First Nations plan to buy stake in Coastal GasLink pipeline
Project still faces opposition from Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs
TC Energy is offering Indigenous groups the chance to buy a stake in the controversial Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline in northern B.C.
The company has announced the signing of option agreements to sell a 10 per cent equity interest to communities along the pipeline's route from Dawson Creek in the province's northeast to an export facility near Kitimat on the north coast.
CGL has already signed agreements supporting the project with 20 elected First Nation band councils along the pipeline's route, 16 of which have signed on to purchase equity in the pipeline, the company says.
The move comes less than a month after CGL announced it expects to go "significantly" over budget and faces a delayed completion date.
New partnerships formed
Among the groups to sign on to the project is the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, near Burns Lake, represented by elected chief Corrina Leween.
"For many of us, this marks the first time that our Nations have been included as owners in a major natural resource project that is crossing our territories," she said in a release put out by the CGL First Nations Limited Partnership, which was formed to represent 11 First Nations signing on to the deal.
TC Energy president François Poirier called the agreement "one of the ways we can advance reconciliation."
The purchase is subject to regulatory approval and the consent of LNG Canada, the company that has agreed to purchase gas from CGL for export to overseas markets.
Despite support from elected leaders the pipeline still faces fierce opposition from several groups, most notably Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who say band councils — as political entities created by the federal government — do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries.
That job, they say, belongs to hereditary chiefs under the Wet'suwet'en governance system which predates the formation of Canada and has not been extinguished.
RCMP are also investigating an attack on a CGL worksite last month, in which it is alleged 20 or more people with axes and flares took control of heavy equipment, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Hereditary chiefs have condemned the violence, and neither RCMP nor CGL have said who they believe to be responsible for the attack.