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Why some elected Wet'suwet'en councils signed agreements with Coastal GasLink

Why some elected Wet'suwet'en councils signed agreements with Coastal GasLinkSMITHERS, B.C. — It was a difficult decision to sign a benefit sharing agreement with Coastal GasLink that would allow for a natural gas pipeline through the Wet'suwet'en territory, but a necessary one, an elected band council member says. Joseph Skin is with the Skin Tyee band, a community of about 134 people within the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, and said many members live in "poverty" on the reserve and the agreement offered an opportunity for a better future. Skin said he spent most of his life living in a home shared by three or four families. There was no running water in homes on the reserve until 10 or 15 years ago, he said. "Decisions like this never came easy, I'm not going to say it was easy, because it was very difficult," he said. "But like I said, the people who are concerned about our decision, they should come to the reserve and live in these conditions themselves and then have to weigh in on a decision like that." Coastal GasLink has said it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations bands along the pipeline route from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada's $40-billion export facility on the coast in Kitimat. A blockade and the subsequent RCMP arrests while they enforced an injunction earlier this month set off a firestorm of protests across the country. The blockade was erected to stop the company from accessing a road where it planned to start construction work. Five Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say the project has no authority without their consent. While elected band councils like the Skin Tyee are administrators of their reserves, the hereditary chiefs say they are in charge of the 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory, including the land where pipeline would be built. The hereditary chiefs have since reached a "temporary truce" with RCMP, agreeing that members will abide by the injunction allowing the company access through the end of January, so long as another anti-pipeline camp is allowed to remain intact. The issue of who supports the project is not as simple as a division between hereditary chiefs on one side and elected councils on the other. While the five hereditary clan chiefs say they're "adamantly opposed," other hereditary leaders have expressed support, and elected council members have landed on both sides. At a rally in support of the five hereditary clan chiefs in Smithers, B.C., last Wednesday, representatives from several other First Nations stood up in solidarity against the project. Some held both hereditary and elected chief titles. Ayla Brown, an elected councillor with the Heiltsuk First Nation said the division between hereditary and elected leaders has been overstated, and both share the goal of bettering their communities. "We're here to say we stand with you," she said. "There is no division here." Former Wet'suwet'en elected Chief Ray Morris of the Nee Tahi Buhn band said his council signed a deal with Coastal GasLink based on the advice an elder gave when Enbridge was proposing a pipeline through the territory. That elder died at 96 in 2013. "He was with us when Enbridge first came around and he said, 'You can't beat this big company. Get the best deal you can for us.' And that's what we did," said Morris, who was the elected chief for 24 years before being unseated in an election last month. Signing an agreement means funding for things like education and elder care, he said. "We're no different than any other human, we have the same needs as you do." Morris said even though band members share lineage with the hereditary clan chiefs, that doesn't mean they are under the same authority. "We're independent of the Office of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs," he said. "We've been independent for many years." Brian Michell, an elected councillor with the Hagwilget village of about 200 to 230 people in Wet'suwet'en territory said the company approached his council about seven years ago. The village council never got as far as hearing a dollar figure because they refused to entertain the idea of an agreement, Michell said. "Our village chief and council, we're dead against, we can't sign for something that we can't control. It's a hereditary system, we're an elected council," he said. The elected council can only make decisions within the village boundaries, which are not along the pipeline route, he said. "We couldn't put a price tag on our hereditary system," he said. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version gave an incorrect population for the Skin Tyee band and an incorrect title for Ray Morris.


250 passengers stranded aboard airplane in frigid Labrador for 16 hours

250 passengers stranded aboard airplane in frigid Labrador for 16 hoursHAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — An end is finally in sight for passengers who spent 16 gruelling hours on a plane grounded on a tarmac in frigid Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., though a passenger was left frustrated by the experience and wondering why it took so long to get help. "You're cold, you're tired, you're hungry," said Sonjay Dutt, a professional wrestler who was travelling to an event in China. "I've travelled for work pretty much on a weekly basis for the last almost 20 years, and I've never experienced something like this." United Flight 179 from Newark, N.J., to Hong Kong was diverted to the Goose Bay Airport Saturday night after a passenger experienced a medical emergency, according to United Airlines spokeswoman Natalie Noonan. She said that after the passenger was removed from the plane and taken to hospital, a mechanical issue with the plane's door prevented the aircraft from taking off. Noonan believes the door was unable to be shut because it likely froze in the wintry temperatures. Noonan said passengers weren't able to get off the plane because there were no border officials working overnight. As the hours drew on, Dutt said there was little communication between the airline and the 250 passengers stuck on the plane, which became uncomfortably cold as temperatures outside plunged to nearly -30 C. He chronicled his experience on social media, tweeting out photos and tagging United in several posts. "At one point you have to roll with the punches. You're at their mercy," he said in a phone interview. "You're just hoping that they can communicate with you as honestly as possible, and I feel like that wasn't done." Dutt said food began to run low, but after about 10 hours, officials delivered food from Tim Hortons to the passengers, and some people were taken to the airport's customs area to stretch their legs. Mechanics arrived late Sunday morning and attempted to fix the door while the passengers were still on board. When the door repair proved to be a lengthy process, the tired travellers were moved to a rescue plane, which was supposed to leave for Newark late Sunday afternoon. Dutt said he's a frequent flier with the airline and will be looking for answers once he gets back. "This is unacceptable at all levels," he said. In response, Noonan said the company did "everything they could" to make sure the passengers were as comfortable as possible. United officials will greet the passengers upon their arrival in Newark, she said, and will provide them with compensation — including refunds and vouchers — after their ordeal. "We absolutely understand the frustration. It is a very unique situation," she said. "The airport they landed in was just not equipped to handle everyone that was coming in." The Goose Bay Airport could not be reached for comment Sunday. The Canadian Press


Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishesMohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi may have hoped to quietly disappear from his sexual assault trial in Cape Breton, never to be seen or heard from again in Canada. In addition, there's pressure emerging on Ottawa to officially investigate what role the Saudi embassy played in his disappearance — just the latest in what appears to be a series of mysterious departures by Saudis accused of serious crimes in North America. Police had seized the former Cape Breton University student's passport, expecting that would keep him in the country for his criminal trial in early January.


Ontarians helping homeless stay warm as the province endures extreme cold

Ontarians helping homeless stay warm as the province endures extreme coldAs most of Ontario endures an extreme cold snap this weekend, with some areas seeing wind chill values as low as -30 C, various groups and shelters are increasing their services to help the homeless stay warm. Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for nearly the entire province, warning that the bitterly cold temperatures can cause frostbite within minutes, and those without proper shelter are the most vulnerable. Some shelters across Ontario are operating at or above capacity, and warming centres have been opened to offer a space for those with nowhere else to go.


Haida Gwaii home to a distinct but vulnerable pocket of northern goshawks

Haida Gwaii home to a distinct but vulnerable pocket of northern goshawksHaida Gwaii's population of northern goshawks are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds, a new study by University of British Columbia researchers has found. Researchers estimate the population of birds may have been evolving separately on Haida Gwaii for 20,000 years — right around the last time the glaciers melted, causing the sea levels to rise and potentially separating the birds from their kin. While the birds can fly long distances — with goshawks from Michigan and Manitoba travelling as far away as the central United States — they don't seem to like travelling over water, which could account for their long-term isolation, said study co-lead Armando Geraldes.


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Why some elected Wet'suwet'en councils signed agreements with Coastal GasLink

Why some elected Wet'suwet'en councils signed agreements with Coastal GasLinkSMITHERS, B.C. — It was a difficult decision to sign a benefit sharing agreement with Coastal GasLink that would allow for a natural gas pipeline through the Wet'suwet'en territory, but a necessary one, an elected band council member says. Joseph Skin is with the Skin Tyee band, a community of about 134 people within the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, and said many members live in "poverty" on the reserve and the agreement offered an opportunity for a better future. Skin said he spent most of his life living in a home shared by three or four families. There was no running water in homes on the reserve until 10 or 15 years ago, he said. "Decisions like this never came easy, I'm not going to say it was easy, because it was very difficult," he said. "But like I said, the people who are concerned about our decision, they should come to the reserve and live in these conditions themselves and then have to weigh in on a decision like that." Coastal GasLink has said it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations bands along the pipeline route from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada's $40-billion export facility on the coast in Kitimat. A blockade and the subsequent RCMP arrests while they enforced an injunction earlier this month set off a firestorm of protests across the country. The blockade was erected to stop the company from accessing a road where it planned to start construction work. Five Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say the project has no authority without their consent. While elected band councils like the Skin Tyee are administrators of their reserves, the hereditary chiefs say they are in charge of the 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory, including the land where pipeline would be built. The hereditary chiefs have since reached a "temporary truce" with RCMP, agreeing that members will abide by the injunction allowing the company access through the end of January, so long as another anti-pipeline camp is allowed to remain intact. The issue of who supports the project is not as simple as a division between hereditary chiefs on one side and elected councils on the other. While the five hereditary clan chiefs say they're "adamantly opposed," other hereditary leaders have expressed support, and elected council members have landed on both sides. At a rally in support of the five hereditary clan chiefs in Smithers, B.C., last Wednesday, representatives from several other First Nations stood up in solidarity against the project. Some held both hereditary and elected chief titles. Ayla Brown, an elected councillor with the Heiltsuk First Nation said the division between hereditary and elected leaders has been overstated, and both share the goal of bettering their communities. "We're here to say we stand with you," she said. "There is no division here." Former Wet'suwet'en elected Chief Ray Morris of the Nee Tahi Buhn band said his council signed a deal with Coastal GasLink based on the advice an elder gave when Enbridge was proposing a pipeline through the territory. That elder died at 96 in 2013. "He was with us when Enbridge first came around and he said, 'You can't beat this big company. Get the best deal you can for us.' And that's what we did," said Morris, who was the elected chief for 24 years before being unseated in an election last month. Signing an agreement means funding for things like education and elder care, he said. "We're no different than any other human, we have the same needs as you do." Morris said even though band members share lineage with the hereditary clan chiefs, that doesn't mean they are under the same authority. "We're independent of the Office of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs," he said. "We've been independent for many years." Brian Michell, an elected councillor with the Hagwilget village of about 200 to 230 people in Wet'suwet'en territory said the company approached his council about seven years ago. The village council never got as far as hearing a dollar figure because they refused to entertain the idea of an agreement, Michell said. "Our village chief and council, we're dead against, we can't sign for something that we can't control. It's a hereditary system, we're an elected council," he said. The elected council can only make decisions within the village boundaries, which are not along the pipeline route, he said. "We couldn't put a price tag on our hereditary system," he said. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version gave an incorrect population for the Skin Tyee band and an incorrect title for Ray Morris.


250 passengers stranded aboard airplane in frigid Labrador for 16 hours

250 passengers stranded aboard airplane in frigid Labrador for 16 hoursHAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — An end is finally in sight for passengers who spent 16 gruelling hours on a plane grounded on a tarmac in frigid Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., though a passenger was left frustrated by the experience and wondering why it took so long to get help. "You're cold, you're tired, you're hungry," said Sonjay Dutt, a professional wrestler who was travelling to an event in China. "I've travelled for work pretty much on a weekly basis for the last almost 20 years, and I've never experienced something like this." United Flight 179 from Newark, N.J., to Hong Kong was diverted to the Goose Bay Airport Saturday night after a passenger experienced a medical emergency, according to United Airlines spokeswoman Natalie Noonan. She said that after the passenger was removed from the plane and taken to hospital, a mechanical issue with the plane's door prevented the aircraft from taking off. Noonan believes the door was unable to be shut because it likely froze in the wintry temperatures. Noonan said passengers weren't able to get off the plane because there were no border officials working overnight. As the hours drew on, Dutt said there was little communication between the airline and the 250 passengers stuck on the plane, which became uncomfortably cold as temperatures outside plunged to nearly -30 C. He chronicled his experience on social media, tweeting out photos and tagging United in several posts. "At one point you have to roll with the punches. You're at their mercy," he said in a phone interview. "You're just hoping that they can communicate with you as honestly as possible, and I feel like that wasn't done." Dutt said food began to run low, but after about 10 hours, officials delivered food from Tim Hortons to the passengers, and some people were taken to the airport's customs area to stretch their legs. Mechanics arrived late Sunday morning and attempted to fix the door while the passengers were still on board. When the door repair proved to be a lengthy process, the tired travellers were moved to a rescue plane, which was supposed to leave for Newark late Sunday afternoon. Dutt said he's a frequent flier with the airline and will be looking for answers once he gets back. "This is unacceptable at all levels," he said. In response, Noonan said the company did "everything they could" to make sure the passengers were as comfortable as possible. United officials will greet the passengers upon their arrival in Newark, she said, and will provide them with compensation — including refunds and vouchers — after their ordeal. "We absolutely understand the frustration. It is a very unique situation," she said. "The airport they landed in was just not equipped to handle everyone that was coming in." The Goose Bay Airport could not be reached for comment Sunday. The Canadian Press


Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishesMohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi may have hoped to quietly disappear from his sexual assault trial in Cape Breton, never to be seen or heard from again in Canada. In addition, there's pressure emerging on Ottawa to officially investigate what role the Saudi embassy played in his disappearance — just the latest in what appears to be a series of mysterious departures by Saudis accused of serious crimes in North America. Police had seized the former Cape Breton University student's passport, expecting that would keep him in the country for his criminal trial in early January.


Ontarians helping homeless stay warm as the province endures extreme cold

Ontarians helping homeless stay warm as the province endures extreme coldAs most of Ontario endures an extreme cold snap this weekend, with some areas seeing wind chill values as low as -30 C, various groups and shelters are increasing their services to help the homeless stay warm. Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for nearly the entire province, warning that the bitterly cold temperatures can cause frostbite within minutes, and those without proper shelter are the most vulnerable. Some shelters across Ontario are operating at or above capacity, and warming centres have been opened to offer a space for those with nowhere else to go.


Haida Gwaii home to a distinct but vulnerable pocket of northern goshawks

Haida Gwaii home to a distinct but vulnerable pocket of northern goshawksHaida Gwaii's population of northern goshawks are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds, a new study by University of British Columbia researchers has found. Researchers estimate the population of birds may have been evolving separately on Haida Gwaii for 20,000 years — right around the last time the glaciers melted, causing the sea levels to rise and potentially separating the birds from their kin. While the birds can fly long distances — with goshawks from Michigan and Manitoba travelling as far away as the central United States — they don't seem to like travelling over water, which could account for their long-term isolation, said study co-lead Armando Geraldes.


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