Members of the Penticton Indian Band protested on the steps of Penticton law courts Monday morning in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the construction of a natural gas pipeline in Northern B.C.
Chief Chad Eneas said the band stands in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet‘suwet’en in the protection and defense of their unceded territory.
“The message is that we are standing united, our heredity chief and our elected chief systems that were in place before colonization and settlement here, that’s the real need for reconciliation,” Eneas told reporters as the protest moved across the street to Gyro Park.
“The reason that we are here is because we want a peaceful resolution and to move away from that colonial strategy of denial and divide and conquer.”
Eneas said each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation have full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory.
All five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided consent to Coastal Gaslink, said a statement issued by the band.
“They’ve raised concerns about how the activity is going to impact their aquifers, their water that they rely on so we all know and understand how important water is and how we need to protect that for everybody,” Eneas said.
Eneas would not say if he opposed the natural gas pipeline, but said he believes the hereditary chiefs were not properly consulted and ultimately have asserting jurisdiction.
“When you put capital projects or economics over fundamental human rights I think there is something to question,” he said.
“So it’s not just about the project, it’s about how decisions are being made.”
The chiefs and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who support them are blocking construction on a section of the $6.6-billion project that runs through traditional Indigenous territory near Houston, B.C.
The 670-kilometre pipeline is being constructed elsewhere between northeastern B.C. and a LNG export facility in Kitimat on the coast.
The pipeline has received consent from all 20 elected First Nation councils along the route.
The elected band councils of the Wet’suwet’en are among those who have consented, but the hereditary chiefs say only they have the authority to decide what happens on their ancestral lands.
A B.C. Supreme Court injunction against the opponents was granted on Dec. 31, and a deadline for the group to clear a blockade camp has come and gone with both sides at an impasse.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said the project has provincial and federal permits and the opponents are violating Canadian law.
The B.C. government has appointed former NDP MP Nathan Cullen as a liaison between the province and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
-With files from Sean Boynton