No! to a Coastal GasLink Pipeline on Their Territory"> No! to a Coastal GasLink Pipeline on Their Territory">

Wet'suwet'en People Continue to Say No! to a Coastal GasLink Pipeline on Their Territory

Since the beginning of the year, the Wet'suweten have stepped up their defence of their traditional territories in the face of increased provocations by the colonial courts and the BC government. The hereditary chiefs of the five clans that constitute the Wet'suwet'en people issued and enforced an eviction order against Coastal GasLink (CGL) from their territory. CGL has received government approval to build a 670-kilometre natural-gas pipeline from west of Dawson Creek, BC, to a liquefied-natural-gas export facility near Kitimat, in violation of the Wet'suwet'en's sovereign right to refuse such activity on their unceded lands. The last CGL contractor was escorted out by the Wet'suwet'en on January 4.

These actions were taken in rejection of a December 31, 2019 ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church granting CGL an interlocutory injunction against the Wet'suweten blocking CGL's entry into their territory.[1] This injunction extends an interim injunction, in effect during 2019, for the duration of the construction project and includes an order providing the RCMP with power to enforce it.

In a press release issued at the time of the eviction, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs stated: "Canada's courts have acknowledged in Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa v. The Queen that the Wet'suwet'en people, represented by our hereditary chiefs, have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000 square kilometres of Wet'suwet'en territory. The granting of the interlocutory injunction by BC's Supreme Court has proven to us that Canadian courts will ignore their own rulings and deny our jurisdiction when convenient, and will not protect our territories or our rights as Indigenous peoples."[2]

Following the eviction notice to CGL, the hereditary chiefs explained: "Coastal Gaslink has violated the Wet'suwet'en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps. Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet'suwet'en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony."

The hereditary chiefs called out the hypocrisy of the Province of British Columbia for adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), while the Wet'suwet'en are actively denied the protections of UNDRIP on their own lands. "When we enforced our own laws and required that industry seek Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for development on our lands we faced a brutal display of militaristic police violence and an ongoing police occupation of our territories," they said. This was in reference to the RCMP paramilitary operation of January 7, 2019, that brutally attacked the Gidumt'en checkpoint to the Unist'ot'en camp, arresting 14 land defenders, to enforce the interim injunction.

The hereditary chiefs also noted: "We have learned, through the reporting of the Guardian, that RCMP are prepared to kill unarmed Wet'suwet'en people if we continue to uphold our laws."

The statement also emphasized: "Anuc 'nu'at'en (Wet'suwet'en law) is not a 'belief' or a 'point of view.' It is a way of sustainably managing our territories and relations with one another and the world around us, and it has worked for millennia to keep our territories intact. Our law is central to our identity. The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada's courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet'suwet'en identity itself."

A year after the RCMP assault on Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders on their traditional territory in northern BC, the institutions of colonial injustice continue to refuse to respect the hereditary rights and title of the Wet'suwet'en. Both the federal and provincial governments, in spite of high-sounding phrases about reconciliation and nation-to-nation relations, insist that this is a "law and order" matter. The NDP Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, arrogantly refused to meet with hereditary leaders on a recent trip to northern BC and has repeated that "there are agreements from the Peace Country to Kitimat with Indigenous communities that want to see economic activity and prosperity take place [...] All the permits are in place for this project to proceed. This project is proceeding and the rule of law needs to prevail in BC." The agreements that the premier referenced with Indigenous communities are deals struck with elected band councils on the pipeline route that were established under the racist and colonial Indian Act precisely to accomplish assimilation and dispossession of the original peoples.

Premier Hogan claims that the current stand off, the RCMP blockade, threat of escalating violence and use of force is about "the rule of law." In fact it is about negating by force Wet'suwet'en sovereignty and Wet'suwet'en law and imposing the dictate of CGL to construct its pipeline and get on with a $40 billion liquefied natural gas mega-project.

The Wet'suwet'en have rejected the criminalization of their hereditary rights and their sovereignty. They are affirming their sovereign right to say No! to entry without consent. No! to the dictate of monopolies like CGL. No! to the illegitimate use of force and violence by the police, the courts and other institutions of the racist, colonial Canadian state. Their stand is that negotiations to resolve the conflict must be held between the hereditary chiefs and the governments of British Columbia and Canada, not with the RCMP or CGL.

Over the past year, the level of public support, understanding and acknowledgment of the significance of this opposition by Indigenous nations and others to the old colonial arrangements, has grown and grown. The eyes of people in Canada and around the world have been on the developing situation. In December 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, meeting in Geneva at its 100th session, issued a decision which called upon the "state party" to suspend construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Site C dam, and "to immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet'suwet'en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult," and specifically that the RCMP should be withdrawn from the traditional territories. In their decision the UN Committee found that there had been refusal, on the part of the state "to consider free, prior and informed consent as a requirement for any measure, such as large-scale development projects, that may cause irreparable harm to Indigenous peoples rights, culture, lands, territories and way of life."

The Wet'suwet'en have continued to put their fight before the Canadian people who have responded in their thousands in support of the principled stand of the hereditary chiefs and the clan houses to uphold their hereditary laws and rights. Most recently actions were organized across Canada and Quebec during the week of January 7-12 under the banner "All Eyes on Wet'suwet'en" to ensure that people spoke out in their own name and the colonial state was not allowed a free hand to criminalize and attack the Wet'suwet'en for their just stands.

The situation brings into sharp relief the battle lines that are being drawn across Canada between the governments of the financial oligarchies that have usurped political power on one side and the Indigenous peoples, working class, women and youth, and all fighting collectives for their rights on the other.

Canada must respect the hereditary, constitutional and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples in order to affect real reconciliation and make right the centuries of wrong that the racist colonial state has carried out against the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

No to the Criminalization of the Wet'suwet'en People's
Defence of Their Hereditary Rights!
End Colonial Injustice!


1. Interlocutory is a legal term which can refer to an order, sentence, decree, or judgment, that is provisional; temporary; not final. Something intervening between the commencement and the end of a suit which decides some point or matter, but is not a final decision of the whole controversy. (Black's Law Dictionary)

2. It was the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en and the Gitksan who launched what became known as the Delgamuukw case, a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the hereditary chiefs' pursuit of a legal and political settlement of their grievances and recognition of their rights. In 1977, the Wet'suwet'en and Gitksan Chiefs' claim over their traditional territory was accepted by the Federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs as a foundation for negotiating a "comprehensive claim" under the federal treaty process. The province refused to participate in negotiations and after five years with no progress, the chiefs took their case for the recognition they had been denied since 1860 to the courts. The attempt by some forces to characterize the hereditary chiefs as "rogue elements" or the dispute as narrow and short-lived, is shameful in the extreme.

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 1 - January 25, 2020

Article Link:
Wet'suwet'en People Continue to Say No! to a Coastal GasLink Pipeline on Their Territory - Philip Fernandez and Barbara Biley


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