Minister’s statement on Coastal GasLink project

November 15, 2021 at 5:10 pm  BC, News, Politics

Since 2020, the Province has been actively working with the Wet’suwet’en Nation on dialogue related to the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) project. Separately, the Province and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW) have been working on a reconciliation dialogue through the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding.

Coastal Gaslink Project

Regulatory consultation

The Province has a regulatory responsibility to oversee natural resource projects, including the CGL project.

Consultation and engagement have been ongoing since CGL was first submitted for provincial review in December 2012, and dialogue has continued throughout the construction period. The primary regulators are the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC). The Ministry of Forest, Lands Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) also provides regulatory oversight and support.

In February 2021, the OW received a $50,000 grant from the OGC to support partnerships and capacity regarding regulatory items.

The OGC started consulting with the OW about CGL in 2013. Since early 2020, the parties have engaged on 47 permit applications and 23 information packages related to the project. The OGC has instituted a dedicated response and information-sharing procedure with the OW to answer questions and discuss the regulatory process. This is in addition to the consultation with the Dark House and elected leaders within the Wet’suwet’en Nations.

The EAO has been engaged with the OW since the initial environmental assessment process in 2012. That dialogue has continued throughout construction in 2020 and 2021, including individual touchpoints with Hereditary Chiefs and members.

The EAO has also provided opportunities for the OW to participate in inspections.

Most recently, senior government officials reached out to Wet’suwet’en leadership to offer technical information about the micro-tunneling approach to the Morice River crossing and the regulatory oversight applied to CGL’s construction work.

Collectively, regulatory agencies had over 100 touchpoints with the OW as part of required consultations since early 2020.

Interlocutor

In September 2021, the parties jointly agreed to retain the services of Miles Richardson, a prominent Indigenous leader from the Haida Nation with an extensive background in Indigenous and Canadian government relations, to assist in dialogue between parties related to the CGL project. Richardson’s role is as an interlocutor helping facilitate important conversations between government, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, CGL and other involved parties. 

Agreements related to the CGL Pipeline

Coastal GasLink has project agreements with all 20 elected chiefs and councils of the First Nations along the pipeline route. The Province has also secured agreements with the vast majority of First Nations along the route.

Economic benefits for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people include more than $1.25 billion invested in British Columbia to date. That total includes more than $1 billion being awarded to Indigenous-owned businesses or joint venture partnerships – a number of which have Wet’suwet’en ownership and equity.

Efforts by Industry

The Province recognizes the efforts made by CGL to engage with the OW and the Hereditary Chiefs.

Information shared – from CGL to the OW – has included construction updates, project notifications and permit applications, capacity funding offers, archeological and associated field work participation offers, technical information, and invitations to join key programs including the Construction Monitoring and Community Liaison Program and the Community Workforce Accommodation Advisor program. This is in addition to weekly COVID-19 updates with a medical expert available to answer questions.

It is our understanding that CGL has had more than 500 interactions since April 2020.

Reconciliation Dialogue: 2020 Memorandum of Understanding

The Province recognizes Wet’suwet’en rights and title and has been actively working to facilitate positive reconciliation dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in May 2020 between ten Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial and federal governments. The MOU is an agreement to engage on affirming and implementing Wet’suwet’en rights and title on the Yintah.

The MOU is at the foundation of positive, long-term focused discussions with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to achieve reconciliation, and is separate from the CGL project.

Financial contributions

The Province and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs reached an agreement in March 2021 that provided $7.22 million to support work to implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title. This was a deliverable identified under the MOU.  These funds are intended to support immediate opportunities to advance reunification and enhance the relationship between the Wet’suwet’en and the Province.  The funds included capacity for further work on Wet’suwet’en priorities, such as eco-system monitoring and landscape-level planning, and provided further funding to enable renovations at the former Lake Kathlyn School property, which the community bought through a $1.23-million grant from the Province in 2020.    

Regular engagement

In addition to regular biweekly meetings between the parties to the MOU, the Province and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en also launched external engagement with non-Indigenous communities in the Yintah through a regional engagement group (REG) that involves as many as 50 members. This group has been meeting on a quarterly basis since the first session took place in September 2020. There have been three REG meetings to date.

There is also a Core Advisory Group (CAG) that has been meeting regularly. This group, consisting of eight to 12 community leaders nominated from the REG, first met on Feb. 10, 2021.

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