The Supreme Court of Canada, in decisions such as Delgamuukw and Tsilhqot’in has recognized Aboriginal title to unceded Aboriginal land. In this context Aboriginal title includes rights to decide how the lands will be used and that consent must be obtained for entrance to and use of these lands. These rights are severely challenged in northern British Columbia by a rush to transport natural gas, tar sands crude, and associated chemicals.
The Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, located between Prince George and Prince Rupert, has set up a peaceful protest camp to protect its territory from an onslaught of some eleven (yes eleven) different pipeline companies. All those seeking to enter Unist’ot’en territory must pass through check points to ensure they have permission to enter and are doing so for purposes compatible with the Unist’ot’en people. Pipeline employees are denied access.
Pipeline plans and proposals are in various stages of development and all would cross onto Unist’ot’en territory directly or would skirt around on nearby lands. All would negatively impact the environment and would pose significant and permanent risks to the health and well-being of the Unist’ot’en people who are intimately connected to the land. For example the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would cross the upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds. A Coast Gaslink proposed pipeline would impact the habitat of more than 100 species at risk and would cross 320 watercourses. Coast Gaslink is owned by a consortium of companies including Shell. Shell Oil is well known for its appalling environmental record and inhuman treatment of the people of the Niger delta. It is no wonder the Unist’ot’en people want nothing to do witn Coast Gaslink.
Aside from the direct social and habitat damage these pipelines would create there is also the issue of carbon emissions. All of these pipelines would create and support the combustion of yet more fossil fuels leading to yet more global warming. This alone is reason enough to stop further pipeline expansion.
Recent reports from the area indicate a large scale police crackdown on the Unis’ot’en checkpoints is being planned. This flies in the face of the Supreme Court decisions and the necessity to stop further development of fossil fuels. Surely it is time Canadian society stood beside the Unist’ot’en people and recognized them for the heroes they are.
More information is available on line.
District of Kent