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Coastal GasLink, elected Wet'suwet'en council call for resolution to conflict

BURNS LAKE, B.C. — Coastal GasLink says supplies like water are at risk of running out for more than 500 workers who have been stuck for three days behind blockades near a pipeline work site in northern B.C.
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BURNS LAKE, B.C. — Coastal GasLink says supplies like water are at risk of running out for more than 500 workers who have been stuck for three days behind blockades near a pipeline work site in northern B.C. 

The natural gas pipeline company says it is very concerned for its workers, as the road is unsafe and impassable, obstructing access to medical care in the event of an emergency. 

The blockade was erected Sunday by members of the Gidimt'en clan, one of five in the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

A spokesperson for the group has said the hereditary chiefs have never ceded or surrendered the territory, and the Coastal GasLink workers were given eight hours' notice to peacefully evacuate before the road was barricaded.

However, the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, which is one of several elected councils in the area, issued a statement Wednesday saying those clan members do not speak for everyone and its people are among the workers. 

The statement says elected Wet'suwet'en councils support the project and the First Nation calls for an immediate end to the escalating conflict. 

"Even though we are also members of the Gidimt'en Clan, the protesters at the 'Coyote Camp' and other protest sites have never consulted us about their actions and cannot claim to represent us or any other members of the First Nation," the statement says.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday talks between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, the B.C. government and Coastal GasLink were at a "critical junction" toward a resolution. 

In both 2019 and 2020, conflict over the pipeline escalated when RCMP enforced court injunctions issued to Coastal GasLink and arrested project opponents.

Supporters of the hereditary chiefs held nationwide protests that stopped railways last year and put a spotlight on Indigenous rights and jurisdiction. 

A memorandum of understanding signed since then between the federal and provincial governments and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs had eased tensions, but Sunday's statement from the Gidimt'en clan said an "eviction notice" served to Coastal GasLink by the chiefs in January 2020 is being enforced again.

The natural gas pipeline project is more than half finished with almost all of the route cleared and 200 kilometres of pipeline installed so far, the company has said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press