VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says they are concerned about the safety and well-being of the Wet’suwet’en as the RCMP set up nearby the Gidimt’en camp to enforce the interim injunction from the BC Supreme Court in December 2018.
UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip stated “We strongly condemn the RCMP’s use of intimidation, harassment, and ongoing threats of forceful intervention and removal of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders from Wet’suwet’en unceded territory. In continuing to aggressively threaten the Wet’suwet’en with eviction from their own Title land, the governments of Canada and British Columbia are blatantly ignoring the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent-setting Delgamuukw case which confirmed that the Wet’suwet’en’s Title and Rights have never been extinguished. The RCMP’s actions are in direct contradiction to both governments’ stated commitments to true reconciliation, and to full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is a global human rights standard. We demand that Canada and BC call on the RCMP and Coastal GasLink to respect the Unist’ot’en/ Giltseyu-Dark House on unceded lands. The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met.”
UBCIC Condemns RCMP Intimidation of Wet’suwet’en: “We strongly condemn the RCMP’s use of intimidation, harassment, and ongoing threats of forceful intervention and removal of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders from Wet’suwet’en unceded territory.” #cdnpoli https://t.co/6D1yk1hHvp pic.twitter.com/24jsJRX0JP
— UBCIC (@UBCIC) January 7, 2019
On Dec. 14, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued a statement saying they were deeply concerned by the National Energy Board’s decision denying their request to participate in a jurisdictional challenge to the permits issued to TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which would cross Wet’suwet’en territories.
While members of another Wet’suwet’en house, the Unist’ot’en of the Gilseyhu clan, erected a camp and checkpoint in the area of the planned pipeline almost seven years ago, Wickham said the Gidimt’en checkpoint is more recent.
“We wanted to show that even though the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en are from separate clans, all the chiefs have been opposed to pipelines in our territories for years and years and years,” she said.
“Unist’ot’en has been holding that responsibility all by themselves, so the (Gidimt’en) chief decided it was time for all of us to physically show our support.”
In an amended injunction order filed Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court justice said the defendants, which include anyone “occupying, obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access” in the area, have until Jan. 31 to file a response to Coastal GasLink’s injunction application.
In the meantime, the order says they are prohibited from physically interfering with or impeding any person or vehicle trying to access the area or carrying on pipeline business, including pre-construction and construction activities. The defendants are also prohibited from threatening, intimidating or getting within 10 metres of anyone actively working on the project.
LNG Canada announced on Oct. 2 that its joint venture participants had taken a positive investment decision to construct the Kitimat export facility.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said LNG Canada’s decision ranked on the historic scale of a “moon landing,” emphasizing just how much the project means to an economically deprived region of the province, an estimated $23 billion in provincial revenue.
In a notice of civil claim filed Nov. 23, Coastal GasLink says construction on the pipeline is scheduled to begin this month for completion in 2021.
“Coastal GasLink has project agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous bands along the length of the project in British Columbia,” the company said in the court document.
The company has tried to begin work in an area only accessible by the Morice Forest Service Road, but has been prevented from doing so by the demonstrators, it said.
“A small delay in completing the work could contribute to a significant overall delay for the project,” it says.
Around 2012, the Unist’ot’en camp set up a blockade by constructing a gate and other obstacles to the area, and a second gate has been constructed recently at the Morice River Bridge, it said. Coastal GasLink was most recently prevented from accessing the area on Nov. 20, it said.
In a statement posted on its website, the Unist’ot’en camp issued an international call to action for the Gidimt’en access checkpoint.
The statement describes potential RCMP action as “an act of war,” and evidence that Canada is criminalizing and using violence against Indigenous people, despite paying “lip service” to reconciliation. It points to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their territories.
“We are now preparing for a protracted struggle. The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the land defenders holding the front lines have no intention of allowing Wet’suwet’en sovereignty to be violated,” it said.
(with files from the CANADIAN PRESS)