By the time you got to read this, I was hopeful that the barricades that have been erected across the country in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in B.C., who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would run through Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat, B.C., would be down and negotiations to bring a permanent end to this sorry mess begun.
But it didn’t happen, the protests even coming to our backyard, traffic on Huron Street near the International Bridge being rerouted by police because of protesters.
Watching police directing traffic around the blockade instead of clearing a path, I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be as considerate to any other group that might have an axe to grind. Whatever the case, I feel it necessary to provide my point of view, to let you know where I stand on the barricade and blockade issue..
I, like the vast majority of Canadians, am all for protecting the environment. I am all for alternative fuels to relieve us from our dependence on oil and gas and, to a much lesser degree, coal.
But we are not there yet and won’t be for some time.
That being the case, I support the pipeline project at issue and any others proposed or in the works. Seeing some of the conflagrations that have resulted from transport by rail, which is the main alternative for moving oil and gas, surely all but those who say we shouldn’t be using oil, gas or coal at all would agree.
In regard to the GasLink pipeline, according to news reports all 20 elected band councils along the route have signed benefits agreements with the company. The Haisla Nation in Kitimat is among them and Chief Crystal Smith said the project will help the community become less reliant on meagre federal funding.
But the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say they, not the elected band councils, are in charge of the traditional lands, which are not in reserves and which are, from what I can ascertain, nowhere near as populated.
Yet it is the Wet’suwet’en who have brought unrest to the country, initially camping out in an attempt to block the pipeline, then putting up barricades on roadways and following this up with a plea for support across the country.
“Stand up and fight back with us,” Molly Wickham, a spokeswoman for one of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s five clans, Gidimt’en, said in a grainy video posted to Facebook.
“Shut down Canada. Do whatever you can do.”
Shut down Canada? She lost me there. Nobody should be advocating the shutdown of their country.
Yet many Canadians in many areas answered her plea and their efforts culminated in a level of disruption that was impossible to ignore, rail lines blocked to the point that CN Rail was forced to temporarily shut down all of its operations east of Toronto. Via Rail, which uses CN’s tracks, cancelled passenger-train service across the country.
And all this time I thought there was such a thing as the rule of law in this country.
People have a right to protest but it should be a peaceful protest. It should not be designed, as this one became, to get others involved in their cause in a way that would cause harm, in this case financial harm, to many who have no stake in the matter.
In a strange twist on Vancouver Island, it turned out that it was legal to put up a barricade on a highway but it was illegal to take it down.
Demonstrators opposed to the pipeline erected barriers at Exit 117 of Highway 19 near Courtenay in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
But the group was met by another group of residents, several wearing masks, who repeatedly pulled the barricades down as police attempted to keep the groups apart.
RCMP eventually arrested one of the residents for obstruction after he attempted to pull down a barricade.
An officer at the scene told the group of residents RCMP couldn’t clear the protesters’ blockade without direction from their supervisors.
Maybe RCMP couldn’t but why should that stop residents from doing it. After all, this barricade consisted of old tires, pallets and other material that could best be described as debris.
As I watched the CBC program at issue, one panellist said there were suggestions that barricades be taken down as soon as they go up. He said this could lead to problems.
I am with those who suggest they should be taken down immediately. If they aren’t, you allow protesters to get a toehold and soon they are in up to their ankles and then you have more than a problem, you have a crisis, which is where we are today.
Actually, the pipeline has the support of the courts. The Supreme Court of British Columbia in January ruled that Indigenous law is not necessarily Canadian law in a decision that allowed construction work to continue on the $6.6-billion pipeline despite Wet’suwet’en opposition.
Church, citing irreparable harm to GasLink, granted both an interlocutory injunction and an enforcement order, which provided “a mandate to the RCMP to enforce the terms of the order.”
As of this writing, news reports said the federal government has committed to dialogue with First Nations to end the series of anti-pipeline protests that have sprung up on railways, bridges and highways across Canada.
However, they also indicate business leaders are increasing pressure on the government for a quick resolution and warn of mounting economic damage as the country’s rail network has come to a standstill across Eastern Canada.
But the business leaders don’t give any idea as to what they see as a quick resolution.
Is it to follow the rule of law, the injunction laid down by the B.C. Supreme Court, or is it to give in, therefore closing down the pipeline?
Should the demands of people who got their titles from their forebears really be given preference over those duly elected by band members.
I say no and am surprised so many Canadians have gone along with it so wholeheartedly.
But then we know some will join a protest over anything. .