On March 1, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Ministers from the federal Liberal government and the B.C. NDP government, announced that they had reached a proposed arrangement in a pipeline dispute that has prompted solidarity protests and blockades across Canada in recent weeks.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser would not give details on the proposal, saying it first has to be reviewed by the Wet’suwet’en people.
Fraser said that while the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline at the heart of the dispute is already approved and under way, the talks have helped develop a protocol to deal with disputes on such projects in the future.
To be clear, the dispute over Coastal GasLink has not been settled. Minister Bennett acknowledges that.
But Bennett says the deal offered to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs this past weekend is nonetheless significant: it would recognize their nation’s land rights over a vast swathe of territory in northwestern British Columbia, and potentially prevent a quarrel like that which has sparked a nationwide solidarity movement from happening again.
Conservatives play to their base on blockades
Federal Minister Bennett was central in getting serious negotiations underway behind the scenes, as was B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan, provincial Minister Fraser and two former B.C. NDP MPs, Murray Rankin and Nathan Cullen.
In contrast, Canada’s Conservative Party played to the Conservative base by taking a strong law and order approach to the blockades and often using divisive language.