Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison is urging protestors to remove blockades that have sprung up across the country in response to a dispute over land access to a proposed pipeline route in central B.C.
Calling the situation a crisis, Morrison said ‘illegal roadblocks’ in B.C and beyond need to be taken down.
“Trudeau’s weak response to this crisis is causing huge problems,” Morrison said, pointing to job layoffs announced by VIA Rail, CN Rail and CP Rail and the economic impacts from trains being unable to transport products on rail lines.
The dispute arose out of a blockade by protesters on a remote forest service road near Houston, B.C., preventing access to a Coastal GasLink worksite, which is currently constructing a natural gas pipeline between Dawson Creek and Kitimat.
However, while there is support from elected band councils on Indigenous territory along the pipeline route, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have asserted title rights on the unceded land where the pipeline would be constructed, leaning on a 1997 decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that affirmed Indigenous title rights to traditional territories.
Morrison said he is aware of the sensitivities and differences between hereditary chiefs and elected band chiefs, who are voted onto a council governance structure imposed on Indigenous nations by the federal government via the Indian Act.
It’s up to the Wet’suwet’en to resolve differences in opinion between hereditary chiefs and elected band councils over the pipeline, said Morrison.
“They have to sit down, and in their culture, decide how they’re going to move forward with the pipeline that was approved from the different Wet’suwet’en groups that are in that area,” Morrison said. “It’s going to be a livelihood for the economy and to have their own financial structures as a result of the pipelines going through there and they know that the pipelines are safe and we know that we have to deliver that natural gas to the West Coast so we can reduce our greenhouse gases in places like China and India by using natural gas.
“I think that’s a win for the world.”
The dispute has inspired several other solidarity blockades across B.C. and Canada, with protests at government offices in Victoria, the Port of Vancouver and rail lines in Ontario and Quebec.
“I think what you’re seeing, too, is it’s always the vocal minority, and that’s the great thing about living in Canada, is you do have the right to a peaceful protest,” said Morrison, a former RCMP officer and diplomat who has worked as a representative of the federal government abroad in southeast Asia.
“A lot of the times, the vocal minority are out there peacefully protesting and I think that’s the joy of living in Canada, compared to some of the countries I’ve lived in. I’m proud to be Canadian because of that. But when a group of people are there to cause problems illegally, that’s stepping into whole new ground.”