British Columbia

Kitimat, B.C., mayor defends LNG project amid protests

Kitimat is one of the British Columbian cities at the heart of the Coastal GasLink project, which led to the arrest of protesters and nationwide rallies this week.

14 people were arrested this week for blocking access to the pipeline in northern B.C.

Hundreds rally across B.C. and Canada in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en pipeline blockades this week, but those in favour of the LNG Canada project remain adamant the benefits outweigh the costs. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Kitimat is one of the British Columbian cities at the heart of the Coastal GasLink project, which led to protests and arrests this week.

Fourteen people were detained on Monday after members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation opposed the pipeline which runs through its territory in Northern B.C. and blocked access for pipeline workers. Rallies in support of the Wet'suwet'en anti-pipeline movement were held in cities across Canada.'

But those in favour of the project, like Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth, remain adamant the benefits outweigh the costs. The project aims to take natural gas from Dawson Creek to an LNG export facility near Kitimat.

He spoke with CBC Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

Demonstrators wielding drums hold their hands in the air, as a large protest in support of Wet'suwet'en Nation members blocks Vancouver streets. Similar rallies were held in cities across Canada this week. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is a key part of the LNG export project near Kitimat. What does this LNG project mean to your community?

It's a game changer for Kitimat and not just for Kitimat either — it's also for our region up here in Northern B.C. and, of course, for the economy of B.C. and Canada. It means a lot jobs-wise as well as the tax base.

LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink have done an outstanding job of their engagement and consultation over these past five or six years.

If they've done such an outstanding job, why do we have hereditary chiefs blocking access to the pipeline construction site?

I can't say exactly why, but Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada have been working with those hereditary chiefs for over five years now.

Every single elected community along the pipeline route and every single elected First Nations along that pipeline route are in support of the project, [according to Coastal GasLink.

RCMP officers approach the barricade at the Gidimt'en camp in Northern B.C. where 14 people were arrested on Monday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The key to what you're saying is the word "elected."

But if hereditary leaders who say they're responsible for affairs off-reserve and for the stewardship of the larger territory — if they're not on board, what does that do to a project?

That's the million dollar question in Canada.

I can't speak on First Nations governance and structure but there's no doubt it's a big question.

Chief Madeek, hereditary leader of the Gidimt'en clan, stands in front of the red gates at the checkpoint built in his traditional territory. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Since we saw the arrests of 14 people on Monday, we've seen a swell of support across the country.

How concerned are you that this could change the way people look at projects like this LNG project?

There's no doubt that there's some concern there. 

But when you look at the job that LNG Canada did on this project, it was outstanding when it came to community consultation and engagement.

If something like this can't go through, that would be a huge disappointment for Canada.

This interview aired on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition on Jan. 9 and has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, click on the audio segment below.