en clans who oppose the development, backed by five hereditary chiefs.

Jim said it was painful to learn of arrests.

“That never should have happened,” he said of the RCMP operation that continued Tuesday south of Houston, B.C.

“This has divided the community.”

RCMP took 14 people into custody at a homemade checkpoint on the Morice River Forest Road leading to the Unist’ot’en camp on the other side of the Morice River bridge.

Police were enforcing a court injunction approved Dec. 14, 2018 – something the company said Tuesday it wanted to avoid.

“It has been a long, and sometimes difficult, journey but we are proud of the relationships we’ve built, and the support of the communities and all 20 elected Indigenous bands along the route as well as the many hereditary chiefs who also support the project,” CGL president Rick Gateman said in an open letter released Tuesday.

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said using force against peaceful protesters was “a violation of their human and Aboriginal rights.

“Building consensus under duress will make the resolution of the situation in northern British Columbia very difficult,” Perry Bellegarde said in a statement Tuesday.

“Real consensus will be built when the parties, with very different views, come together in meaningful and productive dialogue.”

The 10-year-old Unist’ot’en camp, while serving as a homestead and protest site, is also an addiction treatment centre.

Jim said his own brother was treated there.

“I’m between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “I’m an elected chief and a hereditary chief.”

The Wet’suwet’en system of clans and houses of membership has been around much longer than the Indian Act and its rules for Indigenous governance in Canada.

The hereditary chiefs describe themselves as caretakers of the land while elected officials look after government programs and allowances.

Jim said the pipeline was coming through the territory whether his people liked it or not. So they agreed to accept the financial benefit that came along with it and the promise of employment for 80 per cent of the population.

“There were no payments to individuals (on council),” he said in an interview Tuesday.

“That money will be used for the community – to improve roads, (help) save our language… and build houses.”

His is one of 20 elected band councils along the 670 km pipeline route to accept financial and other incentives in exchange for allowing construction.

CGL said it tried for six years to meet with hereditary chiefs.

Jim said his council did, too.

“We tried to talk to them. They refused,” he said.

But seeing his people arrested to make way for the pipeline was upsetting, Jim said.

Carmen Nikal, one of the 14 arrested Monday, said it was also a bit scary.

“I stood my ground and I was somewhat to the side,” she said, “but police were aggressive.”


(Carmen Nikal at home after her release by the RCMP. Photo: APTN)

Nikal said a homemade alarm sounded at the checkpoint to alert them RCMP were coming over the wooden barrier.

She said there was jostling and yelling as she tried to think of a message to shout out.

“I said, ‘This is not reconciliation,’” she said in an interview at her home in Smithers, B.C. a day after being released from custody.

“I don’t even want to hear that word again. This is not my idea of reconciliation.”

Nikal said police were polite but somewhat disorganized as they arrested her, unable to find a vehicle to transport her to their detachment in Houston.

She was one of two older women processed locally, she said, while a larger group of younger protesters was driven four hours to Prince George, B.C., to spend the night in cells before appearing before a justice of the peace.

A charge sheet shows Nikal faces one of count of civil contempt of the court order.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed RCMP were back at the site Tuesday, and continued to keep it blocked off to the public and members of the media.

She declined to reveal details of the police operation, such as the number of officers involved, how long it took to plan and why the road block went up where it did.

But she said it was for everyone’s good.

“There are a number of safety concerns for the public, the police officers involved and media, and anybody else who came to the scene.

However, “I will not speak specifically to the exact safety concerns.”

Once the RCMP leave, Jim said his community has to move forward.

“I don’t know if we’ll come together again,” he said.

“I can’t tell (hereditary chiefs) what they should do. I can’t tell anyone what should happen.”




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8 Responses to “‘I don’t know if we’ll come together again’: B.C. chief says pipeline created scar that will take years to heal”

  1. Wbays@live.ca'
    Wen January 9, 2019 at 11:07 pm #

    Seems to me this whole mess could have been avoided if Alberta simply built refineries for their oil and kept it for Canada. They could sell off any extra via standard pipelines for more money because it’s refined.

  2. waterlilyroot@hotmail.com'
    Regina January 9, 2019 at 8:53 pm #

    And that’s exactly what they want.
    It’s what they need to continue to erode hereditary rights and the treaties.
    For a little money and temporary employment.
    If all of our nation’s would just stand together and fight for what is truly owed to our people we would all be self sufficient.
    They’re accepting pennies compared to what these companies will make on the destruction of your mother, our mother and our relatives that live within those lands.

    • Idontthinkso@gmail.com'
      Long dong January 10, 2019 at 5:18 am #

      Give me a break

  3. Bussh33539@gmail.com'
    B January 9, 2019 at 7:33 pm #

    Canada would be det free if he gave back the land to the real owner and canada oh them for 150 years of damage .

  4. Ted.dantoncal@outlook.com'
    Ted Dantoncal January 9, 2019 at 7:03 pm #

    Are hereditary chiefs more representative of the people that elected chiefs and councils? Isn’t the idea of hereditary leadership something that belongs in the distant past? Just like the medieval caste system based on birth? If some people are born into chiefdoms then what does that mean for the rest of the people? They are serfs? They are lesser? Fact is that this community elected their leadership, who then considered, consulted and decided to support this project. There is no project on the planet that will make every single person happy. But the majority of people support this project. Including band members through their elected representatives.

  5. dzilhyikhdzeke@gmail.com'
    Hereditary Chief D'zilh Yikh D'zeke January 9, 2019 at 5:13 pm #

    My heart breaks for the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs (HCs). It does not take a hundred HCs to do the job that they know needs to be done. On Babine Lake, according to my dad Hereditary Chief Yilh deyh (Joseph Matthew Alec), it only took 2 Hereditary Chiefs (Chief Tszak Williams of Wit’at and Chief Big George of Nedo’ats negotiated the Barricade Treaty in Ottawa in 1906) for the Babine Lake Carrier people of Wit’at (Fort Babine) and Nedo’ats (Old Fort). They had to ride the cold box car for weeks with the animals (not the train we know today where there are seats in a warm train with toilets). Their wives gave them dry meat and dry salmon and they were thirsty and no where to go to the bathroom. Then in 1884, Bah’lats (Feast) was banned, and the priests were to monitor, as Wit’at & Nedo’ats was isolated, the Babine Hereditary Chiefs took their Bah’lats underground (we still see the wood seating plan around Babine Lake near the villages today). They moved the Nedo’ats people from the beautiful home to a rocky land where their hands bled to create a home, now called Nedo’ats. Then the Indian Residential School started to make the Carriers of Babine Lake an apple (white man on the inside and Indian on the outside). Then in 1924, the elected system was established, most significant in the efforts to destroy the traditional and cultural governing system of the Hereditary Chiefs and replacing it with the elected Band Council. The elected officials are the arm of Indian Affairs so that the Canadian Government can dictate to them. As we researched in CSTC office in Prince George, we found that if Northern Interior of BC Carrier history had to be written, there will be no paper in the world to pen all the atrocities that happened to the Carrier people. At the end of the day, it is not about the oil, gas, mine or any development, it is just plain racial genocide.
    According to Anne Frank book, during the Holocaust where Adolp Hitler burnt the Jews due to hate, he did not invent the hatred of burning of Jews (around 1353), he also felt that Jews could never be fully-fledged German citizens. In reality, Canada government also feel that we cannot measure up as the first people of the land to be citizens of Canada. And unless our territories are all taken, they will continue to eradicate us through force in order to assimilate us. Not for any reason but for the resources in our traditional territory. As Hereditary Chiefs, we look at the big picture as how industry create havoc whereby all our sustenance including moose, vegetation, medicinal plant, cashe pits, fish, etc., are destroyed. Their global warming pitch is only a myth. My heart breaks because our elected officials only look at the dollar figures but not what our future generation will survive on. As the industry destroy the land, global warming will also destroy whatever penny is given to the elected officials. My heart breaks because very few elected officials are listening to the Elders/HCs and this is happening to not only the Wet’suwet’en Nation, it is happening all across Canada.

    • joelainemurray@gmail.com'
      Jo Murray January 13, 2019 at 11:40 pm #

      I found your comment most informative. Colonization has never ceased. My heart breaks also.

  6. louispronovost@yahoo.com'
    Louis Pronovost January 9, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

    This is what happens when one leaves the Sacred Circle of Peace & jumps away from the Original Traditional Native Nations, one must life with ones decisions.

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