British Columbia

Wet'suwet'en clan members say they are enforcing eviction of Coastal GasLink from territories

The Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation has told Coastal GasLink it will enforce the eviction of pipeline workers from its territories in central B.C.

The enforcement notice, issued early Sunday, provided 8 hours for workers to leave before roads blocked

A person stands at a blockade on the evening of Nov. 14. Wet'suwet'en members and supporters issued an enforcement notice for the eviction of Coastal GasLink from their territories early Sunday morning. (Submitted by Layla Staats)

The Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en Nation has told Coastal GasLink it will enforce the eviction of pipeline workers from its territories in central B.C.

The enforcement notice, issued at 5 a.m. PT Sunday, provided an eight-hour window for CGL workers to move out of the territory before the access road was blocked. 

Jennifer Wickham, media co-ordinator for the Gidimt'en checkpoint, which monitors access to part of the territory, says the Morice River Forest Service Road is now impassible for all vehicles, including supply trucks.

She says only a handful of CGL workers were seen leaving the area before the blockades went up along the access road Sunday afternoon.

CGL initially declined to comment, but later issued a written release that stated the blockades had stranded 500 workers at two work lodges.

The company said camp supplies are expected to run out within days and with all access roads blocked, workers can't access emergency medical care. 

"These unlawful actions have put our people in danger," it said.

An eviction notice was originally issued on Jan. 4, 2020 by hereditary chiefs of all five clans of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. RCMP arrested 28 people in the month following the eviction notice for blocking CGL access to the territory. 

While opposition from the hereditary chiefs did not dissipate, focus shifted to ensuring the safety of the community against COVID-19.

"We haven't forgotten [about land rights], but I don't want to be burying any more of our people. I don't want to bury anyone from our village," Wet'suwet'en hereditary Chief Na'moks told CBC News in Feb 2021.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, if completed, will span 670 kilometres across northern B.C., transporting natural gas from near Dawson Creek in the east to Kitimat on the Pacific Ocean. The company has signed benefit agreements with 20 band councils along the route of the project. But Wet'suwet'en hereditary leadership says band councils do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries.

On Sept. 25, members of the Gidimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en and supporters established a camp on a CGL work site south of Houston, halting plans to drill under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River). Wickham called the river "the major concern" right now. She says the enforcement notice is "the next step" in the actions taken to protect the Wet'suwet'en sacred headwaters, salmon spawning river, and source of clean drinking water. 

Since the camp was set up, two people have been arrested on Gidimt'en territory for breach of a court injunction that prevents people from blocking access to CGL workers.

And on Oct. 27, hereditary Chief Dsta'hyl was arrested on neighbouring Likhts'amisyu Clan territory on charges of mischief and theft for actions taken against CGL equipment. In a video posted to a public social media page, Dsta'hyl can be seen removing pieces of heavy machinery. 

Wing Chief Hagwilowh (Antoinette Austin), who speaks on behalf of the Likths'amisyu head chiefs, says Dsta'hyl has been tasked "with upholding Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en trespass laws, and these laws were in place long before contact with colonizers."

She says "seizing assets is an affirmative option" to stop CGL work on the territory. 

The RCMP said they are continuing to patrol the area. There have not been any arrests since the enforcement notice was issued Sunday. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Partridge is an Associate Producer and Reporter in Prince George on the unceded territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. You can contact her at kate.partridge@cbc.ca.

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