Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs issue eviction notice to pipeline company

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      The Coastal GasLink pipeline has already been approved by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.

      In October, the company obtained a five-year extension to its provincial environmental assessment certificate.

      It's also negotiated agreements with 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route from the northeastern B.C. gas fields to the Kitimat area, where it will supply the LNG Canada facility.

      That plant, which is part of a $40-billion fossil-fuel infrastructure project, has won the support of the B.C. and federal governments.

      But the pipeline is still opposed by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. And they claim that the elected band councils only have legal jurisdiction over reserves created under the Indian Act—and not over traditional unceded territories.

      This weekend, the hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., effective immediately, in the Dark House, Gidemt'en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories.

      The chiefs allege in a news release that the company has violated the Wet'suwet'en law of trespass, destroyed archaeological sites, and occupied the land.

      "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," the news release states. "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 B.C.’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 news release emphasizes that free, prior, and informed consent have been practised over the past 10 years when someone outside of the Dark House membership seeks access to its territory.

      "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."

      The Unist'ot'en Camp posted this 18-minute documentary, "Invasion", by Michael Toledano on YouTube in early November.
      Michael Toledano

      B.C. Supreme Court justice Marguerite Church recently extended Coastal GasLink Pipeline's injunction.

      She ruled that Unist'ot'en spokesperson Freda Huson, Laksamshu clan member Walter Naziel, and other unnamed parties "have obstructed lawfully permitted activity and their recourse to self-help remedies is contrary to the rule of law".

      "There is no evidence before me of any Wet'suwet'en law or legal tradition that would allow blockades of bridges and roads or permit violations of provincial forestry regulations or other legislation," Church wrote. "There is also no evidence that blockades of this kind are a recognized mechanism of dealing with breaches of Wet'suwet'en law."

      The hereditary chiefs have rejected Church's ruling.

      The pipeline company is a subsidiary of TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada Pipelines.

      On Boxing Day, it announced an agreement to sell 65 percent of its interest in the pipeline subsidiary to New York-based KKR and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

      AIMCo manages 31 pension, endowment, and government funds.