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Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Feb. 14: A truck with flags and posters stand near the closed train tracks on Day 9 of a rail blockade in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in northern B.C.

Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

The latest

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday cancelled a trip to the Caribbean as his government looks for a negotiated solution to the anti-pipeline protests that have blocked key parts of Canada’s train system and transportation infrastructure.
  • In an interview on Sunday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller pointed to failed police interventions in Oka, Que., in 1990 and Ipperwash, Ont., in 1995 – both of which turned deadly – to argue for continuing discussions with protesters, who are supporting those opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Northern British Columbia. Mr. Miller held a seven-hour meeting with the Mohawk community near the Tyendinaga rail crossing in Ontario on Saturday.
  • There is “no quick fix” to the Wet’suwet’en pipeline feud, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday after much of Canada’s rail network was suspended because of solidarity protests with B.C. chiefs. “You need to know we have failed our Indigenous peoples over generations, over centuries,” Mr. Trudeau said, adding that “we also are, obviously, a country of laws. And making sure that those laws are enforced, even as there is, of course, freedom to demonstrate free and to protest."
  • Via Rail cancelled all passenger service and Canadian National Railway Co. started shutting down its eastern network on Thursday due to protest blockades. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that he’s “deeply concerned” about the economic impact, but stressed the need for dialogue.


The backstory

Jan. 9, 2019: A blockade stands near the Unist'ot'en camp near Houston, B.C.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

In early 2019, a forestry road near Houston, B.C., was the scene of a tense standoff between RCMP and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. At issue were Coastal GasLink’s plans to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, part of a $6.6-billion project to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the coast. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils supported it, but hereditary chiefs remained opposed.

At two Wet’suwet’en camps, Unist’ot’en and Gitdumden (also spelled Gidimt’en), blockades obstructed Coastal GasLink’s path to build the pipeline. RCMP set up roadblocks and arrested people to enforce an injunction allowing workers to use the road. Days later, the threat of more conflict was averted by an agreement that the RCMP would leave Unist’ot’en’s healing lodge alone and allow the Wet’suwet’en to trap in the backcountry unimpeded.

In the year since then, Coastal GasLink cleared some land to make room for construction workers’ camps, but disputes over the pipeline and trapping rights continued to escalate in the area. Coastal GasLink said staff found trees partly cut down on a road to Unist’ot’en. A Wet’suwet’en house group gave Coastal GasLink an eviction notice and cancelled the deal reached the year before. Eventually Coastal GasLink put construction on hold. In December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the anti-pipeline group had harmed Coastal GasLink’s interests, but talks between the pipeline opponents and the B.C. government delayed the RCMP from enforcing the new injunction. On Feb. 5, talks broke down, and in the ensuing days, the RCMP moved in and made several arrests.

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Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

Kitimat

ALTA.

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice R. Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp;

thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

Haida

Gwaii

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TC Energy’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca


The national backlash

Since the RCMP’s first wave of arrests on Feb. 6, solidarity protests in B.C. and across the country have called for their withdrawal from Wet’suwet’en territory. Protest sites have included the Port of Vancouver, public-transit rail lines in Vancouver and Montreal, the offices of federal cabinet ministers and the Justice Department building in Ottawa.

The biggest disruption by far has been a blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., which severed the main rail link between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. In response, Canadian National Railway Co. began shutting down its entire eastern network on Feb. 13, and in response, Via Rail suspended all intercity rail travel in Canada. The blockaders were served with a court injunction but deny they have damaged or blocked anything on the railway. Enforcing injunctions is up to provincial solicitors-general, the federal Transport Minister says.

Vancouver, Feb. 13: A woman uses a bullhorn to make an announcement as protesters occupy B.C. Attorney-General David Eby's constituency office.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Feb. 13: Jocelyn Wabano-Lahtail holds two maps on the closed train tracks at a solidarity blockade.

Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

Ottawa, Feb. 12: Pro-Wet'suwet'en demonstrators block an Ottawa intersection.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press


A Wet’suwet’en who’s who

John Ridsdale, also called Namoks, is one of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

Within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the pipeline dispute hinges on an old question many First Nations in Canada face: Whether authority over resource development lies with elected band councils, hereditary leaders or both. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, whose authority is coded in the federal Indian Act, signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, along with 15 other B.C. elected band councils that accepted the pipeline. But the Wet’suwet’en also have a system of five matrilineal clans and 13 houses, each of which has at least one hereditary chief. Together, the chiefs oversee traditional territories that, like many First Nations lands in B.C., were never ceded by treaty.

Two house chiefs supported the pipeline, only to have their titles stripped by other chiefs. Eight of the house chiefs say the risk of environmental damage to the land is too great to allow the pipeline, and are part of the movement against it. This includes Warner Naziel, chief of the Laksamshu clan’s Sun House, who is the defendant in a lawsuit by Coastal GasLink along with his former partner, Freda Huson. Coastal GasLink accuses them of being the ones behind the Unist’ot’en camp, which is affiliated with a Gilseyhu house, Dark House.​

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans

and 13 house groups in the British Columbia

Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the

Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of

hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

GITDUMDEN

LAKSILYU

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13

house groups in the British Columbia Interior.

A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en,

represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GIL_SEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

House name

(Thin House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

(Dark House)

Samooh

Kayex

(Birchbark House)

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

Wah Tah K’eght

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Namox

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

Note: In this version of the chart, the order of the

clans has been stacked due to space considerations.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British

Columbia Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents

the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

GILSEYHU

LAKSILYU

GITDUMDEN

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Cassyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(House in the

Middle of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Madeek

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Anaskaski

(House on a Flat Rock)

(Birchbark House)

(Where it Lies

Blocking the Trail)

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

Kloum Khun

Kweese

Note: In this

version of

the chart, the

order of the

clans has been

stacked due to

space consider-

ations.

Medzeyex

Djakanyex

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

The Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans and 13 house groups in the British Columbia Interior.

A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

LAKSILYU

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

GITDUMDEN

GILSEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Kloum Khun

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Kweese

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Djakanyex

Cassyex

Medzeyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Tsa K’en yex

Kaiyexweniits

Tsaiyex

(House of Many Eyes)

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Madeek

(House on a Flat Rock)

(Birchbark House)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies Blocking

the Trail)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com

WET’SUWET’EN NATION

Unist’ot’en is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 hereditary house groups under the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia’s

Interior. A non-profit society, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, represents the interests of hereditary chiefs in the area.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

LAKSILYU

TSAYU

LAKSAMSHU

GITDUMDEN

GILSEYHU

Clan name

(Big Frog Clan)

(Small Frog Clan)

(Beaver Clan)

(Fireweed and Owl Clan)

(Wolf and Bear Clan)

Hereditary

title

Kloum Khun

Goohlaht

Wah Tah Kwets

Kweese

Woos

Yex T’sa wit’ant’

Kwen Beegh Yex

Djakanyex

Cassyex

Medzeyex

House name

(Thin House)

(House Beside the Fire)

(Grizzly House)

(Beaver House)

(Owl House)

Knedebeas

Unist’ot’en

is affiliated

with

Dark House

Hagwilnegh

Na’Moks

Smogelgem

Gisday’wa

Yex T’sa wil_

k’us

G’en egh l_a yex

Tsa K’en yex

Tsaiyex

Kaiyexweniits

(House of Many Eyes)

(Rafters on

Beaver House)

(Sun House)

(House in the Middle

of Many)

(Dark House)

Wah Tah K’eght

Samooh

Tsee K’al K’e yex

Kayex

Madeek

(Birchbark House)

(House on a Flat Rock)

Anaskaski

(Where it Lies Blocking

the Trail)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wetsuweten.com


The legal issues at stake

Land claims: The pipeline opponents’ case hinges on the 1997 Delgamuukw decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which involved land claims by the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan people. It upheld Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands never ceded by treaty, but didn’t answer specific questions of title by the Wet’suwet’en or Gitxsan.

Artifacts: The chiefs have also pinned their legal arguments on stone artifacts they say were unearthed at Camp 9A, a site on the construction route. B.C. government protocols require a perimeter around sites where heritage objects are found. There is no doubt that the artifacts are authentic, but legal action by Coastal GasLink has disputed whether they were really found there or planted to prevent construction. The Globe and Mail’s Brent Jang interviewed more than 20 people familiar with the case and examined court records to piece together the timeline of how the artifacts were found and the debate about what should happen to Camp 9A.

More reading

Opinion

Gina Starblanket and Joyce Green: What is happening on Wet’suwet’en territory shows us that reconciliation is dead

Ken Coates: Don’t confuse support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs with the spirit of Idle No More

Robyn Urback: Where are the solidarity protests for the First Nations that support Coastal GasLink?

Andrew Coyne: Duty to consult? Fine. But how? And with whom?

Editorial: A protest is a constitutionally protected right. A railway blockade isn’t

In depth

In Wet’suwet’en territory, torn loyalties over the future of a nation and a pipeline

The Globe’s coverage of the 2019 Wet’suwet’en standoff

‘I’m here in support of the Wet’suwet’en people’: Portraits of protest at the anti-pipeline camp in B.C.

Protests erupt across the country in showdown over B.C. natural gas pipeline

Indigenous land rights: The big picture

This pipeline is challenging Indigenous law and Western law. Who really owns the land?


Compiled by Globe staff

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Based on reporting from Brent Jang, Justine Hunter, Wendy Stueck and The Canadian Press


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