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

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The company has provincial approval to build a 670-kilometre pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada's $40-billion export terminal in Kitimat, but the chiefs say they won't allow anyone on the First Nation's traditional territory without their consent. "All permits are available for this project to continue".

Also on Wednesday, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief Dsahayl asked Coastal GasLink workers near Parrot Lake Village to leave the area (they complied) and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs argued the RCMP checkpoint and exclusion zone violated Indigenous and Canadian law by blocking access to traditional territory.

Wet'suwet'en heriditary leaders authorized chopping down about 100 trees earlier this month along a logging road to block contractors from returning to work at a camp there.

A spokeswoman for the Unist'ot'en Healing Center says the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs have given a natural gas company one-time access to a construction site so it can be winterized. Last January, the RCMP arrested 14 protesters at a checkpoint along the road, drawing coverage from global media.

While Premier John Horgan said this week that the permitted project will go through and the rule of the law must be respected, law professor Margot Young said it's not that simple. Instead, they had to wait until a hereditary chief could escort her in to deliver the supplies, while Merriman waited for an hour on the side of the road, idling his vehicle's engine to stay warm in the frigid temperatures.

A B.C. The judge of the Supreme Court issued an order on December 31 against members of Wetuwet and anti-pipeline supporters.

The Mounties say a police checkpoint was set on the 27-kilometer road from a forest road to the area because of safety risks arising from trees cut down over the road and tire stacks that were recently found with gasoline and other fuels in it.

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However, the RCMP say the checkpoint is not an exclusion zone, which are areas created when police enforce a civil injunction.

The RCMP said its operations commander had conducted a review of officers' actions at the checkpoint and concluded police appeared to be acting professionally and in good faith.

Late Monday, RCMP released a statement saying Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan held a series of meeting with both hereditary and elected Wet'suwet'en chiefs to discuss the blockade established along a forestry service road leading to a work camp for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, near Houston, B.C.

The Mounties acknowledged in a news release there was some miscommunication as frontline police were implementing new access procedures after the checkpoint was set up on Monday morning. It said it's not enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink. "This investment is being used to undermine Wet'suwet'en authority and empower CGL to proceed using the full force of the RCMP and judicial system", asserts Hereditary Chief Dsta'hyl.

The UN declaration says Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, which means they can determine their political status and pursue economic, social and cultural development. It requires that governments obtain "free and informed consent" from indigenous groups before approving projects that affect their country or resources.

"We affirm that under the view of the BCCLA, the Wet'suwet'en Nation maintains continuous jurisdiction and rights on their land and territories, which has been upheld by several successive court cases", said the organization's executive director, Harsha Walia. "It's not retrospective. We believe it will open up opportunities not just for Indigenous people but for all British Columbians".

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