‘Do I have a seconder?’ Saanich councillor gets no backing for Wet’suwet’en motion

Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers is scrambling to find a seconder for her motion asking the provincial and federal governments to suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. and to consult with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

“Sadly I haven’t found a seconder yet,” said Chambers on Thursday.

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As federal and provincial ministers travel to Smithers today for planned talks with the hereditary chiefs over their opposition to the pipeline on their land, Chambers wants Saanich to weigh in and has only days left to find another councillor to join her.

Her motion was delayed from hitting the floor this week because of the time spent on public comment over a contentious recommendation to review bylaws governing off-leash dogs, particularly at Cadboro Bay beach.

The delay could prove helpful in giving her more time to find a seconder, said Chambers.

Chambers’ motion is on the agenda for Monday evening.

Based on a recent motion passed by Victoria council, Chambers is asking Saanich council to express solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The motion asks that the District of Saanich call on the B.C. and Canadian government to suspend permits authorizing construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and begin consultation with the Wet’suwet’en people; end any attempt at forced removal of Wet’suwet’en people from their traditional territories; and refrain from any use of coercive force against Wet’suwet’en people seeking to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through non-violent methods.

The proposed $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline — a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project — would span 670 kilometres in northern B.C., starting near Dawson Creek and extending to Kitimat, where an $18-billion liquefied natural gas export plant is being built.

Hereditary chiefs representing five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation near Smithers say the Coastal GasLink project, which crosses part of their territory, does not have their consent.

But five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils on the route, as well as 15 other elected Indigenous band councils, have supported it.

Chambers maintains the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have jurisdiction over the Wet’suwet’en territory.

Chambers is also against the twinning of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline that exists between Edmonton and Burnaby, and Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River near Fort St. John in northeastern B.C., as well as the Coastal GasLink pipeline. “They are all connected,” she said.

Going ahead with these projects means Canada will not be able to meet its greenhouse-gas-reduction targets, she said.

“For me, personally, this is about being on the right side of history and to be an exemplar,” said Chambers.

Victoria city councillors on Jan. 24 voted 6-1 to endorse a declaration calling on the provincial and federal governments to take action in the Coastal GasLink dispute in northern B.C. Coun. Geoff Young was the lone councillor to oppose the motion.

The vote was controversial, as some questioned what role the municipality of Victoria had in an issue in northern B.C.

In response, the First Nations LNG Alliance, a collective of First Nations in support of LNG development in B.C., wrote its own motion, arguing that Victoria council had no right to interfere in the democratic processes of First Nations or “meddle in an issue that is for the Wet’suwet’en people alone to decide.”

Skeena Liberal MLA Ellis Ross noted that 20 First Nations whose territory runs along the path of the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline — including the Wet’suwet’en — have signed agreements with the gas company. First Nations leaders, elected and non-elected, spent years investigating LNG, he argued.

If anything, Victoria council’s interference makes the issue more complicated and more difficult to resolve, Ross said last month.

Chambers disagrees, saying that when the province is not doing its part, a municipal government can change the world.

“I do believe that municipal governments can hold the bar.”

Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en have been occupying the steps of the B.C. legislature this week. Chambers said she has attended as a witness only.

“I haven’t spoken or anything because that’s not my place,” said Chambers. “I’m so inspired. I’m not seeing violence. I’m seeing so many Canadians wanting to do that right thing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, protesters blocked the Patricia Bay Highway at Mount Newton Cross Road for three hours.

Dealing with Indigenous land-title issues and reconciliation is at a tipping point, said Chambers, and is “synonymous” with addressing climate change.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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