Wet’suwet’en member of the Skin Tyee Nation, Robert Skin, addresses about 200 supporters of the Coastal GasLink pipeline who gathered in Houston Wednesday afternoon to hear from Indigenous members in favour of the project. (Quinn Bender photo)

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

As protests across the country continue to plague construction of Coastal GasLink’s pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, about 200 supporters of the project gathered in Houston Wednesday afternoon to hear from Indigenous leaders eager to see the pipeline completed.

The event, which hosted five speakers, was organized by The North Matters, a natural resource industry lobby group.

“The protesters get one side of the story, and they want to stand up with their fists in the air,” Robert Skin, an elected councillor for the Skin Tyee Nation, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. “Come and listen to us. Get both sides of the story before you go out and stop traffic and stop the rail line. All you’re doing is alienating people who are trying to put a roof over their children’s heads and food on their table.”

Skin praised Coastal GasLink for its consultation with elders and leaders, saying the company went on numerous interpretive walks through the nation’s traditional territory to map out the best possible route for the pipeline. The 670-kilometre pipeline would carry natural gas to a planned LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat.

Nationwide protests and blockades of rail lines followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been obstructing an access road to Coastal GasLink’s work site.

Four of the five hereditary chiefs flew to Ontario Wednesday to thank Mohawk supporters blocking key rail lines.

READ MORE: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Steve Simons, a spokesperson for The North Matters, said his group organized the Houston event because national attention has focused largely on opposition to the pipeline, while the voices of many Wet’suwet’en members who support the project have been drowned out by negative news coverage, fracturing communities down racial lines across the Northwest.

Wednesday’s gathering was billed as an event to bring the community together by allowing Indigenous members in support of the project the chance to share their perspectives in a safe environment, free from intimidation and fear of harm.

Skin commended Coastal GasLink for its ecological and cultural sensitivity and said his nation’s benefit agreement with the company is key to the prosperity of future generations. Some of the money has already been used for professional training among members, and Skin said more has been earmarked to help alleviate a housing crisis and allow more members to move back to their community.

“Instead of saying ‘no’ to everybody all the time, now we can say ‘yes, we have the money for housing. Yes, we have the money for education’.”

The North Matters organized the session over the long weekend, to which Simons said he was pleased at the number of people who came out, particularly because it took place in the afternoon.

“There’s been a lot of bullying going on. And intimidation. Intimidation into silence,” Simons said of what Wet’suwet’en supporters of the pipeline have faced through social media and other means.

“What we wanted was a place where people could speak without fear of a backlash.”

Simons, a mostly-retired Victoria resident and who offers courses and speaks on natural resource issues, Simons said he concentrates on trying to deescalate hard line ‘yes’ and ‘no’ positions on resource development. He volunteered his time for the North Matters event.

“What I try to do is reach out for solutions for common values,” said Simons.

READ MORE: Federal minister pledges to meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs in Smithers over natural gas pipeline

Marion Tiljoe Shepherd, who owns a trucking company in Houston and is a member of the Wet’suwet’en Gilseyhu (Big Frog) clan, echoed those calls for solutions.

Her mother is a shareholder of a trap line near the pipeline route where police have twice raided protest camps.

“It’s been really hard for us,” she said to the audience. “I love my family, and my mom misses her family… but because we live here in Houston, we’re ostracized just because we want to work. We’re from an industrial town and we’ve always worked for industry. There’s two sides to every story.”

While a staunch supporter of the industry, Tiljoe Shepherd told the crowd mistakes were made on all sides, including Coastal GasLink’s ineffective consultation with hereditary chiefs, and the chiefs’ failure to consult with their members. But she also lays a lot of blame on the protesters who mobilized around the hereditary chiefs without access to other points of view.

“Who do you think you are?” she said of the protesters. “I didn’t ask you for help. I can speak for myself.

“My choice is my choice. My husband and I have a job. We want to work for Coastal GasLink; we want to work for the industry, and we have every right to.”

– with files from Rod Link

Coastal GasLink

Just Posted

Video invites visitors back to valley

Chamber video says: “Hey, hey! Come back and play, play.”

Invermere deer ‘hoofs’ woman and dog

Aggressive deer incidents increase this year, as woman and dog left bruised and injured

School District 6 nominated Summit Youth Hub for award

Hub nominated for a B.C Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association (BCPVPA) Partnership Award

Invermere library reopens for summer

Summer Reading Club and Pop-up Story Time return

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Most Read