First Nation calls for solidarity as pipeline work set to resume

A group of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs is calling for a week of solidarity actions in support of their fight against the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project.

The call comes after the chiefs issued an "eviction notice" on Jan. 3 for a Coastal GasLink work camp near Houston, B.C. on Dark House territory, and the neighbouring Gidimt'en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Solidarity events are scheduled to begin in Victoria and Toronto on Tuesday, and additional events are planned in Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal and Rochester, New York between Wednesday and Sunday.

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"We watched communities across Canada and worldwide rise up with us in January 2019 when the RCMP violently raided our territories and criminalized us for upholding our responsibilities towards our land," a statement issued by the hereditary chiefs says. "Our strength to act today comes from the knowledge that our allies across Canada and around the world will again rise up with us, as they did for Oka, Gustafsen Lake, and Elsipogtog, shutting down rail lines, ports, and industrial infrastructure and pressuring elected government officials to abide by UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). The state needs to stop violently supporting those members of the one per cent who are stealing our resources and condemning our children to a world rendered uninhabitable by climate change."

The $6.6 billion, 670-kilometre-long Coastal GasLink pipeline project would connect northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada natural gas export terminal in Kitimat.

In a statement updated on Monday, Coastal GasLink says it plans to resume work in the area this week.

"Coastal GasLink continues to remobilize construction crews across the right-of-way in anticipation of work resumption and ramp up this week, beginning with safety refresh meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday," the company statement says. "Clearing, grading, workforce accommodation establishment and other activities are expected to continue as scheduled across the route. Pipe delivery also resumes this week, with continued receipt of materials are various storage sites, including north of Kitimat. Most field construction activities were paused from Dec. 20, to Jan. 5, 2020 due to the holidays, with limited security and maintenance."

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an interlocutory injunction to ensure access to the areas around the Morice River Bridge, located 47 km southwest of Houston.

"The defendants may genuinely believe in their rights under indigenous law to prevent the plaintiff from entering Dark House territory, but the law does not recognize any right to blockade and obstruct the plaintiff from pursuing lawfully authorized activities," Justice Marguerite Church wrote in her decision on the case.

In a statement, the Wet'suwet'en chiefs said Church's ruling ignores a previous court ruling which acknowledged the Wet'suwet'en have not ceded or surrendered their title to their traditional territory.

"The granting of the interlocutory injunction by BC's Supreme Court has proven to us that Canadian courts will ignore their own rulings and deny our jurisdiction when convenient, and will not protect our territories or our rights as Indigenous peoples," the statement said. "Hereditary Chiefs of all five Wet'suwet'en clans have rejected Church's decision, which criminalizes Anuk 'nu'at'en (Wet'suwet'en law), and have issued and enforced an eviction of (Coastal GasLink's) workers from the territory. The last CGL contractor was escorted out by Wet'suwet'en Chiefs on Saturday, January 4, 2020."

-- with files from Business in Vancouver and The Canadian Press

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