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“The UN committee’s statement and recommendations should simply and immediately be withdrawn, along with an apology to the 20 nations,” the letter says.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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

UVic research team creating virus-resistant washbasins for post-pandemic world

Civil engineer Rishi Gupta hopes basins will be installed in public spaces

Walk for Peace takes a virtual turn for Victoria Hospice

Residents can still register for Gordy Dodd’s 11th annual fundraiser

United Way Greater Victoria launches Hi Neighbour program in Esquimalt

Feedback sought from residents about funding for micro community projects

VicPD to reopen front counter services on Monday

No masks provided, but encouraged to be worn

Oak Bay pandemic project gets 300 submissions

Gage Gallery exhibit shows how people cope during crisis

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read