B.C. energy regulator denies Coastal GasLink route is the location of Indigenous artifacts

Last month, a hereditary house group of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia claimed that two ancient stone tools and observed other Indigenous artifacts were recovered at the site where Coastal GasLink is building a natural gas pipeline. While the BC Oil and Gas Commission investigated, the company suspended work on the line, which is a key part of a CAD $40-billion LNG Canada project in northern B.C. However, the Commission found that the artifacts were likely not in their original location.

In an information bulletin, the Commission says the soils upon which the artifacts were found would not typically contain any such cultural artifacts, and this was likely not their original location. The Commission added that it cannot make a definitive determination about exactly where the artifacts originated, and the two that the Wet’suwet’en house group said supporters had recovered were not present. Commission investigators said the stone artifacts observed on top of frozen clay soils will be returned to the appropriate Indigenous communities.

Regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said consultations with Indigenous groups about the stalled yet progressing well, as he still expects to wrap up the court-ordered process by May. The Natural Resources department has now met with more than 100 of the 117 Indigenous communities expected to be impacted by the project.

Last summer, the Federal Appeal Court overturned approval of the project to triple oil shipments from Edmonton to the West Coast, ruling that the National Energy Board (NEB) had not properly considered its impact on marine life nor had Ottawa meaningfully consulted with Indigenous groups. Last month, the National Energy Board found that the pipeline is still in the public interest despite the risk that an increase in tanker traffic could adversely affect southern resident killer whales, hurt related Indigenous culture and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal Liberal government’s Cabinet is under increasing pressure to decide the fate of the pipeline before the federal election in the fall, as well as pressure to get the Trans Mountain expansion built because Ottawa bought the existing pipeline from Kinder Morgan for CAD $4.5 billion last August, after political opposition to the expansion left the company’s shareholders reluctant to proceed.