A primer on the Coastal GasLink pipeline
VANCOUVER – Protests continue across the country as the RCMP enforce an injunction requiring opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to clear the way for construction in northern British Columbia. Here is a look at the project and its history:
The project: B.C. Premier John Horgan announced provincial support for the project on Oct. 2, 2018. He said LNG Canada’s decision to build a $40-billion liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat was similar to the moon landing for the province. To get natural gas to the export plant, Coastal GasLink Ltd. is building a 670-kilometre pipeline from the Dawson Creek area in northern B.C. at an estimated cost of $6.6 billion. At the peak point of construction, the plant and the pipeline will employ about 10,000 people. About 900 workers will be needed at the plant during the first phase of its operations.
The route: Planning for the route included the establishment of a “conceptual corridor” through B.C. in 2012 that the company said included consultations with First Nations, local governments and landowners. The final route approved by the BC Oil and Gas Commission runs southwest from outside Dawson Creek before heading west near Vanderhoof to Kitimat.
First Nations: The dispute has highlighted a debate over whether hereditary chiefs should have more power under Canadian law. The Indian Act established band councils, made up of elected chiefs and councillors, who have authority over reserve lands. Hereditary chiefs are part of a traditional form of Indigenous governance that legal experts say the courts have grappled with how to recognize.
Indigenous Support: The pipeline has support from 20 elected band councils along the route. All of them have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink. Chief Coun. Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation in Kitimat said last month that the project will help the community become less reliant on federal funding. The Haisla Nation is also in discussions for equity stakes in the project, which Smith said would create revenue that the community could decide to invest in housing, health or education, in contrast with federal money that comes with restrictions on how it can be used.
Indigenous Opposition: Five Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent. Their supporters at a camp near Houston have been blocking construction in violation of a court injunction, which the RCMP began enforcing last week. The hereditary chiefs say they have authority over the broader 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory that the pipeline would partially cross, while the elected band councils only administer smaller reserves.
Protests and Injunctions: The RCMP arrested 14 people when it began enforcing a court injunction on a forest service road near Houston on Jan. 7, 2019, requiring people obstructing construction of the pipeline to clear the way for the company. The arrests led to dozens of rallies across the country in support of the hereditary chiefs. After talks failed to find a solution to the dispute last week, the RCMP began enforcing a separate court injunction on Thursday and arrested six people, followed by additional arrests in the days that followed. The RCMP’s enforcement of the injunction has sparked protests across the country, including blocking train routes in Quebec and Ontario. Vancouver police say 33 people were arrested on Monday as they enforced an injunction preventing blockades at entrances to the Port of Vancouver and the DeltaPort container terminal.