British Columbia

Coastal GasLink gives pipeline opponents 72-hour notice to clear way to worksite

Natural gas pipeline company Coastal Gaslink has posted an injunction order giving members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and their supporters 72 hours to clear the way toward its work site in northern British Columbia.

Order comes a year after similar court injunction sparked global rallies in support of Indigenous rights

Coastal GasLink posted aerial photos taken Jan. 7 that appear to show a large cluster of more than 100 trees strewn across the Morice River Forest Service Road at the 42- and 39-kilometre markers.

Coastal GasLink has posted an injunction order giving opponents to its pipeline project 72 hours to clear the way to its work site in northern B.C.

The order, stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry, addresses members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation and supporters who say the project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

It comes one year after RCMP enforcement of a similar injunction along the same road to the work site sparked global rallies in support of Indigenous rights and raised questions about land claims.

The order requires the defendants to remove any obstructions, including cabins and gates, on any roads, bridges or work sites that Coastal GasLink has been authorized to use.

The Wet'suwet'en Nation says the company is overestimating the number of trees felled, but does not deny felling them. At a press conference held Jan. 7, in Smithers, B.C., spokesperson Na'moks said the trees were put across the road for the nation's safety in light of events involving RCMP at a protest one year ago. (Coastal GasLink)

If they don't remove the obstructions themselves, the court says the natural gas pipeline company is at liberty to remove them.

It orders any peace officer to enforce the order, giving authorization to RCMP to arrest and remove anyone police have "reasonable or probable grounds" to believe has knowledge of the order and is contravening it.

"The police retain discretion as to timing and manner of enforcement of this Order," the injunction says.

The order does not apply to a metal gate on the west side of a bridge outside the Unist'ot'en camp, unless the gate is used to prevent or impede the workers' access.

Fourteen people were arrested by armed officers at a checkpoint constructed along the road leading to both the Unist'ot'en camp and the Coastal GasLink work site on Jan. 7, 2019.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink the new injunction on Dec. 31.

The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, but the five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs say no one can access the land without their consent.

RCMP said in a written statement that on Jan. 6 during regular patrols officers were stopped by a blockade of fallen trees and saw stacks of tires containing 'jugs of accelerants.' (RCMP)

'Traps likely to cause bodily harm'

Coastal GasLink shared photos yesterday of what it says are more than 100 trees that have been felled across the logging road.

At a press conference Tuesday, hereditary chief Na'moks called for construction to cease and for the B.C. government to revoke the company's permits.

He said the Wet'suwet'en felled the trees to protect their own safety.

"Those trees put across the road were for our safety. We must look at the history of the RCMP one year ago and what they did to our people and the guests in our territory," he said.

A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist'ot'en camp on a remote logging road near Houston, B.C., on Thursday January 17, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

RCMP said in a written statement that on Jan. 6 during regular patrols, officers were stopped by a blockade of fallen trees.

"Of particular concern for safety, they noted some trees that were partly cut in readiness for felling. This creates a hazard where these trees can fall unexpectedly due to wind. Three stacks of tires were also noticed, each covered by tarps and trees and contained several jugs of accelerants — gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags full of fuel soaked rags," police wrote.

Police said the items have been brought to the attention of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs that RCMP has entered a criminal investigation for "traps likely to cause bodily harm."

"We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved. We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution."