Here’s what you need to know about the first nations’ protests

Photo by Wicliff Thadeu on Unsplash

If you tried to make the trip Montreal-Toronto or Montreal-Ottawa by train, you have surely noticed that several railroads across Canada are blocked by certain Aboriginal nations, but why this blockage?

The situation
Wet’suwet’en territory, located in British Columbia, is an unceded territory, which means that this territory has not been ceded or acquired by the government. Therefore, the government has no real jurisdiction over this territory. Despite the fact that it is a norm that the indigenous nations have authority over the territory in question, it is rather a gray area. The protests started due to the provincial government’s decision to support the more than 670 km long “Coastal GasLink” pipeline, which would cost more than $ 6.6 billion.

This pipeline project would divide the Wet’suwet’s First Nations into two halves, and the hereditary chiefs of this Indigenous nation strongly oppose it.

Despite the fact that the hereditary chiefs of this nation did not give heir consent to this project, the company in charge of this pipeline obtained the consent of 20 band councils that have been elected by the First Nations that would be impacted territorially by this project. Five of these twenty band councils represent the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claim that band councils do not have the authority to that this decision.

Since the announcement of this project, protests have multiplied all across Canada, taking the form of blocked railways. According to a Mohawk protester from Kanhawake who participated in the blockage in the south of Montreal, it is “symbolic of showing our dissatisfaction near the train rails that cross our territory”.

The federal Minister of Transport recognizes that the pressure exerted by opponents of the Coastal GasLink project has a strong impact on the transportation of goods and Canadian residents who wish to move from one province to another.

A divided opinion
Despite the many protests, opinion within the Wet’suwet’ nation is still very divided. On one hand, there are all these people who oppose it because it will have an impact on the territory in question, on their water and on their lives, and on the other hand there are those who perceive an economic advantage . Joseph Skin, part of the Skin Tyee band, a community of over 134 people from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, said that community members live in poverty and that this project gives them the opportunity for a better future. He said that it was a difficult decision to sign the agreement for this project, but that it was necessary.

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