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Division, tension in communities near exclusion zone on Wet'suwet'en territory

FILE - Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Costal GasLink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020. The Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs and their supporters want a public investigation into the way the RCMP are controlling access along a rural road in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The mayor of Smithers says there are diverse opinions on the controversial LNG pipeline in the town

It isn't as simple as a 'for' or 'against' stance on the project

There is similar division in Terrace

SMITHERS (NEWS 1130) — There’s not just one divide there are many, according to a mayor near the exclusion zone on Wet’suwet’en territory.

Mayor of Smithers Gladys Atrill says people in her town have diverse opinions on a controversial LNG pipeline, but it isn’t as simple as “for” or “against” the project.

“There’s a diversity of opinion and reaction to what’s going on, so I can’t just say there’s a single divide,” she tells NEWS 1130. “So many different pieces going on, so I come back to anxiety and tensions. I don’t think there’s one mind in the community.”

Nor are Indigenous people homogenous on the pipeline. In fact, there are Wet’suwet’en who support the pipeline and elsewhere, says Atrill.

“There has been sign-on to the project by many, many First Nations governments. At the same time, [where] the territory-particular piece of pipe is going to go is held by a particular house group and there’s not one view on this,” she says.

As the project continues, Atrill anticipates the question of reconciliation will be revisited.

“How do we move forward in the future recognizing rights and title and the land? There’s a lot of unknowns, and as we move forward, we’re going to come to stops. We’re going to come to places where it’s unclear how authority is demonstrated and which authority is final,” she explains.

Then there is the topic of jobs, which Atrill says have brought in some positive feedback, but not without issue on how the pipeline will impact the community.

“For every person, I think, that’s really excited about what’s happening, there are people that are concerned wondering about the what-ifs in the future and how decisions are made,” she says.

The tensions over resources aren’t new – the region has long relied on the extraction of goods to create jobs.

Further up Highway 16, CFNR-FM’s morning show host Dave Bondy says his town has a lot of people in favour of the pipeline. However, “just about all of the things that have been happening local are all in support of the Wet’suwet’en chiefs,” he says. “It’s a very controversial issue. You have 20 of the communities along the pipeline who have given their okay to it, then there’s the hereditary chiefs against it.”

Similarly, he notes the divide in Terrace where there isn’t one clear divide on opinion.