Wet’suwet’en Update on Claims of Gidimt’en Sovereignty Violations

pipeline politics

Gidimt’en Territory – Coastal GasLink, which is building a natural gas pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG’s export facility, says it works is in full compliance.

The British Columbia government says it will inspect the site of a planned natural gas pipeline southwest of Houston following allegations that the company building the project is violating its permits.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and supporters are alleging that Coastal GasLink is engaging in construction activity without an archaeological impact assessment and have also destroyed traplines and tents unnecessarily.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources says in a statement that joint site inspection will be conducted by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission next week.

“We anticipate that it will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action,” the Ministry says.

The RCMP also said it has received complaints from both the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink regarding traplines and the removal of personal property items.

“We are following up on all complaints and continue to facilitate ongoing and direct dialogue between all parties regarding various issues,” the RCMP says.

Coastal GasLink is working to build a natural gas pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG’s export facility on the coast as part of a $40-billion project.

On January 28, 2019, Wet’suwet’en issued a statement saying that over the weekend Coastal GasLink willfully, illegally, and violently destroyed Gidimt’en cultural infrastructure and personal property on Gidimt’en territory without our consent. This was our infrastructure to be on our land and exercise our land-based culture. Coastal GasLink’s attack on our cultural practices – with RCMP’s active complicity – is an attack on our sovereignty and an attack on our way of life.

This is an area, at 44 km, where Coastal GasLink have not obtained permits and is not even included in their proposed plans. Coastal GasLink did not provide any copies of permits for work to be undertaken in Gidimt’en territory, nor does our cultural infrastructure constitute an ‘obstruction’ within the limits of the interim injunction. Therefore, Coastal GasLink has no permits, authority, or legal rights to dismantle our cultural site or property. They illegally destroyed Gidimt’en cultural infrastructure and property with the support of the RCMP, who watched this happen and acted as industry’s private bodyguards. The RCMP have been notified of Coastal GasLink’s illegal activity under their own law, and the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en territory is pursuing criminal charges into the destruction of property and mischief by Coastal GasLink.

This state and industry-enforced violence are happening just two weeks after militarized RCMP descended onto our unceded Gidimt’en territories to enforce a colonial court injunction.

Jen Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en clan within the nation, said Coastal GasLink bulldozed three tents constructed with timber and canvas in an area along a logging road not included in the company’s plans.

“CGL workers just tore down all our stuff, threw them in (shipping containers) and said we had until the end of the day to pick them up or they would be thrown in the dump,” she said.

The tents were constructed when members erected a barrier at the same location, where RCMP enforced a court injunction on Jan. 7 and arrested 14 people in a move that sparked protests across Canada and internationally.

Wickham said members of the First Nation told RCMP they wanted the tents to remain to host cultural workshops.

Following the enforcement of the court injunction, a road was plowed around the tents allowing free movement of vehicles

Jason Slade, a supporter with the nearby Unist’ot’en camp run by Wet’suwet’en members, said Monday that work only halted temporarily and the traplines had been destroyed. He said excavation had begun at the site of a planned “man camp.”

The Unist’ot’en allege the actions violate the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping, as well as an agreement that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs had reached with RCMP allowing the company access to the area and ensuring traditional practices like trapping could continue.

The clan also alleges it is violating its permits with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and Environmental Assessment Office by beginning construction work before an archaeological impact assessment have been completed.

In a letter to the commission on Friday, Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en Clan points to an affidavit filed by a company official in November as part of its court injunction application, saying the assessment is scheduled for May.

Knedebeas asks in the letter that a stop-work order be issued immediately while the allegations are investigated.

Unarmed and peaceful women and elders were faced with heavy assault rifles and the RCMP trespassing and invading on our unceded territories. Fourteen were arrested.

Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law), all Wet’suwet’en Clans have said no to Coastal GasLink and all pipelines on unceded Wet’suwet’en territories. The 22,000 square km of Wet’suwet’en Territory is divided into 5 clans and 13 house groups. Each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory. The Hereditary Chiefs are the Title Holders and maintain the authority and jurisdiction to make decisions on Wet’suwet’en lands. Coastal GasLink/TransCanada has not received free, prior, and informed consent from or made any agreement with our Hereditary Chiefs to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have maintained their use and occupancy of their lands and hereditary governance system to this date despite generations of colonial policies and big industries that aim to remove us from this land, assimilate our people, annihilate our culture, and ban our governing system. We live out our laws and cultural practices on our lands. Our medicines, our berries, our food, the animals, our water, our culture are all here since time immemorial. We will never allow Gidimt’en sovereignty to be violated.