Under the pipeline benefits agreement between the province and Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) regarding TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline project, the province could ask WFN to help stop Unist’ot’en camp protestors.
The Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en has set up a protective camp south of Houston and has been physically impeding pipeline proponents from entering their territory.
Under the pipeline benefits agreement, WFN has agreed not to support or participate in any acts that “frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede” the right of the province or Coastal GasLink to carry out any activities associated with the development and operations of the proposed pipeline project.
More specifically, the agreement states that “WFN will assist the province in seeking to resolve any action that may be taken by any member that is inconsistent with the agreement.” Otherwise, WFN could be in breach of their contract and potentially lose their funding.
Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen said there is no obligation under the pipeline benefits agreement for WFN to stop Unist’ot’en camp protestors or shut down their camp. However, she says the province could ask WFN for “assistance to help resolve actions by WFN members that are contrary to the intent of the agreement.”
“To date, WFN has not received any request from the province to assist [in stopping protestors],” said Ogen. “If requested by the province, WFN would be prepared to set up a dialogue with WFN members who are participating in the protest to help hear and resolve their concerns about the project.”
“So long as WFN reasonably responds to any requests for assistance from the province, it is our position that WFN will not be in breach of the agreement if WFN members choose to continue with their protest,” she added.
In a recent press release, Chief Ogen and three other chiefs – Nee Tahi Buhn Chief Ray Morris, Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George and Skin Tyee Nation Chief Rene Skin – said Unist’ot’en members do not speak on behalf of their nations.
“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,” said Ogen on behalf of the four chiefs.
Wet’suwet’en First Nation signed the pipeline benefits agreement with the province for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project in December 2014. Under the agreement, WFN will receive approximately $2.8 million from the province at three different stages in the project – $464,000 upon signing the agreement; $1.16 million when pipeline construction begins; and $1.16 million when the pipeline is in service. The B.C. government says the WFN will also receive a share of $10 million a year in ongoing benefits per pipeline.
“Wet’suwet’en First Nation members have the right to ex press their opinion, as long as they do so in a way that respects Wet’suwet’en law and the laws of B.C. and Canada,” said Ogen. “[WFN] chief and council value the voices and opinions of our community and we ask that our members express their opinions in a way that is respectful and that does not risk their own safety or the safety of others.”
The pipeline benefits agreement between the province and WFN can be found online at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations-negotiations/natural-gas-pipeline-benefits-agreements
Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. proposes to develop a natural gas pipeline from near Dawson Creek, B.C., to the proposed LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export facility near Kitimat, B.C.