British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he believes the stand-off between the RCMP, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink (CGL) can be solved through talking.
“We are confident that there is a way forward. I spent a day in a smokehouse feast at the request of the Wetsuwet’en hereditary leaderships last year. I spent a half-day session at the Office of Wet’suwet’en and its clear to me that there is a way forward,” said Horgan at a resource conference in Prince George, B.C., about 350 km southeast of where the hereditary chiefs and their supporters are facing off against CGL and the RCMP.
While Horgan met with hereditary chiefs last year, he has not agreed to another meeting at this point, preferring to send his Indigenous Affairs minister in his place.
The hereditary chiefs said they didn’t have time to meet with Scott Fraser and wanted to talk decision maker to decision maker.
When that failed, Horgan appointed former NDP MP Nathan Cullen as a liaison.
As the conference was taking place inside, a rally in support of resource development and workers took place outside.
The rally was arranged by a group called the North Matters, which was initially formed to show support for LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink projects. BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson addressed the group outside Prince George Civic Centre.
(A rally was held outside the resrouce conference in support of the CGL pipeline. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN)
Some Wet’suwet’en elected leaders and Hereditary Chiefs like Helen Michelle from the Skin Tyee Nation came to lend her voice in support of the building of a pipeline.
“Everybody is getting divided over this whole thing. It should not happen. Everything should be discussed properly, sitting at the table coming to a solution. Not stopping people from working. Jobs are very important,” said Helen Michelle.
Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale came to the resource forum because she felt it was important that leaders from different sides be in a room together and have discussions.
“It a great opportunity to bring First Nations, industry and investors into a group and into a room where we can talk about our shared interests and how we can move together on a path to prosperity, “ said Chief Gale.
On Tuesday, the province awarded her nation a permit to move ahead with a geothermal energy project.
The project would help their community transition from a fossil fuel-based energy grid to renewable energy.
On the same day Fort Nelson was approved for natural gas liquefaction plant to supply natural gas to the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Gale said the facility will be creating jobs and an economic boost to a region that had been struggling.
“A lot of people have lost their homes and had to pack up and leave. That is the last thing we want went to see in Fort Nelson. We really want to bring families together, we want people to have good lives and good jobs and good opportunity to raise their kids,” shared Gale.
Horgan also talked about what he is doing to help the struggling forestry industry.
The premier shared the strategy but said they must be cautious not to upset Canada’s biggest trading partners because it could have legal consequences.
“We are aiding the forest industry through a $67 million fund,” he said. “We always have to be mindful when government intervenes in the market place, particularly in respect to forestry that runs afoul of the Softwood Lumber Agreement with the United States.”
The resource conference had industry, government and leaders that support resource extraction.