AFN chief says federal government must step in to resolve pipeline dispute

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OTTAWA — The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the federal government must step in to resolve tensions over a natural-gas pipeline running through traditional Indigenous territory in northern B.C.

Perry Bellegarde says the federal government has a duty to find a way to solve the underlying primary issue: a conflict between the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en territory who oppose the pipeline and the elected chiefs who support it.

He said their conflict is fuelled by the failure by the federal government to address questions of who holds jurisdiction over ancestral lands outside reserves.

Protests, including rail blockades, have erupted nationally since the RCMP began last week to enforce a court injunction barring protesters from the pipeline site to allow for construction.

The federal Liberals have said the matter is a provincial one, and while people have the right to protest, the RCMP is upholding the rule of law.

But Bellegarde says that in addition to the civil and common law the RCMP is sworn to maintain, there exist generations of Indigenous laws that must be respected as well.

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