A supporter of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline work to set up a support station at kilometre 39 just outside of Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston B.C., on Wednesday January 8, 2020. The Wet’suwet’en peoples are occupying their land and trying to prevent a pipeline from going through it. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Pipeline at centre of B.C. conflict is creating jobs for First Nations: chief

All 20 elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route have signed benefits agreements

A pipeline at the centre of a conflict between hereditary chiefs and a natural gas company in northern British Columbia is creating jobs for Indigenous people and lifting communities from poverty, says an elected chief of a band that supports the project.

All 20 elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route have signed benefits agreements with the company. The Haisla Nation in Kitimat is among them and Chief Coun. Crystal Smith said the project will help the community become less reliant on meagre federal funding.

“Our governance system has been managing poverty. It’s a similar situation in every First Nation in this province, in this country, of managing limited funds to be able to assist our people,” Smith said.

“In order to achieve independent nations, we need independent members. The opportunities that are available for today’s generation and future generations of First Nations people that participate in these projects are life changing. They’re nation changing.”

The 670-kilometre pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to a liquefaction facility in Kitimat as part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project.

However, five Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent. Their supporters at a camp near Houston have been blocking construction in violation of a court injunction.

The elected band council of the Wet’suwet’en, on the other hand, has signed a benefits deal to support the pipeline.

The dispute has highlighted a debate over whether hereditary chiefs should have more power under Canadian law. The Indian Act established band councils, made up of elected chiefs and councillors, who have authority over reserve lands. Hereditary chiefs are part of a traditional form of Indigenous governance that courts have grappled with how to recognize.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wishes pipeline supporters would consider the dangers of the project.

“These man camps are dangerous places. They fly in and fly out, they have no social responsibility to where they are. They get to go home. We are home,” he said.

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink makes new request to meet with First Nation pipeline opponents

Smith said many of those employed on the pipeline are Indigenous or B.C. residents.

The Haisla Nation is also in discussions for equity stakes in the project, which would create revenue that the community could decide to invest in housing, health or education, in contrast with federal money that comes with restrictions on how it can be used, she said.

Coastal GasLink has offered up 10 per cent equity deal with First Nations in the area.

Smith said her band council signed benefits agreements with both Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada. The details of the deals are confidential but Smith said they contain clauses that ensure environmental protection and remediation of the First Nation’s territories.

“Our territories aren’t new to development or industry: forestry, aluminum smelters. Back when those developments were occurring, our nation wasn’t a part of the development. We had no say. We had no share,” she said.

“Within these projects, we have a seat at the table in terms of how they’re developed, how they’re built and the impacts on our community and our territory.”

Smith said it’s concerning that the pipeline blockade is impeding the progress of the project and she believes chiefs, whether hereditary or elected, should put the interests of their people first in decision making.

She added that she “feels” for the Wet’suwet’en community.

“Issues like this divide communities. They tear families apart. They ruin lifelong friendships,” she said.

Na’moks questioned how Smith could feel for the Wet’suwet’en when she is not a member herself.

“We look after our nation,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. hereditary chiefs ban Coastal GasLink from Wet’suwet’en lands

Mike Robertson, a policy adviser with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, said the pipeline is located north of his community so it has not signed a benefits agreement, but it has a more minimal deal known as a community agreement.

Robertson said his community is wary of some of the negative impacts of a work camp setting up in the area. But he said it has equipment and will do right-of-way clearing and other work as the project progresses, and it hopes to play a bigger role in construction.

“We definitely support the project,” he said. “This economic development coming through our community is positive.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police see spike in excessive speeding compared to previous years

Nearly 100 excessive speeders caught since January 2020

Colwood branch drop-off to continue throughout summer

COVID-19 safety measures remain in place

Cycling scavenger hunt comes to Tweed City

Cyclists scour Oak Bay for clues in Bike to Work Week event

Welcome to grilling season: Saanich firefighter talks barbecue safety tips

Grills should be cleaned, serviced prior to use, firefighter says

Colwood woman launches Adopt a Grad

Facebook page aims to support students during pandemic

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

Most Read