Pipeline company files injunction application against individuals at northern B.C. camp

A Calgary-based energy company is turning to the courts to gain access to sites it says are part of a “critical path” in constructing a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink spokesperson said injunction application against Unist'ot'en camp made as a last resort

Warner Naziel, left, a Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief and Freda Huson, Unist'ot'en spokesperson, talk to the media about their opposition to a proposed pipeline near Houston, B.C., in Vancouver on Monday April 7, 2014. Naziel and Huson are the only two named people in a recently filed Coastal GasLink injunction application. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

A Calgary-based energy company is turning to the courts to gain access to sites it says are part of a "critical path" in constructing a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

The issue for Coastal GasLink is that a First Nations group and its supporters are preventing the company from accessing a bridge and roadway that it says it needs to use for construction activities.

The Unist'ot'en camp, located 66 km down a forest service road, south of Houston, B.C., halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert, started in 2009.

On Nov. 21 the camp posted video on its Facebook page showing them turning away a group of people affiliated with the pipeline who showed up asking for access the previous day.

Now it will be up to a judge to decide if Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Corporation, should be granted an injunction for access to an area the Unist'ot'en assert as their unceded Wet'suwet'en homelands.

Coastal GasLink states in its Nov. 26 court filing that if the restricted access continues, "the project cannot proceed."

"There is no work-around for construction through this area," the court filing states.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is part of a $40 billion liquified natural gas project that includes the LNG Canada processing plant in Kitimat. LNG Canada announced it was going ahead with the project last month.

According to Coastal GasLink, if access continues to be restricted in the coming months the Unist'ot'en "will prevent $24 million in contracts from being fulfilled and employment amounting to 87,000 hours will be lost."

The Unist'ot'en house group, which is part of the Wet'suwet'en social structure under the clan system, has long asserted its opposition to industrial activities in the territory it has reoccupied.

A spokesperson for Coastal GasLink said the injunction application is a last resort for the company, after years of attempts to gain access through other means. The spokesperson said the company has signed project agreements with elected leadership from 20 First Nations band governments along the 670 km pipeline route.

For the Unist'ot'en, the injunction application filed is seen as the company "seeking to kick us off our lands and to bankrupt us," according to a post on their Facebook page.

John Ridsdale, Chief Namoks of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, says the hereditary chiefs stand in support of the Unist'ot'en. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Neither of the individuals specifically named in the injunction application, Unist'ot'en spokesperson Freda Huson and hereditary chief Smogelgem (Warner Naziel), have filed a response to the court.

On Thursday, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief Na'Moks (John Ridsdale) said they were in the process of reviewing the application with their legal team and that the Unist'ot'en have the support of the hereditary chiefs.

Na'Moks said they anticipate they'll be before the court sometime in December.

Coastal GasLink will be asking the court for some form of injunction to take effect immediately pending a hearing.

The company is also specifically looking for enforcement provisions to be granted, so the RCMP or any appropriate police force authorization can "arrest and remove" those who ignore the injunction.

About the Author

Chantelle Bellrichard

Chantelle Bellrichard is a reporter with CBC's Indigenous unit based in Vancouver. Email her at chantelle.bellrichard@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @pieglue.