The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are scheduled to meet for a second day with senior federal and provincial ministers today as they try to break an impasse in a pipeline dispute that’s sparked national protests and led to disruptions in the economy.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser began the long-sought talks Thursday afternoon.
They wrapped up after about three hours with Fraser saying the talks were productive and the mood in the room was respectful.
Bennett said it was a “very good start.”
Hereditary Chief Na’moks left without making a statement.
Fraser says it wouldn’t be appropriate to release details of what was discussed.
“We don’t want to jeopardize anything,” he added. “We had a productive day today and we’re hoping for a very solid day tomorrow, too.”
Bennett tweeted the talks were set to begin at 8:30 PT Friday.
Before the meeting began, both the RCMP and Coastal GasLink said they agreed to conditions requested by the chiefs to allow the discussions to progress.
The natural gas company agreed to a two-day pause in its activities in northwestern B.C., while the RCMP committed to ending patrols along a critical roadway while the negotiations unfold.
The hereditary chiefs’ opposition to a natural gas pipeline cutting across their traditional territory, coupled with their efforts to limit police presence on their lands, have sparked shows of support across the country that have halted rail service for the past three weeks.
The dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project began months ago, but tensions began to rise on Dec. 31 when the B.C. Supreme Court granted the company an injunction calling for the removal of any obstructions from roads, bridges or work sites it has been authorized to use in Wet’suwet’en territory.
The RCMP moved in to enforce that injunction on Feb. 6. Hours later, protesters started holding up railway traffic outside of Belleville, Ont., in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, thwarting freight and passenger rail travel.