Coastal GasLink pipeline construction to resume with draft accord set between chiefs, ministers

Work was expected to resume today on a natural gas pipeline in B.C. that has been at the centre of blockades disrupting both rail and road traffic in many parts of the country.

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief and senior government ministers say they have reached a proposed arrangement to acknowledge land title rights established more than 20 years ago in a Supreme Court decision — an important step in discussions related to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The agreement still needs the approval of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Details of the draft accord were not disclosed. But a joint statement by representatives of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the province and the federal government acknowledged they had not come to an agreement on the pipeline.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, centre, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, left, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C., on Sunday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Chief Woos, one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, called the draft a milestone for everyone involved, though he added the “degree of satisfaction is not what we expected.”

The Wet’suwet’en are governed by both a traditional hereditary chief system and elected band councils. A majority of its councils have approved the pipeline, but some of the hereditary chiefs, including Woos, remain staunchly opposed to it running through their traditional territory.

After the proposal was announced, Coastal GasLink issued a statement saying it would resume construction activities in the Morice River area on Monday. That work was put on pause while the talks, which began on Thursday, continued.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Deer, the secretary of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake, said Sunday that activists had decided to maintain their rail blockade on the territory south of Montreal, at least for now.

Deer said the Mohawks want more clarification on the proposed arrangement before making a final decision.

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