The trouble with the CGL pipeline is that you can make a compelling progressive argument either side of the proposal. Something that nobody anticipated.
To be sure, there are many complex layers in this debate, but the fact that its happening in live-time has brought out unprecedented protests across the country; blockading railways, harbours, marine transport, and several government offices.
To be clear, I’m not a lawyer nor am I of First Nation’s lineage, so my view on this is just that: an unprofessional opinion.
Make no mistake, the right wing is united on this. They’re rallying behind the law-and-order flag calling the protests illegal and demanding that politicians interfere with police and the enforcement side of things.
They have it wrong too.
Protesting, demonstrating, whatever you want to call it, is a protected right under our constitution. The line crossed between a lawful, peaceful assembly of folks highlighting causes and an illegal act is a determination made by a judge when asked to order an injunction: this is not a right granted to armchair pundits. So stop it.
As it turns out, nothing is clear and obvious about the pipeline proposal and the Wet’suwet’en (re)action.
The quick glance tells us that 20 elected first nations along the proposed route have given their blessing to the project while a handful of hereditary chiefs reject the idea. The 20 elected band councils cover 100% of the region, if we’re keeping score.
It was this simple look that CGL got its permission slip and required permits to begin this pipeline.
Not so fast says the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en.
Sure enough, digging deeper into this, there are layers of complex court rulings that have given rise to the protests we see today.
The compelling narrative seems to be the lack of consent regarding the proposed route as it drives through sensitive Wet’suwet’en lands and heritage sites. It opens up wounds around the colonial treatment that our First Nations have been treated with.
Competing with this narrative is an environmental one that takes a stand against the 30k job industry in BC. While natural gas as an industry isn’t without challenges or concerns, there’s a problem with the narrative that the Wet’suwet’en are against the CGL pipeline because they’re opposed to the NG industry: its misleading.
You see, consent was implied for a different routing of the pipeline that was eventually ruled out by CGL. It immediately begs a question: if the Wet’suwet’en were so anti-natural gas, why would they suggest an alternative routing of a pipeline that they would have approved of?
Why would the Wet’suwet’en suggest an alternative route for CGL? Because they’re fully aware of the Supreme Court decisions that give them a major role to play here; and to grant them this alternative routing would have been the very kind of reconciliation event that everyone wants to showcase long before it was coined as a popular phrase by politicians.
It also proves that the Wet’suwet’en leadership (elected and hereditary) aren’t unreasonable people, they were more than ready to do a deal; that they were plugged into the needs of their peoples.
The CGL Pipeline wasn’t proposed yesterday or last week, this is a multi-year project in its application phase. The decision to approve the CGL Pipeline as is was done in 2014 while Christy Clark was Premier in BC and Stephen Harper was your Prime Minister.
We get to this to this current crisis because of activists of the Wet’suwet’en in setting up road blocks and checkpoints along the access points within their territory that made it impossible for CGL to perform any work on the pipeline sites. As a result, CGL sought out and won court injunctions that required these activists to step aside and allow access by CGL to its work sites. Essentially to let the pipeline project proceed without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en. So this was done, by police, acting with an enforcement order.
That’s when the progressive world exploded.
It is a valid left wing argument to support unionized, family supporting high wage careers in resource development. Jobs that pay very substantial levels of taxes that support public healthcare, education, highways and the social safety net. Jobs that will also directly benefit the various first nations who have been on the suffering end of the economy for generations.
It is also a valid left wing argument to support a continued evolving reconciliation process that empowers first nations to come to full treaty status, gain full equality and shared decision making capacity with the various levels of government that surround us.
It is also valid left wing argument to support the fight against climate change; by requiring the industrial players to do more to mitigate legitimate concerns raised by the climate science community.
The false choice as presented by the big media and the right wing is that the left has to pick one of these avenues; so that they may define “leftists” as one of the above. The truth is that we’re all of the above and this is our test.
We’ll overcome this. If we work together.