Day 6

How the unfinished business of the Delgamuukw decision is fuelling pipeline protests across the country

In 1997, the Delgamuukw Supreme Court ruling established Indigenous land title in Canadian law, but left it to the provinces and Indigenous groups to work out the fine print. Nearly 25 years later, there's still a lot left unresolved.

'It's sowing more confusion,' says APTN reporter Kathleen Martens

A protester, with a sign pinned to their jacket, stands among Wet'suwet'en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents protesting at 20 government buildings throughout Victoria on Friday. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)
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As demonstrations against the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline continue across the country, a two-decades-old Supreme Court ruling is making it a challenge for the communities most affected by the project to find a solution.

The Delgamuukw decision, a 1997 Supreme Court ruling, acknowledged the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en peoples' title over their land, and recognized a hereditary governance structure and the names of hereditary leaders.

However, the court left it up to governments and Indigenous leaders to determine how the ruling should be applied in practice.

The Coastal GasLink liquefied natural gas pipeline is a project that would bring natural gas from B.C.'s interior to the coast.

It would travel through Wet'suwet'en territory, which the nation's hereditary chiefs have opposed. This week, supporters of the hereditary chiefs have led demonstrations across the country and blocked rail corridors, leading Via Rail to suspend train traffic across the country.

The Wet'suwet'en nation's elected chiefs, however, have supported the project.

"Leaving the Delgamuukw decision undone, as it were, means that no one knows how to bring it to a resolution," said APTN reporter Kathleen Martens.

"It's sowing more confusion ... but it's not leading to what really needs to happen, which is to come to agreement on what each group's responsibility is going to be going forward so that this kind of stuff doesn't happen every time someone wants to do a big project like this."

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