Wet’suwet’en people divided over building of pipeline
By Jessica Berget, Editor-in-Chief
Recently, a number of protests and blockades have occurred throughout Vancouver to protest the building of a gas pipeline throughout Northern British Columbia.
The company Coastal GasLink plans to build a 670 km natural gas pipeline from the Northern BC area of Dawson Creek and is estimated to cost $6.6 billion. The plan to build is controversial. Many say the pipeline goes through traditional Native territory, and this has been the cause of many demonstrations in Metro Vancouver.
On Wednesday February 12, opposers of the pipeline gathered in Downtown Vancouver in order to block the intersection going to the Granville Street Bridge in protest. The demonstration caused traffic disruptions from both directions. No arrests were made, and the bridge was reopened later that day.
More demonstrations broke out throughout the week with hundreds of protestors gathering in East Hastings near Main street in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Tuesday February 18. According to Global News, they marched toward the Clark Drive entrance to Port Vancouver and blocked the intersection for two hours. That led to a backlog of about 40 ships waiting to load or unload.
On February 24, West Coast Express rides were suspended due to pipeline protesters blocking the tracks.
To some, the pipeline is a trespassing on Wet’suwet’en lands. The protesters state that they are in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and the hereditary chiefs who oppose the building route of the pipeline. According to City News 1130, protestors have their reasons for standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.
“The chiefs demands have been clear that the province must cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline; the RCMP must withdraw from Wet’suwet’en lands, and government, the RCMP and CGL must respect Wet’suwet’en law and governance,” reads a news release from protestors.
To others, the pipeline would create jobs and opportunities for Wet’suwet’en people. According to the Vancouver Sun, the project has support from five out of six elected band councils who have all signed benefit agreements with the gas company to exchange support for financial and employment benefits—promising an estimated $1 billion in benefits.
One who supports the argument of opportunities is Troy Young, a Witset band member with a family business who works with Coastal GasLink and whose grandmother was a former hereditary chief.
“People in Canada have the right to protest. This is a democracy. It is unfortunate that they are protesting with only half the story being told,” he said.
“I don’t feel the elected councils are being given a fair voice in this matter. From discussions I have had, the elected chiefs recognize that employment can be a multi-generational gain for the family. People working on a pipeline can send their children to school to provide for better opportunities in the future. The elected chiefs want to break the bondage of poverty that exists within our communities,” Young told PostMedia News.
Wing Chief of the Grizzly house, Andrew George, has called for an all clan meeting regarding the protests and the division it has caused the Wet’suwet’en community. “What currently is going on does not reflect the true governance of the Wet’suwet’en, on both sides. We are afraid something bad might happen,” he told Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).