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Opposition to Canadian energy projects includes First Nations leaders. But it's complicated.

Adrian Florez

In British Columbia now, the company TC Energy is building a liquefied natural gas pipeline across the northern part of the province. The Coastal GasLink project is highly controversial, in large part because it crosses the reserve and traditional lands of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation.

Demonstrations in Victoria and Vancouver are among many across Canada that have brought parts of daily life to a halt at times — from rail lines, to the B.C. Legislature, to the centers of busy downtowns. To help us sort through what's going on, KNKX's Craig McCulloch — based in Vancouver, B.C. — talked with KNKX’s Ed Ronco.

“Many of the protestors are calling themselves ‘land defenders’ and the vast majority are not Wet’suwet’en,” McCulloch said, “but they support the five hereditary chiefs that are opposed to this natural gas pipeline and their supporters who were arrested for trying to stop its construction.”

McCulloch added that there isn’t necessarily unanimous support among First Nations in Canada. “(It’s) complicated to say the least,” he said. “There are 13 hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet'en, and five are opposed. The elected council of the Wet’suwet’en are in favor of it as are 19 other First Nations along the 416-mile route from Dawson City to Kittimat, which is on the Pacific Ocean just beneath the Alaska Panhandle.”

The impact of these demonstrations in Victoria and Vancouver has been widespread. In Victoria, demonstrators blocked the doors to the B.C. Legislature at the start of its spring session. And this week showed up at the home of Premier John Horgan, the head of the B.C. government, in an attempt to make a "citizen’s arrest.”

In Vancouver, some walking protests have stopped rush-hour traffic in major intersections, and a couple weeks back all the major entrances to the Port of Metro Vancouver were blocked, resulting in a court injunction and several arrests.

And while the major demonstrations have been unfolding in Canada, others are happening here in Washington state. The group "Protectors of the Salish Sea" is planning a prayer walk and water blessing ceremony on Sunday at Foster Island — on the northern edge of the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle — to show solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en protesters in B.C.

These represent merely a portion of the disruptions, which span from here to the opposite coast. To hear more about these protests, as well as the controversy surrounding another energy project — the TransMountain Pipeline — listen to their full conversation above.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.