Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs call it an eviction; Coastal GasLink describes it more as a holiday.
While work stopped over the Christmas holidays on the $6.2 billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in an area where some members of the Wet’suwet’en have been trying to halt the project, the company says workers went home for the holidays, and will be back to work this week.
Protestors have described the situation in terms of an eviction.
“Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued an eviction notice to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company,” states a press release issued by the Unist’ot’en, one of the clans within the Wet’suwet’en.
But a recent BC Supreme Court ruling indicates the court does not recognize the hereditary chiefs to have any legal authority to interfere with Coastal GasLink workers, some of whom are Wet'suwet'en contractors.
"The defendants may genuinely believe in their rights under indigenous law to prevent the plaintiff from entering Dark House territory, but the law does not recognize any right to blockade and obstruct the plaintiff from pursuing lawfully authorized activities," writes Justice Marguerite Church in her December 31, 2019 decision granting Coastal GasLink an interlocutory injunction.
In addition to the injunction, Church also granted an enforcement order "to provide a mandate to the RCMP to enforce the terms of the order."
A group of First Nations known as the Unist’ot’en have been trying to block a number of pipeline projects for close to a decade, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline. They have been joined by a number of other groups within the Wet'suwet'en. The protestors say hereditary chiefs from all five houses of the Wet'suwet'en oppose the project.
There is a division within the Wet'suwet'en, with some hereditary chiefs at odds with elected band councils that support the project and have signed benefits agreements with the company.
According to Coastal GasLink, work on the pipeline will resume this week.
"Clearing, grading, workforce accommodation establishment and other activities are expected to continue as scheduled across the route," the company stated in a release.
"Pipe delivery also resumes this week, with continued receipt of materials at various storage sites, including north of Kitimat. Most field construction activities were paused from Dec. 20 to Jan. 5, 2020 due to the holidays, with limited security and maintenance."