The RCMP said they were negotiating with protesters who took control of a construction site on the Coastal GasLink project in northern British Columbia, as tensions around the pipeline project increase.
Last year, protests against the pipeline in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory triggered rail blockades across the country and protesters who took control of the construction site this time around issued a press release. press accusing police of using excessive force during arrests.
Dawn Roberts, an RCMP spokeswoman, said two people were arrested last week at the site near Houston, B.C., and Coastal GasLink personnel had not been able to work there since September 20.
An open letter from more than twenty-five archaeologists to the BC Archeology Branch criticizes the work of Coastal GasLink, saying the company and the province did not consult properly with the Wet’suwet’en and that the project could result in the destruction of indigenous artifacts.
TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, owner of the project, disputed the charges in a statement, saying it had come to an agreement with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and that it had unearthed and saved artefacts under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist.
The province’s Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin said the pipeline project has been approved by elected Indigenous leaders and the provincial government is working with hereditary chiefs to reach an agreement on rights and title.
The 670 kilometer Coastal GasLink pipeline has been approved by the province and the 20 elected First Nations councils along its route to transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to a processing and export facility on the coast at Kitimat.
However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claimed that the project had no legitimacy without the consent of their traditional system of governance, urging their allies across the country to act in solidarity.
The open letter signed by 25 archaeological professionals and academics from Canada and the United States says the work and alleged damage at the Lamprey Creek site could have a significant effect on future studies.
“You would have realized that the destruction of archaeological resources – non-renewable resources, will erase much of the context associated with the Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek cultural landscape,” the letter said of the traditional name of the territory where the work is done.
TC Energy’s statement says the company worked with communities and Indigenous representatives to ensure the work can be done safely.
“Coastal GasLink has engaged with Indigenous communities to ensure open and constructive dialogue to protect Indigenous values and cultural heritage,” the company said.
TC Énergie indicated that 21 artefacts were discovered at the site from 2015 to 2020.