Deal reached in northern British Columbia pipeline impasse

SMITHERS, B.C. — Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have reached a deal with the RCMP to allow a natural gas company access across a bridge that had been blocked in their territory.

Following several hours of meetings, Chief Na’Moks told reporters that the agreement is between the chiefs and the RCMP to ensure the safety of the First Nation’s members.

He says representatives from Coastal GasLink were invited to the meeting to ensure they are on the same page, but emphasized it is not a deal with the company and the hereditary chiefs remain “adamantly opposed” to a pipeline project planned on their territory by the company.

According to the agreement, Na’Moks says company workers will be allowed across a bridge and the RCMP will also remove a roadblock that was preventing some members of the nation from accessing a Unist’ot’en healing camp near the bridge.

He says members of the First Nation will not face arrest and the Unist’ot’en camp will remain intact.

The agreement applies to an interim court injunction, which is meant to prevent anyone from impeding the company’s work until the defendants, which include members of the Unist’ot’en camp, file a response.

The agreement was reached Thursday at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, a day after the chiefs announced a tentative deal would see members of the First Nation observe the injunction by allowing Coastal GasLink workers and contractors access to a work site where the natural gas pipeline is planned.

On Wednesday, residents of the healing camp said they were “reeling” from the situation and had asked that a gate that they see as vital to their safety remain intact.

Na’Moks said a metal gate will remain, but a wooden gate will be removed. It is too wide for the bridge and constitutes an obstruction, he added.

The RCMP arrested 14 people on Monday when they enforced the injunction.

Police also dismantled a nearby checkpoint erected by members of the Wet’suwet’en, who say the company does not have authority to work on their territory without consent from the nation’s hereditary clan chiefs.

TransCanada Corp. says it has signed benefit sharing agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the pipeline route.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline would run though the Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40 billion export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

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