Protests over Coastal GasLink pipeline for LNG feed-gas disrupt ports and railways in Canada

Wednesday, 12 February 2020
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Protests are continuing across Canada in support of a minority of First Nation Indigenous peoples who are against the Coastal GasLink pipeline to bring feed-gas to the LNG Canada plant in British Columbia.

However, a majority of First Nations chiefs in Canada and British Columbia support the building of pipelines, LNG plants and other facilities on their traditional lands as they are given stakes, economic benefits and better job prospects.

Police arrested protesters occupying land of the First Nation band called, the Wet'suwet'en, over the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline while environmental activists disrupted ports and railway lines in other provinces.

The $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline will run for 670 kilometres, carrying natural gas from Dawson Creek in BC to the coastal town of Kitimat, located about 650 kilometres north of the province’s largest city Vancouver.

The pipeline route goes through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory and they are against it. However, other First Nations are backing the pipeline.

While some 20 elected band councils have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink Ltd., a subsidiary of North American pipeline company TC Energy, five hereditary chiefs have objected to the pipeline partially crossing the 22,000 square kilometres they say are under their jurisdiction. 

Ellis Ross, a BC member of the legislature and former chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation whose traditional lands are around Kitimat, said he sees the protests as meant for those who don't live in the affected areas and who don't understand Indigenous rights and title.

“It's geared for the coffee shops in Toronto, it's geared for the San Francisco crowd that have no idea,” said Ellis.

“They have no idea, or no interest, in why First Nations leaders were signing onto these major projects,” he added.

There has been an expansion in the protests that had previously been in isolated areas of the BC interior.

Protests took place in the centre of the city of Edmonton and in the province of Ontario there was a blockade of railway tracks near the town of Belleville.

There were also marches to Vancouver city hall and at the BC legislature building in in Victoria. 

The LNG Canada project is led by Royal Dutch Shell and is the largest private sector investment in Canada's history with spending of C$40 billion (US$30.2Bln).

Shell and its four partners, Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan, Malaysian energy company Petronas, Chinese major PetroChina and Korea Gas Corp., had agreed in October 2018 to start construction at the brownfield site near Kitimat that had been an energy products terminal before being acquired by Shell in 2011.

BC Premier John Horgan issued a statement about the protests at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria and in communities throughout the province.

“British Columbians have the right to peaceful protest. We support people in the exercise of their democratic rights - within the law,” said Horgan.

“That said, I understand the frustration of people who have been unable to go to work, who have been unable to enter government buildings or have been unable to get around in their communities,” he added.

“My government, represented by Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, met on an urgent basis for two days in February in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to the impasse regarding the Coastal GasLink project. Regrettably, the talks were unsuccessful,” he explained.

“My government continues to be available to engage with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs,” said the BC Premier.

 “These events show us why meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is our shared responsibility and is critical to our province and our country,” he said.

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