Activists in Canada, the U.S. and all the way to Trinidad and Tobago are staging protests on November 27 in support of a blockade against a natural gas pipeline and fracking project in northern British Columbia.
The demonstrations—planned for California, every major Canadian city, and outside Canada's embassy in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago—come a week after hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation evicted surveyors working on the route of the planned Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP).
Wet’suwet’en eviction procedures were followed: Surveyors were presented with an eagle feather to surveyors, a traditional warning to remove trespassers from a nation's traditional territory. Contractors' equipment was also confiscated.
“If the Pacific Trails Pipeline decides to push their agenda, along with the federal government and provincial government, to try to force this pipeline through our lands, they're going to continue to meet us, and we're going to keep resisting them,” Toghestiy, a hereditary chief of Wet'suwet'en nation, told Indian Country Today Media Network. “If they decide to escalate it, we'll have to do the same. It's something that we don't want to do, but if they're not willing to sit down and have meaningful consultation with our hereditary chiefs, and with the Wet'suwet'en people, then they're going to be meeting a lot of resistance up here.”
Every day the planned pipeline would transport one million cubic feet of natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracturing injects high-pressure liquid underground, breaking up rock layers to extract gas. It has generated controversy because of chemical pollution, as well as some research suggesting it increases earthquake risks.
The route spans 290 miles from Summit Lake, B.C., to coastal Kitimat, which is also the destination of the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. That oil sands project is also under fire from indigenous and environmental groups. The new blockade is on lands of the Wet'suwet'en's Big Frog (Unist’ot’en) clan. PTP is a partnership of Canadian subsidiaries of Apache Corporation and Enron Oil and Gas (EOG) Resources, both based in Houston, Texas. Apache insists it has the support of First Nations along its route.
“We understand that there are some members of the Unist’ot’en who have expressed some concerns, and we continue to consult with First Nations along the entire proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline route, including the Unist’ot’en,” Apache spokesperson Paul Wyke told ICTMN. “The Pacific Trail Pipeline continues to benefit from strong First Nations’ involvement and support for the proposed project. Fifteen of 16 First Nations along the proposed PTP right-of-way support the project.”
But Toghestiy criticized what he said is a decision to ignore hereditary, or traditional, leadership, instead seeking the support of tribal councils. Citing the Delgamuukw case upholding Aboriginal rights and title in Canada's Supreme Court of Canada, Toghestiy vowed to continue blocking PTP.
“The company continues to ignore the hereditary people,” he said. “Instead of dealing with the hereditary people, they decided to deal with the Indian Act government—the people elected into positions that are dependent on federal dollars—to come into the community. These councils don't have any rights outside of the reservations. That's why we're here.”
As part of the company's outreach, PTP Limited Partnership issued a $1.5 million donation in July to an employment skills training project for aboriginal people.
“The benefits of this program are tremendous in reducing the barriers to employment for aboriginal people in northern B.C.,” said Diane Collins, executive director of the PTP Aboriginal Skills Employment Partnership Training Society, in a July 25 statement. “We continue to be the driver of industry specific training programs that are helping establish a First Nations labor force in northern British Columbia.”
Other First Nations have come to the Wet'suwet'en's support. Judy da Silva, an organizer of the decade-long blockade against logging and mercury pollution in Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation, in northern Ontario, backed the latest in a series of protests against pipelines across B.C., which have targeted the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan's TransMountain, and now PTP.
“When we come together to protect the land, we are doing it for all of our future generations,” she said in a November 26 statement. “This government and all of industry needs to understand that no means no. We will not sacrifice our lands, cultures, and children for their greed.”
In response to a Wet'suwet'en blockader call-for-support last week, organizers say that solidarity demonstrations are planned outside rival pipeline company Kinder Morgan's terminal in Chico, California, as well as in most major Canadian cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Prince George, Regina, Vancouver and Victoria.