The project has received opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs (File photo)

B.C. human rights commissioner asks feds to halt Coastal GasLink

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he welcomed the pronouncement

British Columbia’s human rights commissioner has called on Canada to stop building a contentious natural gas pipeline until the affected Indigenous groups consent to the construction.

Kasari Govender said she believes Canada is shirking its obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“I join (the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) in urging Canada to immediately cease the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc peoples, to prohibit the use of lethal weapons, and to guarantee no force will be used against them,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is a matter of fundamental human rights.”

Coastal GasLink is building a pipeline from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat on the coast and has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the planned 670-kilometre route, but hereditary chiefs say the project does not have their consent.

The company said Saturday that the project is approved, permitted and under construction today by more than 1,000 workers, including many Indigenous people from across the North.

But Govender said she believes Canada is shirking its responsibilities by allowing construction to continue.

“Canada cannot simultaneously vie for a seat at the security council while ignoring their obligations to other parts of the UN,” she wrote. ”It’s critical to the future of human rights that Canada and BC cement the credibility of our institutions by meeting our obligations.”

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he welcomed the pronouncement.

“I believe that this represents the beginning of a genuine transition to a consent-based decision making in regard to Indigenous land rights and Indigenous human rights,” he said.

“So, I applaud decision and hope that other governments and government agencies and police community take heed and act accordingly.”

READ MORE: Hereditary chiefs say ‘we never will’ support Coastal GasLink pipeline

Unist’ot’en spokeswoman Freda Huson said in an email that the UN must intervene to help defend against the human rights violations.

“This is my home. Seeing our neighbours violently removed from their territory last year, we don’t want the same thing to happen here,” she said. “Canada’s whole system is racist and stacked against us — the government, the courts, and the police.”

Fourteen people were arrested on Jan. 7, 2019, when the RCMP enforced an interim injunction at a blockade near Smithers, B.C.

Meanwhile, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans said in a news release on Saturday that they met with RCMP deputy commissioner and commanding officer on Wednesday and are urging the police to stand down.

The RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week, Coastal GasLink posted an injunction order giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way toward its work site in northern British Columbia.

The order stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their supporters who say the Coastal GasLink project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

It requires the defendants to remove any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use, and gives authorization to the RCMP to arrest and remove anyone police have “reasonable or probable grounds” to believe has knowledge of the order and is contravening it.

“The police retain discretion as to timing and manner of enforcement of this order,” it says.

Coastal GasLink, however, said that posting the order was procedural and the company has no plans to request police action.

Gidimt’en Clan spokeswoman Jennifer Wickham said in Saturday’s news release that while no agreement regarding the current enforcement order was made with the deputy commissioner, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs gave a list of directives to the RCMP.

These included that the police refrain from enforcing an injunction order until nation-to-nation talks can occur with the provincial and federal governments to address infringements to Wet’suwet’en rights and title.

The directives also asked for the remote detachment established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory to be “immediately removed” and “that RCMP refrain from preventing Wet’suwet’en people and our guests from accessing our territories.”

“We will continue dialogue with the RCMP with the objective of meeting our directives,” Wickham said.

“We urge RCMP to respect Wet’suwet’en law, and to comply with recommendations made by the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, including the guarantee of our right to require free, prior, and informed consent for any industrial use of our territory.”

READ MORE: What the Wet’suwet’en case says about how Canadian courts address Indigenous law

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna glider pilot crashes in the Columbia Valley

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the circumstances of the crash

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Summerland approves solar project

Despite community opposition, council voted 4-3 for Cartwright Mountain location

Police search for suspect in assault on woman in downtown Kelowna

Kelowna police received a report a woman had been assaulted by an unknown man on July 12

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two positive COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm

The risk of exposure to the general public related to this farm is considered to be low

Oliver Town Hall closed to public as staffer displays COVID-19 symptoms

One staff member at Oliver Town Hall is being tested for coronavirus

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Most Read