Without Indigenous consent for pipelines, more protests to be expected: experts

Canadians can expect more disruptive protests if the federal government pushes forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion against the wishes of some of the Indigenous communities it will pass through, says a British Columbia lawyer and Indigenous negotiator.

In the last month, Indigenous people across the country set up barricades on train tracks, roads and bridges, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs, some of whom object to the construction of a natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

The conflict laid bare the fact that nearly four decades after treaty rights were affirmed in the Constitution, Canada has not figured out what the “duty to consult” Indigenous people on decisions that affect their rights really means.

Cynthia Callison, a negotiator for agreements among Indigenous peoples, governments and private sector developers, said while there are some distinct differences between the natural-gas pipeline and the Trans Mountain project, both projects have gone ahead despite the fact that not all Indigenous communities affected by the projects have given their consent.

Numerous elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route agreed to the project and the B.C. government approved it. But it doesn’t have the collective backing of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en, who claim authority over the traditional territory of their nation that isn’t on a reserve.

“There will be conflict,” said Callison, a lawyer and member of the Tahltan Nation in northwestern B.C. “They clearly don’t have the support but they made a decision based on a model of risk _ ‘Do we have enough Indigenous people that support this project?’ ”

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