We need all hands on deck to support the Wet’suwet’en, whose rights and title to their unceded territory in northern British Columbia are at risk.
On December 31, 2019, the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en nation who have been stewarding and protecting their traditional territories from Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline. In response, Hereditary Chiefs have issued and enforced an eviction of CGL’s workers from the territory. Despite this, Coastal GasLink has stated they will move forward with construction.
Today marks the first day of the International Week of Action in support of Wet’suwet’en. We are writing to call on Coastal Gas Link that they need to respect the inherent Indigenous rights and title of the Wet’suwet’en, and to defer to their injunction against CGL presence on their territory, at least until the underlying issues have been fully litigated.
Coastal GasLink does not have the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Wet’suwet’en Clans and Houses on their unceded traditional territory. While the Supreme Court recently granted the injunction Coastal GasLink sought in order to forcibly impose the project on Wet’suwet’en lands, according to legal experts, the injunction itself is likely to be at odds with the letter and spirit of Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Delgamuukw and Tsilhqot’in actions. (https://www.firstpeopleslaw.com/index/articles/381.php).
Namely, the Delgamuukw decision recognized that Aboriginal title had never been extinguished across 22,000 km2 of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, while Tsilhqot’in emphasized that title holder standing is determined by each Indigenous Nation regardless of any Indian Act band structure. What’s more, British Columbia recently adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The Act gives effect to the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, which prohibits forcible removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands or territories.
The world is watching.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued an “Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure” requesting that construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Tankers Expansion Project, Site C Dam and Coastal GasLink cease immediately, unless free prior and informed consent is achieved. The UN Committee urged Canada to “immediately cease forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en peoples and urges Canada to guarantee that no force will be used against Wet’suwet’en peoples, and that the RCMP withdraw from traditional lands; and prohibit use of lethal weapons against Indigenous peoples.”
The Wet’suwet’en people, under the governance of their hereditary chiefs, are opposing the largest fracking project in Canadian history. The Coastal Gas Link pipeline (CGL), owned by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) aims to connect the fracking operations of Northeastern B.C. with a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in the coastal town of Kitimat. This project aims to blaze a trail that would turn pristine forests and salmon streams into a fossil fuel corridor. If CGL were to be built and become operational, it would irreversibly transform the ecology and character of Northern B.C. They are asking for urgent assistance from allies so they can push back against industry occupation on their lands. Coastal Gas Link would be permitted to (drill, build roads, erect construction camps and import hundreds of migrant workers) to build a fracked gas pipeline.