The Coastal GasLink pipeline controversy continues as the BC NDP allow the company to drill and blast under the Wedzin Kwa (also known as the Morice River) while it is full of spawning salmon.
The company faces a host of compliance issues with environmental regulations, meanwhile the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Hon. George Heyman, once again stands and defends his lack of real enforcement and accountability for the actions of the multinational corporation his BC NDP government is supporting.
The Minister has the duty to stop work if a company is not in compliance, yet he refuses to do it. Instead, he watches from the sidelines while an entire generation of wild Pacific salmon are threatened by the excessive noise and disruption of drilling and blasting under their spawning grounds.
Furthermore, earlier this week the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Hon. Murray Rankin, implored British Columbians to stop the violence against Indigenous women, girls, 2-spirit and gender-diverse people. Yet, just a few months ago his government was silent as the RCMP used a chainsaw to cut down the door of a cabin to arrest Indigenous women in their own territory. The BC NDP are proving to be virtuous in words alone.
When asked about why they continue to pay millions of dollars to defend Coastal GasLink, Ministers continue to hide behind an injunction that is in place only because they chose not to use peaceful diplomacy in the first place! And then we hear the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General suggest a violent attack against pipeline infrastructure earlier this year was the work of groups associate with the land defenders. This is a mind-boggling statement as I understand there is an investigation ongoing and nobody has been arrested. If the Minister has public information otherwise, which he obviously does because he stated it in Question Period, he should release it tell the public when we can expect arrests to be made.
COASTAL GASLINK PIPELINE PROJECT
Last week, Coastal GasLink Pipeline company began drilling under the Wedzin Kwa, also known as the Morice River in the Wet’Suwet’en territory, at the very same time as five species of the iconic pacific salmon were spawning in that river. Coastal GasLink cannot be trusted to protect our environment. In fact, this company has already been issued 51 warnings, 16 orders and two fines by the B.C. environmental assessment office. They’ve damaged wetlands, rivers and lakes along the pipeline route. Now they’re drilling just a stone’s throw away from millions of salmon eggs, imperiling an entire generation of salmon.
As I looked into this, there was a mess of compliance and regulatory issues with this project and absolutely no responsibility being taken by Environment, by Energy or by the federal government. Everybody with any authority is just standing on the sidelines while this company — with a terrible environmental record — drills, digs and blasts under the largest remaining chinook spawning grounds in the Skeena system.
My question is to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. One thing is clear: if this company is not in compliance with their agreements, orders and environmental regulations, the minister has a responsibility to issue a stop work order. Will he do that today, until this company gets into compliance?
Hon. G. Heyman:
Thank you to the member for the question. I, however, reject the premise of his statement that we, that the environmental assessment office and that responsible officials have stood by and done nothing. That is simply not true. Multiple inspections have taken place. Multiple investigations have taken place. Significant penalties have been issued. We recently added to our ability to control what this company does and keep a watchful eye over them and take appropriate action by entering into a compliance agreement, which is in addition to the conditions that exist in the certificate.
The company must meet additional new performance conditions under that agreement. We are monitoring it on a regular basis, and we intend to ensure that the transgressions and issues of non-compliance cease, and I am seized of the issue.
COASTAL GASLINK PIPELINE PROJECT
AND POLICE RESPONSE TO PROTESTS
Well, I think the minister knows that even that there’s a compliance agreement that they’re out of compliance from that compliance agreement according to reviews that were done in August.
Yesterday — just switching gears a little bit on this important issue — we recognized the day of action to stop violence against Indigenous women, specifically the shameful reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and gender diverse people in this province. Just a few months ago, a video circulated showing heavily-armed RCMP using a chainsaw to cut down the door of a cabin to violently arrest Indigenous women in their own territory.
This government has chosen the route of more violence against Indigenous people. They’ve chosen to hide behind an injunction instead of using diplomacy — which has always been a choice, but the choice that they’ve chosen has been the more expensive choice. It’s been the choice to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for a paramilitary force attempting to arrest their way out of the problem that was created by this government. It’s a choice to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars continuing to lose the same legal battles repeatedly.
In the years since this B.C. NDP government took office, it continues at great taxpayer expense to invest, subsidize, defend and celebrate an industry knowing the unacceptable violence that shrouds it.
To the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: yesterday, he asked the public to stop acting violently against Indigenous women and girls. So why does his B.C. NDP government continue to sanction and fund it through taxpayer dollars instead of using the power that they have for peaceful diplomacy?
Hon. M. Farnworth:
I appreciate the question from the motion. As the member well knows, because we’ve addressed questions similar to what he just asked in the past, there is an injunction in place on the pipeline. There have been protesters up there. The police have to enforce that injunction. They do it in a variety of ways. Their first line is always to try and de-escalate and to use diplomacy, as the member says, to be able to resolve disputes.
But we also know that there have been situations where small bands, small groups outside the main protesters, have themselves engaged in violent activity. We saw that at a work camp. We saw that where workers were swarmed. Equipment was damaged. Buildings were damaged, and the police have to deal with those situations. They make operational decisions based on the situation on the ground. And there are processes and legislation and rules and protocols in place that…. If there are things, they will themselves be held accountable, and those actions are often taken. They have a very difficult job, and they are doing it. But I can tell you that their first line of intervention is to de-escalate and to resolve peacefully.