The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are optimistic ahead of talks today with the federal and provincial governments over the construction of a natural gas pipeline running through their traditional territory.
“I’m quite positive. Ultimately we have to improve the relationship with Indigenous people and each of the provinces in Canada, as well as Canada itself. That’s the goal,” said hereditary chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale).
The meeting comes amid continuing protests and road and rail blockades across the country, including at the B.C. Legislature this week. The protests have been ongoing since early February in opposition to the Coastal GasLink (CGL), a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline being built through Wet’suwet’en traditional lands.
Na’moks said it’s still premature to speculate when the blockades will end.
“Most of them [supporters] are awaiting us to request it. If they see progress then things will quickly deescalate. We just ask that things remain peaceful.”
The talks were briefly canceled after a misscomunication last night but rescheduled within hours. Na’moks said he will have questions over the cause of that blunder.
Attending the talks in Smithers today will be Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart, B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser.
All five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs disputing the pipeline construction will be in attendance but Na’moks said they expect only to “set the stage” today for meetings anticipated to continue all day Friday.
“I’m not going to be up here burning the midnight oil when they should have been here long before,” Na’moks said. “They should have done this in 1997 when we finished the Delgamuukw court case. They just put it on the shelf and look at the position we’re in now.”
Earlier today the RCMP announced they will cease patrols of the Morice West Service Road during the talks.
CGL also announced a two-day pause on pre-construction of the pipeline in the Morice River area.
These two conditions were critical for the hereditary chiefs to begin talks with the provincial and federal governments.