CGL Files Injunction to End First Nations Blockade [UPDATED]
Coastal GasLink, the TransCanada subsidiary charged with building the C$6.2bn (US$4.7bn) pipeline to link natural gas supply to LNG Canada’s export terminal at Kitimat, BC, said November 29 it has filed an injunction with the BC Supreme Court to end a First Nations blockade near the planned route of the pipeline.
The injunction, filed November 26, seeks to end a blockade near the Morice River bridge, 60 km southwest of the town of Houston, BC, that the hereditary chiefs of the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have maintained for several years. The blockade initially went up in 2010 to protest the now-abandoned Northern Gateway pipeline, but has remained in place since.
With the positive final investment decision (FID) by LNG Canada’s joint venture partners on October 2, and the subsequent FID by TransCanada for CGL the next day, CGL workers need access to the public road blocked by the Wet’suwet’en to begin construction activities. But the decision to file for the injunction, the company said in a statement, was “not taken lightly.”
“Unfortunately, after years of attempting to engage the blockade to work through a solution, this step has become a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the area,” CGL said.
A small team from CGL tried to gain access to the Morice River bridge on November 20, but were denied access by the camp blockade. A “safe and respectful exchange” took place during the incident, CGL said, adding it intends to keep the lines of communication open with the Wet’suwet’en.
CGL first initiated consultations with the Wet’suwet’en in 2012 when it served official notice of the project, and since then has engaged in a wide range of consultation activities with the Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs. It has reached a project agreement with the elected leadership of the Wet’suwet’en, and in 2014 employed 84 members of the First Nation to conduct fieldwork in the area.
In a statement published on the blockade camp’s website, the Unist’ot’en claim the litigation aims to “criminalise Unist’ot’en Camp and forcibly facilitate pipeline construction across unceded Unist’ot’en territory.”
“Instead of naming the Unist’ot’en house group and hereditary chiefs (Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’), who collectively hold title and govern Unist’ot’en territory according to Anuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), these legal actions criminalise individuals who have laboured to protect our territories in an expression of our collective will,” the statement says. “TransCanada continues to ignore the jurisdiction and authority of our hereditary chiefs and our feast system of governance, which was recognised by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1997 Deglamuukw-Gisday’wa court case.”
In the statement, Unist’ot’en house group member Karla Tait says the litigation proves that TransCanada and CGL are “utterly ignorant and out of touch” with what the Unist’ot’en stand for.
“It shows that they have no understanding and appreciation for the relationship that we have with our territories, and the relationships we have with one another as members of a house group, of a clan, of a nation,” she says.
CGL has awarded contracts worth C$620mn to indigenous businesses along the pipeline’s 670-km route, for right-of-way clearing, medical, security and camp management needs, and expects to award another $400mn in additional contract and employment opportunities for indigenous and local BC communities during construction.
To date, CGL has had more than 15,000 interactions and engagements with First Nations, and over one-third of all the work completed on the project so far was done by indigenous people.