Coastal GasLink Construction Allowed to Continue, Tentative Deal Reached with Protesters

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canadian authorities on Sunday said construction would continue on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline after reaching a tentative deal with the indigenous group that has been protesting the project. 

Activists have been blocking rail lines across Canada to show solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people who are seeking to stop the $5 billion natural gas from being built across their land in British Columbia, Canada’s western-most province.

After three days of talks, Indigenous affairs ministers from British Columbia and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said they reached an agreement that would address future land rights disputes but said pipeline construction would continue.

“They are permitted and allowed to go to work,” British Columbia’s Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser said in a Facebook live stream from the town of Smithers.

Fraser said the agreement will now be reviewed by the Wet’suwet’en people.

Those consultations should take about two weeks, Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos said.

The agreement will “create certainty and clarity for the Wet’suwet’en and all British Columbians,” Fraser said, without providing details.

The proposed agreement includes establishing a permanent table to address legacy land rights and title issues, a senior federal government source said.

Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of crown-indigenous relations, called the agreement a “milestone” in indigenous relations. Bennett declined to reveal any of the deal’s details, saying the Wet’suwet’en people should “see it first”.

Police in the eastern province of Ontario cleared protesters from a major Canadian National Railway Co line on Monday, allowing some shipments to resume.

Trudeau, who says improving relations with aboriginal groups is a priority, called for dialogue. But tensions built quickly as the blockades led to railroad layoffs and shortages of goods like propane and as business groups warned of further economic damage.

At least one rail line in Quebec, south of Montreal, remains blocked as some indigenous protesters were holding out.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said last week that the effects of the disruptions would be felt for weeks and months to come.

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