The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs including Chief Namox (John Ridsdale, left) and Chief Smogelgem – who has also gone by Toghestiy (Warner Naziel, second from left) – with Unist’ot’en camp spokesperson: Smogelgem’s wife and Witset Band councillor Freda Huson (front). (Facebook photo)

Coastal GasLink applies for injunction against Unist’ot’en

LNG company applied to enforce access to Morice River bridge and roads blocked by Unist’ot’en camp.

Coastal GasLink filed in Prince George B.C. Supreme Court an application for an injunction to enforce access to areas blocked by the Unist’ot’en camp south of Houston.

The application was filed Monday. A notice of civil claim from Coastal GasLink against members of the Unist’ot’en camp was filed Nov. 23. That civil claim on top of seeking full access to the Morice River bridge and the land beyond it, seeks general damages, exemplary or punitive damages, costs, and interest.

A hearing is scheduled in Prince George for Dec. 10 at 9:45 a.m.

“With the successful announcement of a Final Investment Decision (FID) by our Joint Venture Partners, the Coastal GasLink project needs access to the public road to begin necessary construction activities. The application and other court documents were served on the individuals involved in the blockade as required by B.C. Supreme Court Civil Rules,” reads a statement from Coastal GasLink.

“However, for the Coastal GasLink team, this decision was not taken lightly. Unfortunately, after years of attempting to engage the blockade to work through a solution, this step has become a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the area.

“As we have done in the past, we will continue to keep the lines of communications open to work towards a mutually beneficial outcome. At this point in time, we must focus our attention on taking the necessary legal steps in our application for an injunction order through the legal system.

“The Coastal GasLink team would like to thank each of the local communities and the First Nations groups along our pipeline route for their continued support through this process, including the elected band chiefs, their councils and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who do support our pipeline. We look forward to continuing to build our relationships with all these communities.”

The Unist’ot’en response on social media (a message from The Interior News on Nov. 23 to camp spokesperson on a meeting at the bridge with Coastal GasLink representatives has not yet been returned) has repeated its position that it has jurisdiction on the land.

Read more: LNG pipeline hiring as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs resist

The following is a statement posted on the camp’s Facebook page Nov. 30:

An injunction application and civil litigation filed by TransCanada Coastal GasLink aims to criminalize Unist’ot’en Camp and forcibly facilitate pipeline construction across unceded Unist’ot’en territory.

TransCanada is seeking an “interim, interlocutory or permanent injunction,” police enforcement, and financial damages for those “occupying, obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access” to our own unceded homelands.

Instead of naming the Unist’ot’en house group and hereditary chiefs (Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’), who collectively hold title and govern Unist’ot’en territory according to Anuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), these legal actions criminalize individuals who have laboured to protect our territories in an expression of our collective will. TransCanada continues to ignore the jurisdiction and authority of our hereditary chiefs and our feast system of governance, which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1997 Deglamuukw-Gisday’wa court case.

“This is our house group’s work. It’s a shared vision and purpose,” stated Dr. Karla Tait, Unist’ot’en house group member. “The fact that this company can make a civil suit thinking that Freda Huson and Warner Naziel are the only ones standing in the way of their project is utterly ignorant and out of touch with all that we stand for as Unist’ot’en and as Indigenous people. It shows that they have no understanding and appreciation for the relationship that we have with our territories, and the relationships we have with one another as members of a house group, of a clan, of a nation.”

The Unist’ot’en Camp is not a blockade, a protest, or a demonstration – it is a permanent, non-violent occupation of Unist’ot’en territory, established to protect our homelands from illegal industrial encroachments and to preserve a space for our community to heal from the violence of colonization.

Since 2015, we have operated a three story healing centre and hosted gatherings for Indigenous women and youth. This centre is currently home to Wet’suwet’en community members who are receiving holistic and land based treatment for addictions. We see TransCanada’s legal threat, which requests that the RCMP enter our territory by force, as a direct challenge to the safety of our residents and an extension of the colonial violence from which we are trying to heal.

For more than a century, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have assumed ownership and jurisdiction of unceded lands without legal basis for doing so. Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa determined that Wet’suwet’en rights and title have never been extinguished across 22,000km2 of northern British Columbia. As plaintiffs in that court case, and title holders on our land, we are exercising our right to exclusive use and occupation of land, and our right to determine its use.

“Our clan discussed this dream of a healing centre that would be land based, with all of the programming stemming from our teachings and our ancestral ways of wellness that are much more holistic and that recognize the impacts of colonization and of trauma on our youth and our families and communities,” stated Dr. Karla Tait.

“I see the projects proposed to run through our territory as a threat to us reclaiming and self-determining our own health and wellness,” stated Tait.

The Unist’ot’en camp’s position is supported by the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en. Members of the Dark House of the Gil-seyhu (Big Frog Clan) called itself the Unist’ot’en Clan when it broke off from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in 2008.

The camp has declared that it is reclaiming lands they were displaced from. It has said it is fighting against mining companies, over logging, grazing leases on their hunting areas, over hunting, and oil and gas pipelines. Buildings have been built at the site over the last several years.

APTN reported Wet’suwet’en Chief Namox (John Ridsdale) saying that three female hereditary chiefs have been stripped of their names for supporting the pipeline. In an interview with The Interior News, he described the vast majority of Wet’suwet’en people as being against the pipeline.

The elected Witset Band council voted twice to accept a benefits agreement with TransCanada, the owner of Coastal GasLink, that the Band said will give it $55.4 million in payments over the life of the project, along with jobs and training.

Witset hosted Coastal GasLink and its contractors at an open house for job seekers Nov. 22.

Premier John Horgan was in Smithers in August to meet with hereditary chiefs. Nothing was agreed to.

Court documents:

PRG S S 1854871 Notice of Application by The Interior News on Scribd

PRG-S-S-1854871 Notice of Civil Claim by The Interior News on Scribd

Unist’ot’en supports itself with donations from all over the world, and includes in its ranks volunteers from southern B.C. and the local area.

On the same week Witset held its open house and Coastal GasLink employees were turned away at the Morice River bridge, Huson was scheduled to speak with the environmental society Wilderness Committee to, as the Committee described in a release, “outline legal, political and on-the-ground strategies to stop the expansion of fracking and LNG and instead strengthen B.C.’s climate targets as part of a shift to a low-carbon economy that works for everyone.”

Smithers resident Mike Sawyer, an environmental consultant who filed a court challenge that is being reviewd to see if the pipeline should be under federal jurisdiction, which would mean the environmental review needs to be redone, was also scheduled to speak at the Committee’s Vancouver town hall on Nov. 22.

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The Coastal GasLink project is worth $6.2 billion and is divided into eight sections for contractors to build, each roughly 80 km long. (Contributed photo)

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