The conflict near the Unist'ot'en camp in Wet'suwet'en territory and the fact that the proponent and the government regulators (AKA cheerleaders) have been making deals with the wrong people seems to have come as a rude shock to Premier John Horgan and a large number of other non-indigenous British Columbians.
Over and again, we are hearing of how Coastal GasLink has diligently consulted and developed benefit agreements with all the band councils along the proposed route. But now, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs are at the forefront of a broad and ever-widening circle of protest while Horgan and others continue to ever more feebly spout about having obtained the prior agreement of all First Nations on the pipeline's path.
This rude surprise should not be a surprise at all, unless Mr. Horgan was somewhere sleeping like Rip van Winkle all through the 1990s when the Delgamuukw case went through lower courts and ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Well-covered by media provincially, nationally and internationally, was the fact that in the Delgamuukw case, the plaintiffs were not band councils but hereditary chiefs. These chiefs from both the Wet'suwet'en and the Gitxsan were fully recognized by the courts as the appropriate plaintiffs. The important and largely favourable ruling on their claim was made accordingly. One can find the names and territorial connection for all 51 hereditary chiefs, starting with Delgamuukw (Earl Muldoe), in the final SCC decision from December, 1997. On the other hand, one would search in vain for the name of any plaintiff/claimant on behalf of an Indian Act-created band councils.
Not exactly an obscure secret.
Given that prominent, indeed, landmark case, and with all the time, money and legal advice that Coastal GasLink and the Government of British Columbia have at their disposal, it beggars belief that they all could have been so confused about whose consent would be required for a major development on Wet'suwet'en territory.
A cynic might even think this ignorance was wilful.