Just in case the title wasn’t clear enough for the United Nations (UN), we’ll say it again! The Coastal Gaslink pipeline project, an underground transmission line that will connect natural gas plays in northeastern B.C. with LNG Canada in Kitimat on the west coast, has the support of all 20 First Nations communities along its route.
We bring this up in light of recent events where a UN committee working to end racism has urged Canada to stop the construction of Coastal GasLink (CGL), Trans Mountain Expansion and Site C Dam. It is concerned that a few impacted Indigenous communities have not granted free, prior and informed consent for the projects to move ahead.
What the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) seems to selectively forget, or perhaps voluntarily ignore in this case, are the voices of those 20 First Nations elected band councils along the route who have signed benefit agreements with CGL. Those include:
- Stellat’en First Nation
- Saik’uz First Nation
- McLeod Lake Indian Band
- Saulteau First Nations
- Kitselas First Nation
- West Moberly First Nations
- Lheidli T’enneh First Nation
- Nadleh Whut’en Indian Band
- Burns Lake Indian Band (Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation)
- Blueberry River First Nations
- Halfway River First Nation
- Doig River First Nation
- Wet’suwet’en First Nation
- Yekooche First Nation
- Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band
- Skin Tyee First Nation
- Witset First Nation
- Nak’azdli Whut’en
- Haisla Nation
In all fairness, the CERD Committee's Chairperson Noureddine Amir did admit in a phone interview with Algiers that he was completely unaware that the project had broad Indigenous backing:
“I did not know that most First Nations agree on that. This is something new that comes to my understanding."
- Noureddine Amir, Chairperson, United Nations CERD Committee
When asked why the committee did not gather more information, Amir said its role does not include investigations. The most responsible next step for the CERD would be to retract their statement recently made on Coastal GasLink, Trans Mountain Expansion and Site C Dam.
Benefit Agreements with First Nations
Up until now specific benefits that each First Nation will receive have for the most part been kept out of the public eye. However, a leaked agreement found the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation for example, would receive:
> annual legacy payments over the lifetime of the pipeline project
> “general project payments” in three installments
> education and training in addition to employment opportunities
Courts have revealed further details for others. One Wet’suwet’en band member and business leader, in a court judgment, discussed how his community had a $75-million deal for construction camp facilities for the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that could employ up to 80 people.
In total, the benefit agreements signed between Wet'suwet'en and Coastal GasLink are worth an estimated $338 million. Furthermore, several contractors employed on the project are Wet'suwet'en members.
Why, United Nations, Why?
We politely ask the UN why the voices of those First Nations communities who are in support of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline project have been ignored? Such a renowned organization as yourself surely did some homework on Indigenous support of these projects before condemning the CGL and others?
UN, if you did at least a little digging, you would have discovered that the Wet’suwet’en First Nation has only a select few members in opposition to CGL. Indigenous leaders say a majority of Wet’suwet’en support the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, and not the other way around - how the amount of media attention given to those Wet'suwet'en opponents might make it seem.
Perhaps the situation is best expressed by a Global News commentator Rob Breakenridge in one of his articles:
“If this UN committee believes that it’s racist to ignore the Indigenous voices opposed to these projects, how then do we describe the inclination to ignore the Indigenous voices in support of these projects?”
We also should be asking the UN committee’s members from oil and gas producing nations such as Algeria, Brazil, China, Colombia and the United States what kind of self-interest they could have in issuing such a statement against these three major natural resource projects in Canada?
Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project: 6 Important Facts
The UN committee would have done well to perform just a few minutes of research before it condemned projects that will bring about countless opportunities for the very people it is looking to “defend” from racism.
We’ve done ours, and it took us no time to find out these facts on the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. Hopefully the UN is paying attention.
All 20 First Nations Support CGL
Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 of the elected First Nations councils along the pipeline route
15,000+ Interactions & Engagements
Since June of 2012, Coastal GasLink has made more than 15,000 interactions and engagements with Indigenous groups
$620 Million to Indigenous Businesses
Coastal GasLink has awarded $620 million in contract work to Indigenous businesses for the project’s security, medical and camp management needs and pipeline right-of-way clearing.
$400 Million to Indigenous & Local B.C. Communities
Coastal GasLink has awarded an additional $400 million in contracts and jobs to Indigenous and local B.C. communities during pipeline construction
Up to 2,500 Jobs During Construction
An estimated 2,000 to 2,500 high quality, well-paying jobs will be created during the four-year construction period of CGL and 16 to 35 permanent positions during operation
1,300+ Engagements with Wet’suwet’en
Since 2012, Coastal GasLink has made more than 1,300 interactions with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, including 120 in-person meetings with the Hereditary Chiefs.
Hey UN, You Should Support Coastal GasLink!
We support the Coastal GasLink pipeline project and the overwhelming majority of 100% of elected First Nations councils along its route who do also. We encourage you to respect the rights of those First Nations and consider how natural resource development projects like CGL can positively affect their communities through the creation of new economic opportunities.
Hopefully the UN will take note and do more thorough homework before condemning projects that will contribute to the quality of life for a majority of First Nations in Canada who are in support of natural resource development!
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