B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister hopes to have agreement from Wet’suwet’en people on their long-standing demand to define land rights within two weeks, but he says in the meantime the Coastal GasLink pipeline will proceed.
“There is still a difference of opinion around the Coastal GasLink project, but the permits are in place, it’s approved, it’s underway,” Scott Fraser said Monday after meetings with hereditary chiefs over the weekend. “I made that clear.”
In the B.C. legislature, Premier John Horgan emphasized that the court injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink to stop roadblocks in the Smithers-Houston area remains in place.
“The project is being built, it’s fully permitted and it will proceed,” Horgan said in response to opposition questions in the legislature. “It’s going to be completed.”
Fraser and federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett emerged from weekend talks in Smithers with what they call a “path forward” to implement a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on land rights for the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en people that left aboriginal title undefined.
Fraser called on protesters who have been blocking roads and occupying offices in sympathy with a group of dissident hereditary chiefs to have patience.
“I ask people who are protesting, who care about rights and title of the Wet’suwet’en people, to give us time to address those things, because we have a historical opportunity to address those,” Fraser said. “Those are the key root causes of the failure of governments to recognize rights and title issues for the Wet’suwet’en.”
Pressed repeatedly by opposition MLAs to say what was agreed to and what assurance Coastal GasLink employees and investors have, Fraser said the discussions with hereditary leaders were “in camera” and have to be reviewed in the traditional clan process before being made public.