Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders are asking the province of British Columbia to order a pipeline company to stop preliminary work in unceded Wet’suwet’en territories.
On Wednesday the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents the nation’s traditional governance system, said in a news release it has asked provincial Environment Minister George Heyman for “an immediate cease-and-desist work order for Coastal GasLink pipeline project on Wet’suwet’en territories.”
The request comes amid tensions between the Wet’suwet’en, provincial and federal governments, the company building the LNG pipeline, and the RCMP.
The RCMP’s enforcement of a Coastal GasLink (CGL)-initiated court injunction earlier this month garnered national and international media attention and prompted nationwide rallies in support of the Unist’ot’en House and Gidimt’en Clan, who have reoccupied their territories in an effort to stop the pipeline.
Late last week members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation alleged CGL bulldozed a Unist’ot’en trapline and tents belonging to the Gidimt’en Clan, and that the company—a subsidiary of Calgary-based TC Energy—has not completed a required archaeological impact assessment.
The Wet’suwet’en say the actions violate the company’s permits.
Earlier this week the province said its Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission are jointly investigating the alleged violations.
Wednesday’s letter from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en to Heyman also comes on the heels of news of past violations by the pipeline company.
A recently released June 2018 inspection report from the EAO concludes “Coastal GasLink Pipeline is hereby warned that the project was not compliant” with six separate pre-construction requirements stemming from its Environmental Assessment Certificate.
B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office told APTN News in an email Wednesday evening that CGL “has since addressed the six conditions and is now in compliance with the conditions and requirements of its EAC.”
The office said “if there are any non-compliance issues, the EAO will determine the appropriate enforcement response which could include: warnings, orders to cease work or remedy, or a range of other potential sanctions set out in the [province’s] Environmental Assessment Act.”
But Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders say they want work stopped immediately.
“This [June 2018] report by the B.C Environmental Assessment Office Compliance and Enforcement Officer affirms our own Wet’suwet’en investigations about Coastal GasLink’s willful and illegal disregard for our territories and cultural practices,” Dini ze (Chief) Na’Moks, said in Wednesday’s news release.
“The provincial government is required to uphold its own law and issue an immediate cease-and-desist work order for Coastal GasLink pipeline project on Wet’suwet’en territories. This project already does not have free, prior and informed consent under Wet’suwet’en rule of law, and now is violating B.C laws.”
A request to CGL for comment was not returned by the time of publication.
All five Wet’suwet’en bands have signed agreements with CGL that will provide money and jobs to their members.
But the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, hereditary leaders and others have argued the band councils—which were established by Canada to replace the Wet’suwet’en governance system—the province, and company do not have jurisdiction outside the reserves.
The hereditary chiefs have called the incursion on their territories by CGL and the RCMP an invasion.