Opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. protest outside the BC Legislature building in Victoria on Jan. 24, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Former UN committee member defends stance on B.C.’s Coastal GasLink pipeline

First Nations LNG Alliance accused UN committee, human rights watchdog of not doing their research

A former member of an anti-racism committee at the United Nations says she stands by its statement in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs.

Gay McDougall was vice-chair of the UN Committee to End Racial Discrimination when it called for three major resource projects in B.C. to be halted until the free, prior and informed consent of all affected Indigenous groups was granted.

Those resource projects included the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the Site C hydroelectric dam and the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

“This question of the right of Indigenous people to make decisions according to their own laws, customs and traditions, has to be respected by the state authority,” McDougall, whose term on the committee ended Jan. 19, said in an interview from New York.

The First Nations LNG Alliance issued open letters to both the United Nations committee and the B.C. human rights commissioner last week accusing them of failing to do their research before taking a position.

CEO Karen Ogen-Toews, a former elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, says in the letter that the committee should have been aware that 20 First Nations governments negotiated agreements with Coastal GasLink following five years of consultation.

She accuses the committee of issuing a decision without investigation, research or due diligence, and says the statement was ignorant of Canadian laws and regulatory procedures.

The letter references a comment made by the committee’s chair to a media outlet after the statement was issued that he did not know the project had support from Indigenous groups and that the committee does not conduct investigations.

“The UN committee’s statement and recommendations should simply and immediately be withdrawn, along with an apology to the 20 nations,” the letter says.

McDougall said more work went into the statement than the comments by the chairman suggest and she believes the chairman was surprised by the question.

She was part of the committee’s working group that spent six months researching the issues in Canada before the statement.

“This was not an ill-considered position that we had,” said McDougall, who is also a human rights lawyer.

She visited B.C. and spent time with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, an Indigenous advocacy group that has issued statements in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline.

Through the union, she said she met both elected and hereditary chiefs from several First Nations, including some who said they were in favour of the project.

“We do a lot of work on issues relating to Indigenous Peoples, their land and natural resources, which are under threat in various places around the world. So this issue of the Indigenous Peoples not being a monolith is not new to us,” she said.

In 2017, she said at least one Wet’suwet’en leader spoke to the committee in Geneva. A Wet’suwet’en news release says Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, appeared as a witness and submitted a discrimination complaint to the UN over Canada’s environmental assessment process.

The visit by Na’moks and two other First Nation leaders came on the heels of the approval then cancellation of plans by Petronas to build a massive pipeline and LNG plant in the Skeena River estuary.

It’s McDougall’s understanding, as hereditary clan chiefs say, that they have authority over the broader 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory, while the elected band councils administer smaller reserves, she said.

Kasari Govender, B.C.’s human rights commissioner, issued a letter Thursday in response to the First Nations LNG Alliance saying she is aware that 20 First Nations support the project, but that human rights is not a numbers game.

“Just as these bands have the right to give their consent, other Indigenous rights holding groups impacted by resource projects proposed on their territories also have the right to withhold their consent,” she says in the letter.

READ MORE: B.C. human rights commissioner asks federal government to halt Coastal GasLink

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay and Boundary farm advisors services extended through July 2021

KBFA has engaged with 850 producers from 563 farms since June of 2018

Mount Baker students support Spooner Park initiative

Outdoor Education and Geography students work with Mainstreams to clear weeds, support ecosystem

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Cranbrook and Kimberley Councils support initiative calling on BC Gov. to cover prescription contraception

On September 14, 2020, Cranbrook City Council unanimously passed a motion calling… Continue reading

Former MP Wayne Stetski running for BC NDP in Kootenay East

Former federal MP Wayne Stetski is running as the BC NDP candidate… Continue reading

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read