Trudeau touts LNG amid pipeline showdown in B.C.
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2019 11:53AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2019 7:42PM PST
Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside a speaking event by the prime minister in Kamloops Wednesday, just days after more than a dozen people were arrested at a pipeline protest camp in northern B.C.
At the Liberal fundraising event, Justin Trudeau heralded the benefits of liquefied natural gas both for the environment and the Canadian economy.
"We moved forward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest private sector investment in Canada's history, $40 billion, which is going to produce Canadian LNG that will supplant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the environment," he said.
Trudeau's remarks came less than 48 hours after RCMP officers arrested 14 people at a roadblock set up by members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation near Houston, B.C.
Mounties arrived at the site Monday to enforce and injunction that was granted last month to prevent protesters from blocking access to TransCanada's planned Coastal GasLink project, a 670-kilometre pipeline that would connect to LNG Canada's natural gas operation in Kitimat.
Despite what appeared to be a subdued start to officers' interaction with protesters, the force announced that more than a dozen people had been arrested by 6:45 p.m. that evening.
With one blockade dismantled, attention turned Wednesday to the fate of a second barrier blocking access to the territory.
In a tweet, leaders expressed concern that the RCMP would return to take down the latter roadblock.
"They spent yesterday clearing the road between the Gitdimt’en and Unist'ot’en checkpoints and made it within approximately 10 km of the bridge," the post read. "Yesterday, jet boats had been passing along Wedzin kwa (Morice River) which is the only other access to this remote camp."
In an update from the Unist'ot'en camp that afternoon, organizers said hereditary chiefs had decided to voluntarily remove the blockade in order to avoid further physical confrontations with police.
"Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs will open gate and comply with injunction," the tweet read. "They do not want violence that happened in Gitdimt'en to repeat here. Many tears shed. Police negotiating with Clan to possibly allow gate to stay up. This is not over."
B.C. Premier John Horgan says also addressed the situation Wednesday, saying he's "confident that a peaceful resolution can be found.
"It is my hope and expectation that everyone is focused on working towards a peaceful resolution to the impasse," he told reporters.
Horgan said enforcing the injunction is an "operational issue for the RCMP," but said his government is satisfied that LNG Canada has met the obligations set out by the province.
"This pipeline represents great opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike, but it also recognizes and highlights the challenges of reconciliation," he said. "There's no quick fix to resolving issues that go back to 1876 and beyond."
News of the arrest sparked mass backlash, with protesters taking to the streets in cities across Canada and even as far as Europe in a show of solidarity with the Gidimt'en clan.
Hundreds marched through the streets of downtown Vancouver, chanting and drumming along the way.
Similar gatherings were held in Victoria, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax among others.
In Vancouver, protesters took to the streets again on Wednesday, this time disrupting traffic at the intersection of East Hastings Street and Clark Drive—an important route leading into the city's downtown core and the Port of Vancouver.
Several prominent politicians and Indigenous leaders have also spoken out against the RCMP's actions.
Earlier this week, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations called the arrests as a violation of the Wet'suwet'en people's rights.
"If this was really about the 'rule of law' then governments would be honouring the rights and title of First Nations in their traditional territories, which are recognized by Canada's own courts," Perry Bellegarde said in a statement.
"The AFN supports the governance and decision-making process of the Wet'suwet'en leaders. Canada and B.C. should do the same. There is no reconciliation in the actions that unfolded yesterday."
In a statement, NDP MP Nathan Cullen—whose riding includes the Houston area—expressed his support for the nation's hereditary leadership.
"I have been in contact with TransCanada, the B.C. and Canadian government as well as the RCMP to ask that all sides continue dialogue," he wrote. "I am calling on the federal government to engage with the Wet'suwet'en and demonstrate Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to real and meaningful reconciliation."
The federal government has so far had little response to the situation other than Trudeau saying "it's not an ideal situation" that 14 people have been arrested.
"The challenge we have to have as Canadians is to be open to listening to people, to understand their concerns and their fears, and to work together to try and allay them," he told supporters Wednesday. "We will always have in this country perspectives that vary widely."
But Wet'suwet'en Chief Namoks said the injunction goes directly against Canada's efforts to make amends for the past and move Indigenous rights forward.
"If this is Canada's version of reconciliation, how can we have a future together?" he told CTV Tuesday.
With files from CTV Vancouver's St. John Alexander and The Canadian Press