SMITHERS (NEWS 1130) – The mood is optimistic as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with federal and provincial minsters in northern B.C. for a second day.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser arrived in Smithers Thursday to kick off the meetings, which surround an impasse that has sparked solidarity protests and blockades across the country for weeks over ongoing construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
On their way into Friday’s meeting, both ministers said they were feeling good about the talks, adding the first round was respectful and productive.
Some hereditary chiefs still want to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan.
“We need to do some hard work,” Bennett said. “We would want any meeting with the prime minister and the premier to be good meeting and therefore we have to do the work.”
Horgan said he has no plans to join the meeting in Smithers because he’s confident talks are going well without him.
Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Conservative MP John Brassard continued opposition attacks on how the federal Liberal government has handled the file.
“The prime minister is taking his cues from the granola crunching, Castro-loving, VW-bus-driving, anti-resource, anti-government, anti-everything professional protesters,” Brassard said.
Solidarity protesters have said they won’t stop their actions until the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are satisfied with the outcome of the talks.
Five hereditary chiefs have taken issue with the project, which would see part of a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline be built on the Wet’suwet’en territory.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs only agreed to sit down with the federal and provincial ministers after two longstanding conditions were met for the duration of the scheduled talks.
Coastal GasLink agreed to a two-day pause in its activities, while the RCMP committed to ending patrols along a critical roadway while the negotiations unfold.
Horgan has repeatedly said the project will go ahead, despite opposition, because it remains in B.C.’s interest.