Tamara Pimentel and Lee Wilson
Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation and chair of the First Nations LNG Alliance says her community needs the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline project to go through.
“Both LNG Canada and Coastal Gaslink are both important to this province and to this country in terms of the benefits that flow back to the entire country,” says Crystal Smith.
But in December, the United Nations committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner called for the project to be shut down.
Smith says they failed to do their research
“I found it condescending, paternalistic for an entity to not take into consideration there are First Nations in this country that support development, responsible development. The fact that we’re finding solutions for our people that no other entity – political entity – has been able to accomplish before or government,” she told APTN News at the Haisla Nation office.
“Who gave them the perception that all First Nations were against the project?”
The U.N. chair admitted this week that they didn’t study First Nations views and were not aware that all 20 First Nations along the pipeline route want the project to go through.
Some of those councils include hereditary chiefs.
But five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have dug in their heels and said ‘No’ to the pipeline on their territory.
In early January, they responded to a Dec. 31 British Columbia Supreme Court injunction against them by issuing a notice evicting CGL from Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.
“The eviction of CGL is effective immediately,” says a press release issued Jan. 5, “and applies to ‘Camp 9A’ on Dark House territory, as well as the neighbouring Gidimt’en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Hereditary chiefs have gathered on Gidimt’en and Gilseyhu territories to monitor the eviction.”
Unist’ot’en (or Dark House) spokesperson Freda Huson, named as primary defendant in the new injunction, hand delivered a copy of the eviction notice.
“We’re just sending a message to the province and the federal government that they can’t bulldoze over Indigenous lands,” she says in a video posted on Twitter.
“We’re making a stand, and we’re doing it peacefully. We’re not aggressive, we’re not wanting to harm anybody. We’re doing this peacefully for them to take us serious that we’re trying to protect our lands for our kids and our grandkids.”
The RCMP responded to the eviction notice by setting up checkpoints along the road leading to the camp.
There are fears in the camps that the Mounties will dismantle them with paramilitary police similar to last year’s raid.
Images of the Wet’suwet’en camps that are there to assert their rights on the Wet’suwet’en territory have flooded social media and have made international headlines.
Smith says it has created division.
“The sensationalism provided around the current issue is not solving any problems. It’s actually adding fuel to the fire in terms of what’s happening in that community,” she said. “It’s dividing the community and it’s dividing families.
“It’s ending lifelong friendships. You’re put on one side and criticized for doing so.”
Smith said her community has received a lot of backlash and has been referred to as sellouts.
“I don’t believe that our Nation, by far, and all the other Nations are sellouts. In fact, I believe that we are investing in ourselves, investing in our future, investing in our culture. In order to address social issues, no First Nation in this country has ever been able to meets the needs of our people based solely on government-funded programs.
“There has been no other solution provided to our people when it comes to addressing the trauma that’s within each of our communities.”
The Haisla Nation is at the end of the route of the $6.6 billion project near Kitimat on the B.C. coast.
Smith says opportunities like this have proven to bring empowerment to her people.
“When I talk about the benefits, we’re talking about employment, training that lead to careers, and also the revenues generated that go back to social programs not only for First Nations communities, but this entire country,” Smith said.
“We’ve balanced the environment and the project, now it’s time to see the project come to fruition and our people benefit – provided the revenues come back to our communities and the employment and training offered.”