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 hereditary chiefs demand stop work order against CGL

Office of the Wet’suwet’en asserts pipeline work has destroyed numerous sites of cultural significance

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en is demanding a stop work order be issued to Coastal GasLink (CGL) by Forests minister Doug Donaldson.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs demands that a cease-and-desist order be immediately issued to the [CGL] pipeline project due to the ongoing destruction of Wet’suwet’en cultural heritage and archaeological sites, and non-compliance with Wet’suwet’en and BC Provincial law,” stated a press release issued Oct. 4.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) told The Interior News the issue is not one of trying to stall resource development or halt progress within the region, but rather to make sure it’s done in a caring way.

“We’re not here to say no to progress, we’re not here to say no to all industry but do it in a caring way, look after the land, the water, the people,” he said.

“We say we do what we do for the betterment of all, we don’t just say for the Wet’suwet’en, we say for all. Everybody needs clean water, everybody needs a food source, everybody should have the freedom to go out there and enjoy what’s there.”

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en clan launches civil lawsuit against Coastal GasLink

“As [Forests Minister] Doug Donaldson has the ability to issue a stop work order for damage caused to the Kweese war trail under the new provisions of the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA),” the release stated. “A stop work order of up to 120 days can be issued when something of heritage value ‘is likely to be altered, is being altered, or has been altered.”

The Interior News has reached out to Donaldson’s office for comment.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en assert CGL has destroyed numerous archaeological and heritage sites of cultural significance on their territory since February of this year.

“In addition to potential village sites, portions of the ancient Kweese War Trail, accompanying culturally modified trees (CMTs), and potential burial sites have been altered and destroyed by CGL work crews.”

It also notes that while several of these sites had been previously identified to the Province and CGL and flagged for the latter’s archaeologists and construction crews that several “cultural heritage resource” ribbons that were placed along the Kweese War Trail in 2011 by Wet’suwet’en representatives were removed by CGL contractors and replaced with ribbons indicating CGL’s road centre-line.

“It was in the Kweese War that the Wet’suwet’en received many of the names and crests that are symbols of who we are as a people. Many of those who fought in that war were wounded and where they died along the trail is where their spirits were released.

“The destruction of Wet’suwet’en cultural heritage including archaeological sites by CGL crews amounts to cultural genocide, as it erases Wet’suwet’en cultural information from the land and destroys evidence of use and occupation for Aboriginal rights and title.”

READ MORE: LNG/CGL on election agenda

Tensions between The Office of the Wet’suwet’en and CGL came to a head in January when RCMP officers enforced a December 2018 B.C. Supreme Court temporary injunction granting CGL the right to remove a Unist’ot’en gate denying workers access to the pipeline route.

Currently the Province is in talks with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en to try to begin a reconciliation process between the two parties, however Na’Moks said there are a number of ground rules they made clear before going to the table with the government.

One of those is that they would be moving away from the mentality of treaties.

Another was the talks would be non-transactional, meaning that the Wet’suwet’en would not agree to anything simply by sitting down at the table.

Na’Moks also said the talks would not be on one single industry or subject, noting environmental stewardship of the lands is a serious issue he would like to see addressed in negotiations.

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