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Regulator raises doubts about First Nations relics on TransCanada pipeline route

British Columbia's energy regulator has determined that First Nation artifacts reportedly found on the right of way of a TransCanada Corp. pipeline under construction likely did not originate from the site.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission said it dispatched a team that included a senior archaeologist to a site along the route of the Coastal GasLink project Feb. 14 after receiving a complaint from a hereditary house group of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation that two "lithic stone tools" had been found and recovered from the area by members of the group. The complaint said other artifacts had been found at the site and left in place. The regulator's investigation found some lithics, or stone tools, on top of frozen clay soils.

"The soils upon which the artifacts were found would not typically contain any such cultural artifacts and this was likely not their original location," the commission said in a March 8 update on its website. "The artifacts referred to in the complaint as 'recovered' were not present."

Work was halted on the section of the C$6.7 billion Coastal GasLink project southwest of Houston, British Columbia, after the complaint was made. TransCanada has faced opposition to the project from hereditary chiefs even though it has reached agreements with all elected First Nations leaders, including the Wet'suwet'en, along the pipeline's route. The portion of the right of way in question crosses territory claimed by the Wet'suwet'en that is not on reserve land and was not ceded by treaty to the federal or provincial governments.

The commission said it has completed its initial examination of the artifacts and is in the process of returning them to the appropriate communities. Before work can resume, the commission said, TransCanada has to complete an assessment of the area around the site where the artifacts were reportedly found and sample topsoil that has already been stockpiled once it is no longer frozen to check for artifacts.