WATCH: Wet’suwet’en Nation members explain why they support pipelines
Not all Wet’suwet’en Nation members support the anti-pipeline protests and Shirley Wilson of Francois Lake, B.C. has shared her reasons for supporting the project. She noted that a lot of people involved in the protest are not from the Wet’suwet’en area but come from all over.
“I’m here in support of industry, whether it’s forestry, logging, mining and right now pipelines,” Wilson said.
“I don’t agree with the protests at all because for one thing it’s all one sided.”
The anti-pipeline protesters have been all around Canada recently. There are groups blocking ports in the Vancouver area and also protesters in construction areas for the pipeline. Many are in Ontario as well blocking freight trains and passenger trains around Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
“I just don’t agree with it. I think they’ve brought a lot of disruption and disunity and everything to our culture. That’s not the way the Wer’suwet’en’s operate,” said Wilson.
“We also care for the land, but we have to live a balanced lifestyle.”
Another Wet’suwet’en Nation member named Vernon Mitchell said that he is for the pipeline because it will create jobs for younger members and bring more money into the area.
Five hereditary chiefs have shown their disapproval for the project. But the Coastal GasLink $40 billion pipeline has been approved by 20 elected councils of First Nations people between Kitimat and Dawson Creek.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government gave nearly $10,000 of taxpayer money in 2019 to an organization that has funded and organized anti-pipeline movements.
Environment Canada, which was headed by Liberal minister Catherine McKenna at the time, made two separate payments to Tides Canada—coming to a total of $9,761.
These two payments were made in January and October of 2019.
Although it is unclear how Tides Canada chose to allocate this money, the organization has a noted history of financing anti-oil campaigns in Alberta.
Tides Canada, for instance, funded the Tsleil-Wauteuth First Nation so that they could “stop and oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”
Tides Canada has also funded and organized a campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest, which led to Trudeau’s decision to kill the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
In January, data revealed that Alberta’s economic activity was at its lowest since the 2015-16 recession. As well as this, the province lost more than 18,000 jobs in January, despite the rest of the country adding over 34,000.
Much of Alberta’s economic troubles derive from the federal government’s inanition and inaction in building pipelines. As a result of this, a deep discontent has grown amongst Albertans towards Ottawa—culminating in both a growing separatist movement (Wexit) and the new “Buffalo Declaration“.
CN Rail has acquired an injunction to remove a blockade on the rails of Montreal’s South Shore according to CBC News.
A statement released by the company says, “We’ve obtained the injunction and are hoping for a swift resolution of this incident so that passenger commuter rail service can resume.”
On Thursday, François Legault, the Premier of Quebec said, “Once the injunction is granted, we will dismantle the blockade.”
The injunction was filed by CN Rail on Wednesday because a blockade was formed on the Mont-Saint-Hilaire train line close to Saint-Lambert station.
According to Legault, the Longueuil police were responsible for removing the blockade and would apply force if they had to.
The story in BC is very different with the RCMP offering to remove themselves from the Wet’suwet’en territory.
Service on the Mont-Saint-Hilaire train line was cancelled by transit operator, Exo, who said it was not possible “due to the shortage of buses and drivers in the metropolitan area.”
This train is the second to encounter difficulties in the Montreal area. In Kahnawake, a blockade caused Exo to discontinue travel on the Candiac line. The travel has been discontinued since February 10.
According to Legault, the Quebec government is not going to dismantle that blockade because it is located on Mohawk territory.
A protestor named Pierre-Oliver Parent noted that he felt he should be at the blockade to condemn the government’s actions.
“I’m a white settler, I’m a construction worker,” said Parent. “It’s a huge issue … it’s not the Canada that I want to live in.”
On Thursday, one man decided to attempt to take down the Saint-Lambert blockade on his own while swearing and yelling at the protestors. The man tore a cord that was supporting the banners and said that the protestors didn’t have the right to be blocking trains.
Marie-Therese Belanger, who lives close to the blockade said that she supports what the protestors are doing. She went to the blockade to show her support.
“Someone has to stand up and talk, and if it doesn’t work, this is what you have to do,” said Belanger. “I hope they’ll win.”
Parent said he hopes that the blockades prove to the government that “a large solidarity” is shared with the Wet’suwet’en people.
“We see that people are being touched by the injustice … and injustice to one is an injustice to all,” said Parent.
“All our brothers from each nation, we need to stand together.” he said
The blockades continue throughout Canada with protestors carrying signs that say things like “Stand with Wet’suwet’en” and “Wet’suwet’en Strong”.
Most of them are showing their support for the hereditary chiefs who disagree with the construction of the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline through their land in northern BC, according to CBC News.
It is now known that many Wet’suwet’en people support the pipeline and are angered by the ongoing protests. Some people see the natural gas pipeline as a chance to build their community with the new jobs it will bring.
Though there is still some division in the community, the 20 elected First Nations councils have signed agreements and shown their support for the project.
The national protests began when some of the hereditary chiefs showed their opposition to the project and claimed that it violated their rights.
On Wednesday, the community of Houston held an event at a movie theatre and brought out about 200 people from their community of 2,000, for three hours. Houston is located right on the path of the pipeline. The pro-pipeline event had Wet’suwet’en Nation members explaining why they support the project.
During the meeting people mentioned that they wanted to see the economic opportunities that could be created by the construction.
One of the supporters, Robert Skin, was an elected member of the Skin Tyee First Nation council which is also a part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. He noted that the pipeline will give the next generation a better life.
“With the benefit agreement that [the Skin Tyee] did sign, I see us being in a better place even within the next five years,” he said.
When he was talking at the theatre, he noted that the protestors only have “one side of the story” and are not looking at the positive things that the project could bring.
As the lumber industry has been struggling in the region many people at the event explained that they wanted more of the community to have job opportunities so that they could provide for their families.
The Wet’suwet’en people also said that the protests have made conflict in the community worse than before. Some also noted that they did not want to see a separation between the First Nation and Canada.
Another part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation called the Witset First Nation is very divided on the issue according to Edward Tom, who told CBC that he thought the protestors are “very pugnacious and overbearing,” and added, “They’re professional protestors.”
A lot of people in attendance said that protestors seem to be unaware that many Wet’suwet’en people want the pipeline to be built. The people who have backed the pipeline said that they have received threats and intimidation from other members of the community.
The event marked Marion Tiljoe Shepard’s first time voicing her support for the project. She has a trucking company in the area and feels that the project will help her business along with others in the area. Shepard said that the protestors do not represent her or her community.
“It’s none of their business,” she said. “All of these protesters don’t have the right to close down railways and ships. It’s not right. Go away. I want them to leave.”
Blockades across the country continue to put a halt on the Canadian economy as goods cannot be transported to where they need to be. Prime Minister Trudeau has said that he wants to come to a quick and peaceful solution but that does not seem very plausible at this point.
BMO Capital Markets senior economist, Doug Porter, said that the coronavirus has negatively affected the global economy and the rail shutdown is an added extra pressure for Canada’s economy according to Financial Post.
“The ultimate cost will depend on the duration of the shutdown, and we have plenty of recent evidence to make an early assessment,” said Porter. “The November CN strike, which lasted more than a week, ended up carving less than 0.1 ppts from GDP that month. However, this shutdown threatens to be more open-ended, with the situation ‘fluid.’”
Manufacturers are assuming that their revenues will also be negatively affected by the rail blockades.
Today, Maple Leaf Foods president and chief operating officer, Curtis Frank along with President of CKF Inc., Ian Anderson noted at a press conference that “every day the rail stoppages continue, $850 million worth of manufactured goods are sitting idle.”
Other guests at the conference include ArcelorMittal Dofasco, BB Résaux Électriques, Demers Ambulances, J.D. Irving LTD., Énergie Valero and more.
Chief Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was also scheduled to hold a press conference today in Ottawa with hopes of discussing the present Wet’suwet’en situation.