A rally in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to Coastal GasLink (CGL) developing on their traditional territory was held in Smithers Jan. 10.
Some 100 supporters came out in the cold temperatures and heavy snow to show their support for the cause, with supporters gathering at the Subway plaza at Highway 16 and Main and then marching down to Bovill Square where hereditary chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) addressed the crowd, thanking them for braving the snow and weather to make it out.
“Today when you stand with us we know the world stands with us,” he said, highlighting the just over a year it had been since the RCMP raided the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Jan. 7, 2019.
“What happened to the Wet’suwet’en and our supporters should never happen in a democratic free country,” he said.
“Any time you have an industry that is steering a government, whether it be provincial or federal, that is not democracy.”
Na’Moks once again stressed the herediary chiefs’ position that free, prior and informed consent was never obtained by CGL with regard to their proposed pipeline which passes through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.
“The hereditary chiefs have never approved this project. We never have, we never will.”
Supporters carried posters with slogans such as “Our fragile ecosystem matters” and “Knock, knock, who’s there? UNDRIP.”
Perry Rath is a teacher at Smithers Secondary School (SSS) and was one of the organizers of the event.
He said he and a few other settler friends decided to put together the event because it’s important to show solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en people whose traditional territory the Town of Smithers rests on.
“We’re in positions of privilege and we need to demonstrate our support for the position of the hereditary chiefs for their land title in this case,” Rath said.
“I see it as honouring the traditional governance of Wet’suwet’en society.”
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ dispute with CGL reached another head recently after the hereditary chiefs said they were exercising Wet’suwet’en law in sending CGL an eviction notice for their traditional territory on which CGL’s Camp 9A worksite is located.
The notice came following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling Dec. 31 to extend a temporary injunction allowing CGL access to the site.
On Jan. 7 — a year to the date the RCMP arrested 14 people at the Gidimt’en checkpoint while enforcing a previous temporary injunction — CGL posted an injunction order on their website which gives defendants 72 hours to clear the way to the work site. The injunction said CGL is at liberty to remove any obstructions not removed within 72 hours which are located on the roads or bridges.
The company has said its posting of the notice on their website was merely a procedural requirement of the injunction and that they have no plans to request RCMP action.
However at the solidarity rally Na’Moks cautioned that it wouldn’t just be the Bulkley Valley who would be observing CGL’s and the RCMP’s next moves.
“We never stand alone — the world is watching,” he said.
Solidarity rallies were also held in many other places around the province and across the country.