A year after RCMP enforced an injunction and arrested 14 people at Gidimt’en Access Point, a rally was again held in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing Coastal GasLink pipeline today (Jan. 9) outside the Prince George Courthouse.
The rally attended by nearly 50 people was not only held to acknowledge the significant date, but to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who on Jan. 6 served Coastal GasLink an eviction notice requesting the company to vacate their territory.
The company, owned by TC Energy and formerly known as TransCanada, is building a pipeline from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada's export terminal in Kitimat on the coast.
The eviction notice came after the Dec. 31 ruling when Justice Marguerite Church granted Coastal GasLink an interlocutory injunction against members and Wet’suwet’en supporters who oppose the company's natural gas pipeline.
In a statement, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs representing all the First Nation's five clans said they "reject" the B.C. Supreme Court decision.
The First Nation said it's disappointed the court rendered a decision that contradicts Wet'suwet'en law.
“We are concerned they are going to bring guns and execute the same level of violence they put on people last year,” said Vincent Wickham, one of the organizers of the Prince George rally.
The court had granted the company an interim injunction in December 2018 against pipeline opponents and protests erupted around the world when RCMP enforced it in early January, arresting 14 people along a logging road leading to the construction site near Houston, B.C.
The RCMP faced criticism for the strategy to remove the blockade last year, with British media outlet The Guardian recently alleging the RCMP commanders instructed officers to use as much violence as they wanted.
RCMP, however, say the force has started a review of all documents relating to its enforcement of the injunction and has not found any that reflect the statements in the newspaper article
“We want Canada and the government to be paying attention and that everyone is watching,” says Wickham.
Despite the eviction notice, Coastal GasLink posted an injunction order giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way toward its worksite on Tuesday (Jan. 7).
The order requires the defendants to remove any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.
“It is really devastating to see how they are treating the Indigenous people as we activate our land and use our land and get back to our culture and language and way of life. We are treated like terrorists in our own country and our own lands,” says Jennifer Pighin, who is both a member of Lheidli T’enneh and Wet'suwet'en.
“We are here to send our good energy, our support, and raise awareness so that people understand what’s going on because it is really confusing for a lot of people.”
The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the 670-km pipeline route, but the five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs say no one can access the land without their consent.
Pighin says she is regaining her culture through spending time on Wet’suwet’en territory.
“When I step my feet on that ground I have this overwhelming feeling of just belonging and imaging all of my ancestors being with me. I want to feel that again with it being untouched. If you go to that same place and industry has plowed through — it’s not the same.”
- with files from The Canadian Press