RCMP take information from women who participated in a ceremony recently which stopped work briefly on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. (Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory Facebook screenshot)

RCMP take information from women who participated in a ceremony recently which stopped work briefly on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. (Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory Facebook screenshot)

Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is standing with Wet’suwet’en people who said they were threatened with arrest during a recent ceremony in their traditional territory near Houston, B.C. which briefly blocked access for Coastal GasLink workers.

Jennifer Wickham was one of four Gidim’ten women who participated in a ceremony in the path of a controversial 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline that will eventually carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat. The ceremony, which was released in a video posted Tuesday, Oct. 13 on Facebook shows the women singing around a small fire near the CGL pipeline route.

“I think it’s pretty in-line with how the RCMP respond to anything we do on our territory, which is with unnecessary force and threats of arrests,” Wickham said.

North District RCMP Media Relations Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, meanwhile, said the women were blocking access to the worksite, however, the matter was resolved peacefully with no arrests or charges.

“The RCMP will always respect the right of Indigenous people to practice ceremonies,” Saunderson told Black Press Media.

UBCIC said violence must not threaten the safety and rights of “land defenders and matriarchs” holding ceremonies and protecting the sacred Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) headwaters.

“Indigenous land defenders and community members cannot be criminalized and targeted for asserting their title and rights and conducting ceremonial and cultural traditions,” UBCIC stated in a Oct. 15 news release.

“This stands in acute opposition to the provincial government’s obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.”

Read More: Resource development key to Stikine economy: provincial candidates

Saunderson said if ceremonies are being practiced that are not safe, peaceful or lawful, a measured approach to negotiate an alternative with all parties will be taken.

She added this may include re-locating persons to a safer location or any other options acceptable to all parties.

“In this case, the complainant agreed to allow time for the fire associated to the ceremony to burn itself out rather than be extinguished,” Saunderson noted.

In the Facebook video, Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) said the women wanted to “make some offerings to their ancestors of all the things that matter the most to them.”

It shows the women standing in an area recently cleared of trees, with heavy equipment nearby, as they make a small fire and begin singing a mourning song.

A CGL worker approaches them and repeatedly asks how long their ceremony was going to take.

“The work being done here is lawful, authorized and permitted,” he said, adding CGL would be calling in the RCMP. “This is a work zone and you’re impeding the work that we’re doing.”

CGL could not be reached for comment.

Read More: Houston mayor named to group working on Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Read More: Environmental Assessment Office disputes Wet’suwet’en interpretation of legislation as Supreme Court hearing continues

Although five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils have signed agreements with CGL supporting the construction of the pipeline, the majority of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have opposed it.

In October 2019, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued an immediate cease and desist order to CGL due to the ‘ongoing destruction of Wet’suwet’en cultural and archaeological sites, and non-compliance with Wet’suwet’en and B.C. law.’

Before the end of the year, CGL was granted a permanent injunction by the B.C. Supreme Court. The ruling was formally rejected by the hereditary chiefs.

A petition by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en seeking an order to quash an extension of CGL’s environmental assessment certificate will resumed Friday, Oct. 16.

(With files from Canadian Press)


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shea Long roosts in the Shoot Out in the Telkwa Range. (SnoRiders, Houston/Shea Long photo)
Telkwa Range snowmobiling permit lottery opens

Application period is Oct. 20 to Nov. 20 for snowmobiliers and skiers to gain access to Starr Basin

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals. (Black Press Composite Photo)
Nathan Cullen, right, looks on as Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation, Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
10 Gitxsan hereditary chiefs call for BC NDP to remove Cullen as Stikine candidate

Ten Gitxsan hereditary chiefs have called for the firing of NDP candidate… Continue reading

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for Stikine candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

Most Read