Having arrested 6 Wet’suwet’en defenders on 6 Feb the RCMP arrested another 4 on Friday and 11 more on Saturday 8 Feb in the ongoing conflict between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (Gilseyhu, Laksilyu, Tsayu, Laksamshu, Gitdumdenet) on one side and corporate interests (TC Energy Corp, LNG Canada, Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp, Kogas Canada)and the state (BC, Canada) on the other. The arrests are pursuant to an injunction granted by the BC Supreme court against the Wet’suwet’en blockade of on the $6.6-billion dollar Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
In extending the injunction on Dec. 31, Justice Marguerite Church is reported to have said, “the Wet’suwet’en people are deeply divided with respect to either opposition to or support for the pipeline project.” As I have noted before, the 5 Wet’suwet’en elected band councils which derive their authority on reservation lands from the Indian Act support the pipeline, while the Hereditary chiefs who claim title to wider territories on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose it.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which crosses unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, is owned by TC Energy Corp (formerly TransCanada) with LNG Canada(Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp, Kogas Canada) as a venture partner, whose significance is indicated in TC Energy Corp’s own documents which describe it as a ‘customer’. In other words the pipeline is being built for LNG Canada with investment from LNG Canada, in which Malaysia’s PETRONAS corporation holds a 25% stake.
Malaysia’s PETRONAS crown corporation holds a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s CAD $ 40 billion project in Kitimat. This massive development is dependant on the Coastal GasLink pipeline that TransCanada is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. To realize the extent of PETRONAS’ interest in the completion of this pipeline, it is important to understand that much of the natural gas that will flow to Kitimat through the pipeline will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. While this pipeline has been approved by the B.C. and federal governments, it has been criticized by Amnesty International, the B.C.’s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As noted in the Globe and Mail, the UN committee says that it is imperative that all affected First Nations give free, prior and informed consent before the pipeline proceeds. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputra (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
Although there are reportedly signed benefit with most of First Nations involved in the passage of the pipeline, there is opposition from the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have built the Unist’ot’en healing camp in its path. As explained in the Globe and Mail, the opposition to the pipeline “hinges on an old question many First Nations in Canada face: Whether authority over resource development lies with elected band councils, hereditary leaders or both. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, whose authority is coded in the federal Indian Act, signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, along with 15 other B.C. elected band councils that accepted the pipeline. But the Wet’suwet’en also have a system of five matrilineal clans and 13 houses, each of which has at least one hereditary chief. Together the chiefs oversee traditional territories that, like many First Nations lands in B.C., were never ceded by treaty. Two house chiefs supported the pipeline, only to have their titles stripped by other chiefs. Eight of the house chiefs say the risk of environmental damage to the land is too great to allow the pipeline, and are part of the movement against it.”