B.C. government agrees to meeting with Wet’sewet’en hereditary chiefs

A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist'ot'en camp on a remote logging road near Houston, B.C., on January 17, 2019. A natural gas pipeline project has polarized many communities across northern British Columbia in a dispute a Wet'suwet'en elder says he hopes will be resolved through dialogue. Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia's northeast to Kitimat on the coast. The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along its path, but the hereditary clan chiefs who are leaders under the traditional form of governance say the project has no authority without their consent.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The B.C. Government has agreed to sit down for a meeting with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs but it won’t be with Premier John Horgan.

In a letter sent on Monday, Horgan wrote that he has asked Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser to meet with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

“Minister Fraser will be focused on working with you to find a path forward,” Horgan writes.

“I was honoured to visit your territory at your request in 2019, a visit that was carefully planned and months in preparation. I remain committed to the process of reconciliation we undertook on that occasion.”

Five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline heading to Kitimat. The chiefs are supported by protesters who have blockaded part of the pipeline route in an attempt to stop construction.

Story continues below advertisement

The B.C. Supreme Court issued an interlocutory injunction for the Morice Forest Service Road on Dec. 31 and directed the RCMP to carry out the ruling.

WATCH (aired January 17, 2020): Premier visits northern B.C. during pipeline battle

Click to play video: 'Premier visits northern B.C. during pipeline battle'
Premier visits northern B.C. during pipeline battle

“Our government has no authority to vary that injunction, nor to direct the RCMP in the fulfillment of its responsibilities,” Horgan wrote.

“That said, I remain committed to dialogue to achieve a peaceful and safe resolution of this issue.”

The meeting is set to take place on Wednesday is Smithers.

Chief Na’moks sent a letter on Jan. 10 on behalf of himself and the four other hereditary chiefs opposed to the project requesting a meeting with Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The province received the letter on Jan. 15.

Story continues below advertisement

Last week, Horgan told reporters the CGL pipeline will get built even with opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and protesters along the pipeline route. The premier says the communities must abide by a ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court giving CGL the right to complete the project.

“The rule of law applies in British Columbia,” Horgan said to reporters. “All the permits are in place for the project and the project will be proceeding.”

WATCH (aired January 17, 2020): Pipeline protestors dig in

Click to play video: 'Pipeline protestors dig in'
Pipeline protestors dig in

The hereditary chiefs have been adamant they are going to uphold Wet’suwet’en law.

All 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route have signed agreements supporting the project, including the elected chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en.

Story continues below advertisement

When asked if Horgan believes the hereditary chiefs have the power to the stop the project, he says he doesn’t think so.

“I don’t believe they do and more important the courts don’t either,” Horgan said. “In this instance the courts have determined this project can proceed and it will proceed.

“We want to see British Columbians sharing in the wealth of our great province. We want to see everyone prospering. We want to see an environment protected for future generations.”

Sponsored content