B.C. premier tasks former MP Nathan Cullen with 'de-escalating' Coastal GasLink conflict

Former Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is stepping into the Coastal GasLink dispute to act as an intermediary between the Wet'suwe'ten hereditary chiefs, the province of B.C., RCMP, Coastal GasLink and others. 

Appointed by B.C. Premier John Horgan, Cullen is expected to focus on "de-escalating the conflict" according to a news release from the provincial government on Monday.

"I'm pleased all parties have agreed to the appointment of a liaison," Horgan said in a news release. 

"Nathan has agreed to act as an intermediary in the hopes of finding a solution to this challenging dispute."

It's been four weeks since the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an interlocutory injunction instructing named Wet'suwet'en defendants and their supporters to allow the company and its contractors to move freely through the Morice Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C. Coastal GasLink needs access to the road to do work on the natural gas pipeline it's contracted to build as part of a massive natural gas project in Northern B.C. 

Since that injunction decision was posted, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to the company and its contractors, citing Wet'suwet'en trespass law. 

'Time is running short,' says Coastal GasLink president

Coastal GasLink has temporarily halted work in the area in dispute while continuing construction elsewhere on the 670-kilometre pipeline that is meant to supply natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada export terminal, currently under construction in Kitimat. 

"To date our schedule has not been significantly impacted," Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer said Monday. 

"We have the ability to make up for lost time. However time is running short."

Pfeiffer reiterated the company's interest in meeting with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, adding that the company is hopeful it may have an opportunity to do so this week.

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, however, have said they have no interest in meeting with the company.

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

"We really have no reason to," said Na'moks. 

The chiefs maintain they only want to speak with decision makers within the provincial and federal governments, those tasked with upholding the honour of the Crown. 

Now with Cullen at the table, Na'moks said they might have better luck with government-to-government discussions. But he also said the chiefs made clear to Cullen from the outset that they will not be changing their position regarding the pipeline. 

"We will remain adamantly opposed to this project," he said.

Meanwhile, the Morice Forest Service Road remains impassable. The Wet'suwet'en and their supporters have constructed several buildings along the route in addition to the Unist'ot'en checkpoint which has been in place since 2009. 

RCMP have set up their own checkpoint on the road and are restricting access in and out of the area. There's been no indication if or when police will move in to enforce the injunction.