A group of Wet’suwet’en land protectors and their allies are currently fighting to protect their land from the Coastal Gas Link (CGL) pipeline and its long-lasting devastating effects. The CGL pipeline purposes violence upon Indigenous land and within the community, as well as negatively impacts the environment of the Wet’suwet’en people.
As a Sylix person from the unceded Okanagan territory of British Columbia, my home community neighbours the Wet’suwet’en nation. The Coastal Gas Link pipeline is affecting the Wet’suwet’en traditional lands whereas the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is what will be running through my community, along with many others. The pipeline expansion instills significant fear for my community and our traditional land. As the Wet’suwet’en land protection protests continue to grow, I want to focus a gaze upon the protection of the Wet’suwet’en people, specifically Indigenous women, two-spirit people, and children, from the effects of the CGL pipeline.
Coercive pipeline agreements
Some Indigenous communities have shown support for the negotiated agreements, that plan for a 640-kilometre liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from the northeast of British Columbia to the coast. These arguments are being displayed and used against Indigenous people opposed to the production of the pipeline. However, it is important to note that reserves and Indigenous communities, specifically smaller communities, are underfunded by the Canadian government. Therefore, additional funding or resources are used to persuade communities to sign documents in favor of the pipeline.
They promise the proposition of jobs to community members. However, when agreements have been made, it isn’t often that these job opportunities benefit our community directly. This then means that these new pipeline jobs will bring in non-Indigenous or outside members into our Indigenous communities. The large numbers of workers coming into the community will not only perpetuate the narrative of lacking resources on Indigenous communities, but it will mean that strangers will be occupying space on Indigenous land.
The imposition of pipeline workers within Indigenous communities
It is important to recognize that along with the work that will be done on the pipelines, workers will be entering the Wet’suwet’en territory. There is significant history and evidence regarding these work environments and the danger they propose within Indigenous communities. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls includes information about the specific violence that women, girls, and two-spirit folk experience when cases of resource extractions occur in Indigenous communities. It is outlined in this report that “the influx of people as a result of ‘man camps’ near or within Indigenous, remote, and rural communities creates stress an already limited social infrastructure, such as policing, health, and mental health services.” The workers will place additional reliance on the communities’ resources while their presence alone will already strain these supplies. Even with additional resources, the government doesn’t apply funding for the protection of people in Indigenous communities.
Communities are preparing for the invasion of pipeline workers
The Final Report also states that “the kinds of violence cited by witnesses indicate the extent to which addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S+ people requires the involvement of all Canadians.” In addition to overrunning the already underfunded resources on reserve, work camps place violence within communities which contributes to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2). The MMIWG2 crisis is already overlooked and underfunded by the Canadian government, yet they continue to buy into resource extraction projects that are a site for brutality. By allowing the CGL pipeline, the government is placing Indigenous people in a state of violence within their own communities.
I have already seen preparation for the invasion of workers within my own home community. It often proposes the question of how the government does not see that by building the CGL pipeline, they further push violence into communities. The National Inquiry places importance on the consideration of Indigenous women by putting their protection at the forefront of these workplace projects and is a significant piece of evidence when looking at the CGL pipeline in relation to the Wet’suwet’en nation. The protectors of Wet’suwet’en are simply trying to protect their land and their women, children, and two-spirit people from the violence that comes from worker camps and the destruction that will follow the pipeline.