Coastal GasLink has evacuated its work site near Houston following an eviction notice issued by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs Jan. 4 at around 4 p.m.
Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) said company security guards at the site initially refused the notice, but later abided by it.
“They sent notice out to us that first they weren’t accepting it because they didn’t have authority, but I guess they talked to their higher ups and they were advised to vacate the camp and as they were the last people in camp we stayed there until they went past us and then we followed them out.”
Following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling Dec. 31 to extend a temporary injunction allowing the company access to the site, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs decided to exercise Wet’suwet’en law, Na’moks said.
“The eviction is now in force,” he said. “British Columbia through their courts said that they were exercising their laws, well, we as hereditary chiefs, we exercised ours, we gave them an eviction.”
Last January following the arrests of 14 people who were denying access to the site on a bridge on the Morice River Forest Service Road, the chiefs agreed to abide by a temporary injunction allowing access to CGL contractors, which they have for almost a year.
He said there are now people monitoring the checkpoint to see if the company and the RCMP will respect the eviction.
“There were caveats in [the access agreement] which CGL has broken numerous times, now with the ruling from Judge Church… where she said she would enforce the interlocutory injunction until a new trial, that left us the option of giving them an eviction notice and it is to see how far they’re willing to move in because there was no free, prior and informed consent from us at all.”
He would not say whether they would try to enforce the eviction and block CGL workers from coming back.
This morning (Jan. 5) the company said it had been notified on Jan. 3, the day before the eviction notice, that the Unist’ot’en (Dark House) was terminating an access agreement negotiated last year after the arrests.
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 in a Jan. 5 press release.
“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.
“Over the past year, Coastal GasLink has repeatedly requested face-to-face meetings with the Unist’ot’en and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, but these requests have either been ignored or rejected by these groups.
“Our top priority is the safely of all users of the public roads in the Morice River area. We respect the rights of others to peacefully and lawfully express their point of view, as long as their activities do not disrupt or jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees and contractors, or the protesters themselves.”
The company said it discovered Sunday morning trees had been felled across the Morice River Forest Service Road at Kilometre 39.
It is unknown who is responsible for blocking the road.
“All we know is that access is shut down to the public,” said a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Clan.
The Interior News has reached out to the RCMP for comment.
Last week, Na’Moks told the Canadian Press the hereditary chiefs are considering further action in the courts. He told The Interior News Jan. 4 they will consider all options up to and including a challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
“That is one of the options, but currently we would prefer they would speak to the proper rights and title holders, who are ourselves,” he said.
“They keep on saying they had consultation, but there’s never been any with the hereditary chiefs. They go to elected forms of government and the elected forms have no jurisdiction on our lands.”
He added the recent B.C. Supreme Court decision opens up the constitutional avenue because it contavenes the 1997 SCC ruling in Delgamuukw-Gisday’way. The landmark Delgamuukw-Gisdayway case was a challenge to the 1991 B.C. Supreme Court ruling that Indigenous rights and title were legally extinguished when British Columbia became part of Canada in 1871.
The Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en appealed and eventually the SCC ruled treaty rights could not be extinguished, confirmed oral testimony is a legitimate form of evidence and stated Indigenous title rights include not only land, but the right to extract resources from the land.
That, Na’Moks said, was ignored in the Dec. 31 decision.
“In the affadavits we had talked of history and [Justice Church] pretty much dismissed it, which is… against what Delgamuuk-Gisday’way said; [the SCC] accepted our oral history, our testimony and our form of governance and Judge Church did not really look into that at all. Basically from the very beginning it was Coastal GasLink and she accepted and stated that her priority was to accept the permits that were issued. Well, we never issued the permits, we never agreed to any of it.”