B.C. Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen was in the Bulkley Valley last weekend to visit Wet’suwet’en camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road.
Olsen’s visit comes after receiving an invitation from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to come to the territory and learn firsthand about the issues they are currently facing.
After arriving in Smithers just before noon on Saturday, Olsen began by meeting with hereditary chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) of the Tsayu clan to learn about Wet’suwet’en ‘Anuk nu’at’en — traditional law for the Wet’suwet’en.
Speaking to media Olsen said he believes the economic, social and environmental narratives currently unfolding in the province hinge on a better relationship between Indigenous and Canadian leadership.
He said he found Premier John Horgan’s Jan. 13 comments about respecting “the rule of law” in the dispute between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink (CGL) to be lacking.
“I think it’s problematic when you refer to the rule of law and indigenous law is excluded from that,” said Olsen. “It’s pretty clear that the Canadian court system has recognized Indigenous law as part of the broader legal context in this … country and in this province.”
He added that while numerous politicians have spoken out in support of the Wet’suwet’en, talk can be cheap when compared to actions.
“For me it’s more about what we do and what we show.
“I think that there’s this idea that the more simple that we can make it the easier it is that we’re going to find a resolution. The reality, though, is the more simple we make it the less likely it is that we find a resolution.”
Olsen said he has plans to meet with the Smithers RCMP detachment on Jan. 19 to discuss the ongoing situation.
He said despite the events following a Dec. 31, 2019 interlocutory injunction he has confidence the situation will be resolved peacefully.
“It’s the confrontation that makes me so sad,” said Olsen, noting that real change can’t happen until provincial and federal decision makers sit down at the table with the hereditary chiefs.
“Confrontation is easy — finding the space to have a peaceful resolution takes time and work.”
During the meeting Na’Moks expressed pride on behalf of all the hereditary chiefs having Olsen on their territory.
“You need that conversation to understand each other,” said Na’Moks. “The chiefs, when we come together, we’re the government on the land, that’s all there is to it. There’s nothing above us.”
He ended by noting the high stakes associated with the dispute.
“Other nations have called us and said that we will set the template for the future of this country — and we plan on it.”
Escorted by Na’Moks, Olsen reached kilometre 27 of the road at approximately 3:20 p.m. where a number of supporters were busy erecting a new wooden building on the land.
Speaking to supporters and members of the media Na’Moks thanked Olsen for coming out to the territory.
On behalf of all my fellow hereditary chiefs I want to thank you for this,” said Na’Moks. “This proves to everybody that doing the right thing for the right reason brings us all together, makes our heart strong, makes our soul strong, makes our song strong and you make us strong, so on behalf of my fellow chiefs misiyh.”
Olsen said it was an honour to be invited onto the land.
“I come up here with humility in my heart and with a real hope that I have in humanity that we find peaceful ways through these difficult situations.”
After chatting with supporters Olsen, Na’Moks, a few other individuals with The Office of The Wet’suwet’en and members of the media proceeded down the road to a police roadblock (which the RCMP have referred to as an access control checkpoint, but the hereditary chiefs and a number of human rights organizations have referred to as an exclusion zone) located at the 27 kilometre point of the road.
After being let in by RCMP officers, they proceeded to a small camp set up just before the 39.5 kilometre mark of the road, where a number of felled trees made further passage impossible by car.
Green Party Member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith Paul Manly was also in town over the weekend, arriving on Jan. 19.
The Green MP said he wanted to hear the hereditary chiefs’ concerns regarding their ongoing dispute with CGL.
“I’ll be reporting back to my colleagues in the House of Commons and i’ll be bringing this up in the [House] so it’s good to have firsthand knowledge and to have an opportunity to listen firsthand,” he said of the chance to come and learn about the dispute.
In their platform both the federal and provincial Green Party indicate they are opposed to fracking and LNG exports because of climate concerns related to the process.
Echoing Olsen’s comments Manly said he was disappointed with Premier Horgan’s statements on the CGL development continuing.
“[Horgan] was asked to meet with the chiefs and he hasn’t,” said Manly, who characterized the way the situation has unfolded as a massive political failure.
“I think that, you know, if you’re talking about reconciliation and you’re talking about implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples then it’s really important to have an open honest dialogue.
“The fact that we have the RCMP mobilizing on an enforcement order … that just shows failure on the part of the politicians.”