Construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that would run across British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, has ground to a halt amid protests from the region’s indigenous people, including the Wet’suwet’en people. Approximately 28 percent of the pipeline’s proposed 420-mile trajectory runs through Wet’suwet’en tribal lands. When hereditary chiefs’ opposition failed to halt construction, protestors formed blockades along specific train railways and ports throughout British Columbia to challenge Canadian energy company TC Energy’s ability to follow through with its five-billion-dollar project.
In December 2019, a court injunction required removal of the blockades, leading to conflicts between Royal Canadian Mounted Police and protestors, resulting in the arrest of 14 protestors, part of what The Conversation reported as the RCMP’s deep-rooted violence against indigenous peoples.
Not all Canadians have sided with the Wet’suwet’en in opposition to TC Energy’s pipeline. Some erroneously believe that the Wet’suwet’en people “live off our taxes,” and have no right to complain—an attitude reflective of deep-rooted racism towards indigenous peoples in Canada, as Al Jazeera noted.
This story has commonalities with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that took place at Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota, in 2016-2017. Whereas the establishment media eventually came to report on Standing Rock—albeit often in ways that reflected the operation of corporate news filters—the conflict in British Columbia has yet to garner comparable levels of US corporate news coverage.
“A Pipeline through Historically Native Land Has Sparked Protests in Canada,” The Economist, February 20, 2020, www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/02/20/a-pipeline-through-historically-native-land-has-sparked-protests-in-canada.
Tara Houska, “The Wet’suwet’en Crisis Has Exposed Deep-Seated Racism in Canada,” Al Jazeera, March 14, 2020, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/wet-crisis-exposed-deep-seated-racism-canada-200310063800525.html.
Rod Nickel, “Explainer: Why Are Indigenous Groups Protesting a Canada Gas Pipeline?” Thomson Reuters, February 12, 2020, www.reuters.com/article/us-tc-energy-pipeline-explainer/explainer-why-are-indigenous-groups-protesting-a-canada-gas-pipeline-idUSKBN2062U2.
Student Researcher: Samuel Wilkins (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)