Marching down Main Street in Smithers. B.C. chiefs gather in Smithers to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ position on Unist’ot’en camp and opposition to Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink full statements on eviction from Houston work site

Jan. 4 Wet’suwet’en press release

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs Evict Coastal GasLink from Territory

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued an eviction notice to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company. The eviction of CGL is effective immediately, and applies to “Camp 9A” on Dark House territory, as well as the neighbouring Gidimt’en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Hereditary chiefs have gathered on Gidimt’en and Gilseyhu territories to monitor the eviction.

Coastal Gaslink has violated the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps. Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony.

Canada’s courts have acknowledged in Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa v. The Queen that the Wet’suwet’en people, represented by our hereditary chiefs, have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000km2 of Wet’suwet’en 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.

Anuc ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) is not a “belief” or a “point of view”. It is a way of sustainably managing our territories and relations with one another and the world around us, and it has worked for millennia to keep our territories intact. Our law is central to our identity. The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.

We reaffirm that Anuc ‘nu’at’en remains the highest law on Wet’suwet’en land and must be respected. We have always held the responsibility and authority to protect our unceded territories. Protection of our yintah (traditional territories) is at the heart of Anuc ‘nu’at’en, and we will practice our laws for the future generations.

The Wet’suwet’en have always controlled access to our territories. At Unist’ot’en Village, a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol has been practiced over the past ten years whenever access to the territory is requested by someone outside of Dark House membership. Dark House has not been able to implement this protocol since the enforcement of the interim injunction in January 2019. This protocol aligns Wet’suwet’en law with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to obtain free, prior, and informed consent for development on our territories.

We expect Coastal GasLink to peacefully comply with our eviction notice, and ask that British Columbia uphold its commitment to implement UNDRIP and instruct RCMP to respect our rights and refrain from interference in Wet’suwet’en law.

Jan 5. Coastal GasLink response

Coastal GasLink comments on Unist’ot’en actions

On December 31, 2019, the BC Supreme Court released its decision on the Interlocutory Injunction application by Coastal GasLink to ensure access was provided to areas in and around the Morice River Bridge. The Court granted the Interlocutory Injunction which confirms the legal right of Coastal GasLink to access areas covered by the Injunction.

On January 3, 2020, Coastal GasLink was notified by Dark House, also known as the Unist’ot’en, that it intends to terminate an Access Agreement that has been in place for the past year, effective January 10, 2020 but requested Coastal GasLink abide by the access terms of the Agreement.

The Unist’ot’en wrote: “While Dark House is generally opting out of the Access Agreement, Dark House requests that the terms of the Access Agreement continue to be followed for CGL’s access across the Morice River Bridge as set out in Schedule A of the Access Agreement,” which appeared to indicate that continued access to work areas would be provided in accordance with the Agreement.

This Agreement reached between Coastal GasLink and representatives of the Unist’ot’en is a cooperative arrangement to allow access to areas beyond the Morice River Bridge and to ensure the safety of all users, including those at the Unist’ot’en Camp. As part of this Agreement, Coastal GasLink also provided the Unist’ot’en with funding to pay for their own fulltime security in and around the bridge area.

On January 4, subsequent to the cancellation of the Access Agreement representatives of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en issued an ‘eviction notice’ to Coastal GasLink and demanded that we remove our equipment from areas in which we are legally permitted to operate.

In addition, early on January 5, Coastal GasLink personnel discovered that trees had been felled on the Morice River Forest Service Road at kilometer 39, making the road impassable. While it is unclear who felled these trees, this action is a clear violation of the Interlocutory Injunction as it prevents our crews from accessing work areas.

We are disappointed that after nearly a year of successful joint implementation of the Access Agreement the Unist’ot’en has decided to terminate it. Our preference has always been to find mutually agreeable solutions through productive and meaningful dialogue. We have reached out to better understand their reasons and are hopeful we can find a mutually agreeable path forward. To that end, we are requesting to meet with Unist’ot’en and the Hereditary chiefs as soon as possible.

Over the past year, Coastal GasLink has repeatedly requested face-to-face meetings with the Unist’ot’en and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en but these requests have either been ignored or rejected by these groups.

Our top priority is the safety of all users of the public roads in the Morice River area. We respect the rights of others to peacefully and lawfully express their point of view, as long as their activities do not disrupt or jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees and contractors, or the protesters themselves.

In granting Coastal GasLink an Interlocutory Injunction, the BC Supreme Court made clear that it is unlawful to obstruct or blockade Coastal GasLink from pursuing its permitted and authorized activities.

The Court found that this project is in the public interest and will bring substantial benefits to First Nations, local communities, British Columbia and Canada. The Court also recognized that the project is supported by all 20 First Nations governments along the route, including the chiefs and councils elected to represent the five Wet’suwet’en bands which represent Wet’suwet’en people. There are many Wet’suwet’en Nation members working on this project today who are directly benefiting from the project through training and employment, and who want to see those benefits continue.

Coastal GasLink is committed to constructing this project safely, and with respect for all people, communities and environment.

We welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue to work towards a peaceful resolution which avoids enforcement of the injunction.

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