Coastal GasLink Evicted from First Nation Territory
Coastal GasLink (CGL), the TC Energy subsidiary contracted to build a 670-km pipeline from gas reserves in BC’s northeast to the Shell-led LNG Canada project at Kitimat, on BC’s northern coast, says it was served notice on January 4 evicting it from Wet’suwet’en territory.
The eviction notice followed notification from Dark House, also known as the Unist’ot’en and one of five Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans, that it intended to terminate an access agreement between CGL and Dark House that had been in place since early last year. The eviction takes effect January 10.
The access agreement between CGL and Dark House allows access to areas blockaded by the Wet’suwet’en since 2012, and ensures the safety of all users, CGL said in a January 5 statement responding to the eviction notice.
“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,” CGL said. “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.”
On December 31, the BC Supreme Court issued an interlocutory injunction which made it clear that it was unlawful to obstruct or blockade CGL and its workers from the area. The ruling also stressed that indigenous customary laws don’t become part of Canadian common law or domestic law unless there is some means or process – treaties, court declarations or statutory provisions – by which the indigenous law can be recognized.
None of this has happened with respect to Wet’suwet’en customary law, the ruling said, and they are not recognized as an effectual part of Canadian law.
“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,” CGL said. “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.”
CGL said that only its security personnel were on-site when the eviction notice was presented and that regular construction work along the right-of-way was expected to resume this week, following a “pause for the holidays.”