By Laurie Hamelin
A hereditary chief in British Columbia says people standing in the way of the LNG pipeline need to step aside and let the project get up and running.
“I’m just getting tired of hearing about it,” she says. “I’m just waiting for the shovel to get into the ground , let’s get on with our lives,” says Helen Michelle.
Michelle has been a hereditary chief for 43 years.
When the Coastal GasLink pipeline project was proposed in 2012, she says she made sure to participate in the consultation.
“Our elders told us that when you have opportunity with good business we are not prejudice,” she said. “If there is opportunity, work with them and this is the first opportunity we have ever had to work with a company, and they worked directly with us.”
The pipeline will run 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek, B.C. to a processing plant in Kitimat on the coast. There, the fractured gas will be liquefied and shipped to Asian markets.
190 kilometres of the pipeline will run through the Wet’suwet’en’s traditional lands.
Michelle grew up fishing and picking berries in the area.
She says she isn’t worried about damage to her territory.
But there are now two camps that have been set up within the territory to stop the pipeline.
In that territory, there are six different First Nations. Michelle is from the Skin Tyee Nation.
She says the pipeline will benefit her people.
“We as a small band are really struggling and we want better education and economic development for our young generation and also we have housing problems,” she says.
Michelle says negotiations with Coastal GasLink have been going on with elders and elected council for years.
She says the deal they signed with the company is good.
“This talk with Coastal GasLink didn’t start yesterday, it’s been years in progress. We supported it,” she says.
“We walked the line where Coastal GasLink was going to go, we were on the ground.”
The pipeline has the backing of elected leadership – but five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs don’t want the project and say the band council doesn’t have the jurisdiction to give consent.
Michelle doesn’t agree.
“Myself and my hereditary chiefs and my elders and our community we worked with our young chief, and we worked with him to make this happen.”
Michelle says if the pipeline doesn’t go through, millions of dollars and many jobs will be lost for the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
At the moment, the gate Unist’ot’en camp on the Morice River Road bridge is still in place despite an interim injunction announced Friday by a B.C. judge. Access past the gate would allow the company to start work on a section of the pipeline.
A new checkpoint was built 20 kilometres down the road by another clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation that is currently blocking access to the Unist’ot’en camp.
(Story posted on APTN News and on this page on 20 December 2018)