Are the Wet’suwet’en People against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Canada? It’s a question that many of us are asking as we enter into the new year and protestors ramp up their efforts to delay the project's construction. Part of their tactics includes using language that seemingly characterizes the whole Wet’suwet’en Nation as against the new natural gas pipeline project, but we know that is just not true.
In light of having balanced and fact-based discussions around Indigenous Peoples and natural resource projects in Canada, it’s critical that we also hear from Wet’suwet’en community members who are in favour of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
What follows is a collection of quotes and statements made by various Wet’suwet’en members who fully support Coastal GasLink and want to see an end to the series of escalating conflicts happening within their communities. Also see:
15+ Quotes from Wet’suwet’en Members
“Being directly involved in expanding LNG in British Columbia presents our community with an opportunity to benefit from this new industry.” – Raymond Morris, Chief, Nee-Tahi Buhn Indian Band, Wet’suwet’en Nation “The world thinks the matriarchs are behind all the protests going on and that’s not true. None of the matriarchs were contacted. If I keep quiet, if I don’t come forward to address our point of view, it will look like we are supporters [of the protests]. We are not.” – Rita George, Matriarch & Hereditary Subchief, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“I had our community vote and most of my community – 80 per cent – voted in favour of the gas line… There are very few opportunities now and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” – Dan George, Chief, Burns Lake Band, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“The protest organizers are conveniently hiding beneath our blanket as Indigenous People, while forcing their policy goals at our expense. This compromises our Nation’s social well-being and our people’s economic futures.” – Theresa Tait Day, Hereditary Subchief, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“This project will provide jobs, contract and financial benefits that Witset First Nation can use to enhance programs and initiatives for our citizens, such as language and cultural programs.” – Gary Naziel, Hereditary Subchief, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“You no doubt know that the elected council of the Wet’suwet’en supports the pipeline. And so do a majority of our people. But a small group of hereditary chiefs seeks to block the pipeline project.” – Karen Ogen-Toews, Councillor, Former Elected Chief, Wet’suwet’en Nation“There’s quite a bit of support for this project. But people are afraid to speak up… There’s a small group of members from the Wet’suwet’en Nation that doesn’t support the project.” – Bonnie George, Witset First Nation Member, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“Come and listen to us. Get both sides of the story before you go out and stop traffic and stop the rail line. All you’re doing is alienating people who are trying to put a roof over their children’s heads and food on their table.” – Robert Skin, Councillor, Skin Tyee Nation, Wet’suwet’en
“We’ve always been in support of the pipeline. We voted together. Lots to do with jobs, up-and-coming housing, people will be able to start their own companies. For years to come there will be a lot of benefits.” – Rene Skin, Chief, Skin Tyee Nation, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“We’ve had lots of consultation in the last five years or so, and we all discussed it: elders, our band, all our band members, we agreed. We all agreed, and I have hereditary chiefs too, and they all agreed.” – Helen Michelle, Hereditary Chief, Skin Tyee Nation, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think that a small group of people along with many, many non-Native people from wherever, should be controlling and telling us how to live.” – Shirley Wilson, Wet’suwet’en Member
“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t even belong from Witset, and they’re ruining our names, making us look bad… If they’re not from Witset, or not Natives from our village, they shouldn’t even be involved in what’s going on.” – Clement Mitchell, Witset First Nation Member, Wet’suwet’en Nation
“Three to five hereditary chiefs DO NOT speak for all hereditary chiefs. Media only speak to the same chiefs and it’s portrayed as all Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs – they are completely misinformed!” – Candice George, Wet’suwet’en Member
“They’re putting on roadblocks and so on and so forth and that’s uncalled for. They don’t realize who they’re hurting. They’re hurting my people and my kids. – Vernon Mitchell, Wet’suwet’en Member“It’s none of their business. All of these protestors don’t have the right to close down railways and ships. It’s not right. Go away. I want them to leave… it’s divided my family. It’s just so sad.” - Marion Tiljoe Shepherd, Big Frog Clan, Unist’ot’en, Wet’suwet’en
“With the hereditary Chief’s office, there is two sides to a coin and they just listen to one side. And they don’t want to listen to our side. We, as a community, need jobs. There’s no doubt about it. We want to work.” – Philip Tait, Wet’suwet’en Member
Gidimt’en Clan Press Release
On November 14th of 2021, the elected leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation released a joint statement regarding the Gidimt’en Checkpoint blockade and continued protests against Coastal GasLink. Within (see below), the leaders clearly indicate that a majority of Wet’suwet’en people support the pipeline project and would like to see the protests on their land come to an end.
STATEMENT REGARDING GIDIMT’EN CHECKPOINT BLOCKADE
November 14, 2021, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Burns Lake, BC: The elected Chief and Council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are calling for an immediate end to the escalating conflict at the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline crossing of the Morice River.
We want to make it absolutely clear that the actions of a few members of the Gidimt’en Clan who claimed to evict Coastal GasLink and the RCMP from the headwaters of the Morice River (Wedzin Kwa in our language) do not represent the collective views of the Clan or of most Wet’suwet’en people. Even though we are also members of the Gidmit’en Clan, the protestors at the “Coyote Camp” and other protest sites have never consulted us about their actions and cannot claim to represent us or any other members of the First Nation.
Nor can they claim to be practicing traditional protocols. Our communities are in deep mourning following the pandemic loss of several highly respected elders in recent weeks and it is deeply disrespectful to be carrying on public protests at this time. These are sensitive cultural matters, and we raise them only to respectfully encourage all the protestors to show the customary levels of respect.
We must also point out that there are Wet’suwet’en people working on the natural gas pipeline who are now trapped behind the blockade. We fear for their safety and well-being now that their lines of supply and communication are being disrupted.
Finally, BC is undergoing a serious flooding emergency, which is affecting our members in other communities as well as our local supplies and services. This is not the time to be wasting energy and attention on unnecessary conflict in our territories.
The elected representatives of the Wet’suwet’en people have given their support to this project and expect to realize benefits for our people. We went through long and complex proceses of consultation with our members, government, and the industry before agreeing to participate. Despite numerous opportunities to work together, the small group of hereditary chiefs who oppose the project, as well as their Office of the Wet’suwet’en, refused to engage and neither they, nor their non-Indigenous supporters, have offered any meaningful alternatives.
It is certain that this latest blockade will be removed one way or another. We respectfully encourage these outlying members of the Gidimt’en clan and their supporters to step down peacefully and immediately.
Signed by Maureen Luggi (Chief), Karen Ogen (Councillor), Heather Nooski (Councillor).
Coastal GasLink & First Nations: Benefits
The Wet’suwet’en Nation is just one of many Indigenous communities found along Coastal GasLink’s route that stand to benefit economically from the project.
Well paying, long-term jobs are scarce in many of these communities found across the remote British Columbian wilderness. As a result, First Nations leaders are looking at the pipeline project as a way to become more economically independent while simultaneously offering a better way of life for their poverty-stricken communities.
Karen Ogen-Toews, former elected chief and current councillor of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, is one of those leaders who sees Coastal GasLink as an incredible opportunity for her people.
“So far, something like one-third of all the work completed on Coastal GasLink project has been done by Indigenous people. Over time, First Nations people will share in a billion dollars-worth of opportunities for local and Indigenous communities. Many Indigenous people have already had access to training, and have earned qualifications. These benefits also are held out by the LNG Canada project,” said Ogen-Toews in a statement released by the First Nations LNG Alliance, where she is sits as Chief Executive Officer.
“Poverty is a shocking fact of life in Canadian Indigenous communities. Half of our children live in poverty. Our unemployment can hit 70 per cent. We suffer from poor health, poor housing, lower life expectancy, addiction problems, suicides, and limited education and graduation rates.
For my Nation, and for others, LNG development offers a path away from all that,” she continued.
To date, all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline’s right-of-way have signed benefit agreements with the company. Like Ogen-Toews, it seems that the leaders of these First Nations communities also see Coastal GasLink as a means to usher in a brighter future for their people.
Coastal GasLink & First Nations: Quick Facts
• More than $825 million in contracts have been awarded to Indigenous and local businesses to date for the project’s right-of-way clearing, medical, security and camp management needs to date
• More than $1.25 billion in economic benefits for Indigenous and non-Indigenous People to date, including more than $1 billion of that total being awarded to Indigenous-owned businesses or joint venture partnerships
• Coastal GasLink has spent $60 million locally in Northern British Columbia, including $3 million on community investment initiatives, education and training initiatives
• Coastal GasLink has had 26,000 interactions and engagements with Indigenous groups since 2012, to listen to their views, gather feedback and plan the project’s route accordingly
• Coastal GasLink is projected to generate $21 million in annual property taxes for rural B.C. communities upon completion, including many First Nations
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“We are #Wetsuweten and the #CoastalGasLink pipeline protesters do not represent us.— Canada Action (@CanadaAction) December 7, 2021
We want the protesters to cease their blockades and stop misleading people.” #WetsuwetenStrong https://t.co/34RHcrvzf9
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