British Columbia

Judge asks B.C. attorney general to intercede in Unist'ot'en arrests

Twelve of the 14 people arrested by RCMP last month for blocking Coastal GasLink's access to a proposed pipeline made their first appearance Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Judge agrees it is in 'public interest' for Crown to intervene as those arrested make first court appearance

Tensions over a proposed pipeline on disputed Indigenous land led to 14 arrests in January. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

B.C.'s attorney general has been asked to intervene after the controversial arrests of 14 people in a dispute between an LNG pipeline company and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

The intervention request came Monday from a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Prince George. Madame Justice Church agreed with a defence application, stating it is in the "public interest to invite the Crown to intercede."

The ruling came as most of the 14 people arrested by RCMP last month made their first appearance in court. 

All are facing contempt proceedings for defying a court order while blocking Coastal GasLink's access to a potential pipeline route.

'Asserting jurisdiction'

A dozen of those arrested filed quietly into a large court room in Prince George on Monday. Several carried eagle feathers. Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt'en​ group, held a talking stick.

Wickham welcomed the referral to the Crown.

"The bigger issue has to do with our hereditary system and with government and industry asserting jurisdiction on our territories," she said outside court.

"They have to look at the evidence and see if they want to proceed with these charges. It may not be in the public interest."

Molly Wickham brought a talking stick with eagle feathers to B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George on Tuesday. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

The case has been adjourned until April 15 to give the attorney general time to consider the matter.

Still to be determined is whether those arrested will face civil contempt or criminal charges, and whether the Crown decides it's in the public interest to proceed with charges.