Coastal GasLink not complying with "eviction" notice

CGL blockades puts "good faith commitments" with Wet'suwet'en at risk: solicitor general

As of October 29, 100% of the CGL pipeline right-of-way was cleared and 50% of the project was completed. | Submitted

TC Energy (TSX:TRP) says Coastal GasLink pipeline work crews in the Morice River area have not been evacuated in response to an “eviction” enforcement notice served by the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

But now those workers could be at risk of running short of supplies, as roads have recently been blockaded, despite assurances from Houston RCMP that roads would be kept open.

B.C.'s Public Safety minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has now weighed in on the "criminal actions" of protesters, saying the Gidimt’en blockades not only puts workers at risk, but also puts the "good faith commitments" his government made with the Wet'suwet'en to address rights and title issues at risk as well.

On Sunday, members of the Gidimt’en clan said they were enforcing an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink pipeline construction crews.

"The Morice River FSR (forest service road) has been disabled, blocking trespassers from our yintah!" the clan says in a Facebook post.

In a press release issued Sunday, TC Energy said public statements suggesting TC Energy was planning to comply with the eviction notice are false.

“We want to correct false reports that were made about Coastal GasLink issuing a mandatory evacuation of the workforce and that Coastal GasLink requested time to comply with the eviction notice,” the company press release states.

“These statements are false, as is a document that was posted online purporting to be authored by Coastal GasLink.

TC Energy says a BC Supreme Court injunction issued against pipeline protesters in 2020 is still in effect, making any attempts to block roads for accessing work sites illegal.

However, it appears the RCMP have not been fully enforcing the injunction.

Houston RCMP said in a statement that arrests were made on October 27, after attempts to end the most recent road blockades peacefully failed.

“On the evening of October 27, 2021, the RCMP were called to the blockade on Shea Forest Service Road to assist with keeping the peace as CGL workers evacuated the worker’s camp,” the Houston RCMP statement reads.

“During the course of the evening, 2 individuals were arrested.”

One of those arrested had an outstanding criminal code theft and mischief charges, the RCMP said, while the other was found to be in possession of “several stolen items from CGL equipment.”

“Police will be proactively patrolling the forestry roads to ensure they remain open and unobstructed,” the RCMP news release stated on October 28.

But as of Monday, it became clear the RCMP have not kept the roads open and unobstructed, as promised.

As of Monday, three new "illegal blockades" were set up on the Morice River public forest service road that have blocked all exits and access to two work lodges housing more than 500 workers, according to TC Energy.

"There are safety hazards on the forest service road resulting from felled trees," the company said.

"These unlawful actions have put our people in danger, stranding them at work lodges where supplies will run out in the coming days and limiting their access to medical care in the event of an emergency.

"We have made the RCMP aware of our concern about the safety of our workers due to these unlawful actions, the latest in a series of illegal opposition activity."

Farnworth has now weighed in, warning that the blockades are a public safety risk.

"Yesterday's blockades of the Morice River Forest Service Road have put at risk emergency access and the delivery of critical services to more than 500 Coastal GasLink workers, and the good faith commitments made between the Office of the Wet'suwet'en and the Province of B.C. to develop a new relationship based on respect," Farnworth said.

He was referring to a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2020 with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en by the federal and provincial governments to address rights and title and self-governance.

"This fall, in response to protests and police enforcement of the injunction related to the pipeline project, the government engaged former President of the Haida Nation, Order of Canada recipient and respected Indigenous leader Miles Richardson as an interlocutor to encourage dialogue among the parties," Farnworth said. "Unfortunately, despite our government's best efforts, these initiatives have not been successful."

Attempts to blockade roads and bridges to halt work on the $6.8 billion natural gas pipeline project went quiet for a time during the pandemic, but have resumed in recent weeks.

Elected band councils of the Wet’suwet’en formally support the pipeline’s construction, which provides First Nations along the route of the pipeline with community benefits agreements.

But some pipeline opponents within the Wet’suwet’en have never supported the project and have repeatedly attempted to halt work on it through road and bridge blockades.

“In addition to blockades, heavy equipment has been damaged and stolen, including by force, at multiple locations,” TC Energy says in its news release.

"Blockades have now been established by project opponents in violation of the current court injunction," Farnworth said. "Obstructions on the roads have effectively cut off safe access, support and security for more than 500 workers.

"Our government is concerned about the health, safety and well-being of those workers as the obstructions on the roads prevent access in and out of the worksites. The right to protest does not extend to criminal actions."

Editor's note:This story has been updated with additional information from TC Energy and comments from Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv