Construction on the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project is probably unlikely to begin any time soon.
In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Goldy Hyder, the president of the Business Council of Canada, said based on renewed tensions between law enforcement and Indigenous people blockading pipeline work sites over the past week, he’s doubtful there will be any kind of quick progress on resuming construction of the pipeline the federal government spent billions to buy — and will spend billions more to expand.
That leadership is needed to resolve underlying concerns that also impact the future of Trans Mountain, he said.
“Now more than ever, we need leadership to be asserted and we have to get to the issues that resolve the First Nations questions because what we’re seeing right now with the nations, no one speaks for all of them,” he said before being asked whether he thinks any progress is imminent on Trans Mountain.
“If I was a betting man, I’d say not anytime soon and it’s not for the lack of effort. I recognize that a government purchased the pipeline, I recognize that the court decision put a bit of a delay in that process. But the question is what happens if what we’re seeing now happened all over again at the TMX site?”
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Last weekend, RCMP arrested members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation who were cutting off access to the TransCanada Coastal GasLink work site.
Coastal GasLink is a natural gas pipeline that will move natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to the coast for processing at a massive new LNG project set to be constructed in the coming years.
An injunction had been issued barring protesters from cutting off access for construction workers.
The blockades remained up anyway.
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At issue is the question of how to balance when there are conflicting views within an Indigenous community about projects making use of their land.
In the case of the Wet’suwet’en, elected band council members were on board with the natural gas pipeline.
But the hereditary chiefs were not.
Terry Teegee, regional chief for B.C. with the Assembly of First Nations, said that distinction is important because a 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa case that he said established that hereditary chiefs have clear scopes of responsibility that must be respected.
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“The decision stated that hereditary chiefs have the right to make decisions on the land whereas the elected chiefs of chiefs and councils, band councils, have to deal with on-reserve issues,” he told Stephenson in an interview.
Teegee said the Wet’suwet’en case highlights what he described as a need for dispute resolution to be used in cases where there are disagreements within communities and the businesses trying to get their sign-on for projects.
“What we were really advocating for in B.C. was dispute resolution,” he said.
Without resolving the underlying disputes, the problems will continue to impact ongoing discussions about development and risks undermining efforts to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Because right now, Teegee said, the system is not working.
“The term reconciliation is being watered down.”
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