According to a media advisory issued on January 14, 2020, a legal complaint has been filed by the BC Civil Liberties Association. with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, against the RCMP Exclusion Zone established at the 27km mark on the Morrice Forest Service Road West in the Wet’suwet’en territories. This exclusion zone has been set up in the context of an escalation of the conflict around the passage Coastal Gas Link (CGL) pipeline . As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS’ investment in Kitimat is totally dependant on this CGL pipeline which will transport natural gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields.
Harsha Walia, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association has said, “We are extremely concerned about the use of exclusion zones prohibiting Wet’suwet’en people, the public, and media from accessing Wet’suwet’en territories. The Wet’suwet’en assert continuous jurisdiction and unextinguished rights and land title, and the Charter protects liberty, mobility, freedom of the press, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained. This exclusion zone constitutes a serious violation of both the Indigenous rights and Charter-protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people and their family members,”
Further, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, “We expect the provincial government and BC RCMP to honour the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent-setting Delgamuukw/Gisday’way case and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples in all their decisions and actions. For Wet’suwet’en people to be denied access to their own territories as a result of a police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial-era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long.”
On 13, 2020, it was reported on the UNIST’OT’EN website that, in what would be an escalation of the conflict over CGL pipeline, the RCMP (Police) have set up an “exclusion zone” at 27km and are blocking media, Wet’suwet’en people, and food from getting up to their territory. The report claims that this is a violation of the Wet’suwet’en’s human rights, of Wet’suwet’en law, and of their constitutionally protected rights as Indigenous people. The report also highlights the fact that the ‘last time RCMP set up an ‘exclusion zone,’ they had authorized lethal force against unarmed people.”
I am observing these developments as a Malaysian resident of British Columbia and I cant help thinking of our own Malaysian indignation at the Indian state’s mistreatment of Kashmiris with curfews and media black outs. Malaysians must be made aware that our premier Crown Corporation stands to benefit from these apparently analogous acts of the Canadian state. As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS’ investment in Kitimat is totally dependant on this CGL pipeline which will transport natural gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputera (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
According to a post on the UNIST’OT’EN website Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP (police), government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from our territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. This submission reveals the Chiefs’ perception of the imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet’suwet’en villages and lands.
As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS crown corporation holds a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s Kitimat development which is totally dependant on this CGLpipeline. This pipeline is intended to transport natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat and much of this gas will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. As noted in the Globe and Mail, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 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.
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.”
PETRONAS is now a partner in the LNG Canada Kitimat project which involves building an export terminal intended to get natural gas from the North Montney fields to market in Asia. The Coastal Gaslink Pipeline connecting Dawson Creek to Kitimat is an essential part of the overall scheme. Gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields to be delivered via the North Montney Mainline to join the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline at Dawson Creek. While there has been extensive first nations buy-in into the project, including from the elected Wet’suwet’en band council, the hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation, who claim responsibility for off-reserve affairs and for the stewardship of the larger territory through which the pipeline must pass have voiced serious objections. The Wet’suwet’en have established an Unist’ot’en checkpoint at in 2009 and have steadily developed the Unist’ot’en healing camp over the years. More recently and a second check point was established at neighbouring Gidimt’en to resist the passage of the pipeline.
So what is the significance of the blockade given the injunction and the overwhelming momentum of the provincial/ national /corporate resource agenda? Much of the land of British Columbia was settled without treaties being reached with the respective First Nations. In a decision of the Supreme Court in Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia (1997), it was held that that Aboriginal title to land can be established if an Indigenous nation could prove exclusive occupation when the Crown asserted sovereignty. Delgamuukw did not however settle the Wet’suwet’en land claim and as such, it will require another trial to resolve the matter. According to law professor Kent McNeil, as reported in Houston Today, it is in this light that the hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are “asserting their title on the ground and they’re saying you can’t do this without consent because it passes through our territory.”
According to the Tyee, on January 7th, in pursuance of a court injunction against the two checkpoints (not the healing camp as it is not in the way of the pipeline), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) tactical unit breeched and dismantled the Gidimt’en checkpoint, arresting 14 protesters. According to The Interior News, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have negotiated with the RCMP to allow Costal Gaslink workers passage through the Unist’ot’en checkpoint for the duration of the injunction which lasts till May 1st 2019. As with PETRONAS’ previously aborted solo project on Lelu Island, their current joint venture in British Columbia’s LNG sector faces the vicissitudes of Canadian Law and politics in the context of our colonial legacy. If it is established that the Wet’suwet’en have Aboriginal title, then, according to Kent McNeil, the Provincial and Federal governments would need their consent before approving resource activities on this land. Even if such a finding of title is not arrived at, as with the previous PETRONAS project, indigenous resistance and the due process may cause enough delay for the joint venture LNG Canada project to run into the ever imminent ‘unfavourable conditions’ in the ever volatile market.
In an earlier post I had noted how on July 13 2018, LNG Canada formally welcomed PETRONAS as their fifth Joint Venture participant and how this investment was connected with TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline that is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat. Much of the gas to be transported to market via the pipeline and terminal will , of course, come from PETRONAS owned Progress Energy’s own gas fields in the North Montney area. On November 22, 2018 Progress Energy Canada Ltd. changed its name to PETRONAS Energy Canada Ltd. (PETRONAS Canada). Mark Fitzgerald, President & CEO of PETRONAS Canada said, “The name change is a reflection of our parent company’s commitment to Canada and the strength of our business in the company’s overall portfolio.” Malaysian Crown corporation PETRONAS now not only owns one of the largest natural gas resources in the Montney basin, but is also a key player in getting Canadian LNG to market across the Pacific ocean.
On July 13 2018, LNG Canada formally welcomed PETRONAS as their fifth Joint Venture participant. According to Energycity.ca “Petronas is now an official partner in the consortium that is proposing to build a $40 billion liquified natural gas export terminal in Kitimat”. Petronas subsidiary Progress Energy will take a 25 percent stake in the LNG Canada development, which is still subject to regulatory approvals. Shell will lead the consortium with a 40% stake. The other partners are PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp. and Kogas Canada. As I noted in a previous post there are implications for national, trans-national relationships and intra-national relations. This investment will be closely aligned with the Coastal GasLink pipeline that TransCanada is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. Some members of the Wet’suwet’en nation of Canada have built a healing camp in the path of the pipeline. To acknowledge the changing scenarios in Malaysia and in BC I have changed the colours that brand this blog.