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Pipeline at centre of conflict creating jobs for First Nations: chief

Pipeline means jobs: chief

A pipeline at the centre of a conflict between hereditary chiefs and a natural gas company in northern British Columbia is creating jobs for Indigenous people and lifting communities from poverty, says an elected chief of a band that supports the project.

All 20 elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route have signed benefits agreements with the company. The Haisla Nation in Kitimat is among them and Chief Coun. Crystal Smith said the project will help the community become less reliant on meagre federal funding.

"Our governance system has been managing poverty. It's a similar situation in every First Nation in this province, in this country, of managing limited funds to be able to assist our people," Smith said.

"In order to achieve independent nations, we need independent members. The opportunities that are available for today's generation and future generations of First Nations people that participate in these projects are life changing. They're nation changing."

The 670-kilometre pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to a liquefaction facility in Kitimat as part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project.

However, five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs say the pipeline cannot proceed without their consent. Their supporters at a camp near Smithers have been blocking construction in violation of a court injunction.

The elected band council of the Wet'suwet'en, on the other hand, has signed a benefits deal to support the pipeline.

The dispute has highlighted a debate over whether hereditary chiefs should have more power under Canadian law. The Indian Act established band councils, made up of elected chiefs and councillors, who have authority over reserve lands. Hereditary chiefs are part of a traditional form of Indigenous governance that courts have grappled with how to recognize.

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wishes pipeline supporters would consider the dangers of the project.

"These man camps are dangerous places. They fly in and fly out, they have no social responsibility to where they are. They get to go home. We are home," he said.



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