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The first case — launched by all clans of the Wet’suwet’en, acting in unity — seeks a judicial review of Coastal Gas Link’s environmental assessment based on at least 50 permit violations by the company, along with a failure to implement recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls.
“Coastal GasLink has repeatedly flouted the conditions that were spelled out in their previous certificate, and shown only contempt for our people. My cousins are listed among the Murdered and Missing Women and Girls (MMIWG), BC must not be allowed to bend the rules to facilitate operations that are a threat to the safety of Wet’suwet’en women.”
In the second case, Two Wet’suwet’en Houses, through their Hereditary Chiefs, put forward the argument that Canada has a constitutional duty to protect its citizens from climate catastrophe, and draws a line against reckless fossil fuel developments that will push us past the tipping point.
With this novel approach, Wet’suwet’en Likhts’amishyu (Fireweed) Clan’s case invokes Constitutional provisions about “peace, order and good government” as well as the equality rights of Wet’suwet’en young people and future generations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The legal challenge argues that Canada’s failure to do its fair share to avert a climate catastrophe would breach the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“The climate crisis is already hitting our House territories hard. You only have to look at the shrinking Hudson Bay Mountain glacier and count the salmon. If Canada is allowed to continue approving infrastructure for fracked gas projects on a 40-year timeline, our territories will become a wasteland before the project licenses expire.”
The Wet’suwet’en launched two separate legal actions in February 2020.
Legal action No. 1, supported by Hereditary Chiefs representing all the five Clans of the Wet’suwet’en, seeks a Judicial Review of a project extension for Coastal Gas Link’s pipeline, granted by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office last October. The Chiefs are asking the Court to cancel the extension because B.C. failed to properly assess the Coastal Gas Link project’s potential harms, including the risk of increased gender-based violence caused by transient workers and industrial camps, in accordance with the findings and calls to action of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This is based on the Inquiry’s final report of June 2019 which found that resource extraction is linked to spikes in violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, and called on governments to conduct a gender-based harms analysis prior to approving projects.
Legal action No. 2 is a Constitutional challenge asking the Federal Court to declare that Canada has a constitutional duty to keep the country’s greenhouse gas emissions well within the Paris Agreement limit of 2 ̊C above pre-industrial levels. On behalf of Wet’suwet’en youth and future generations, this action also argues that Canada’s failure to do its fair share to avert a climate catastrophe would breach the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If successful, the lawsuit could lead to far-reaching changes to Canada’s environmental legislation. It would enable the federal cabinet to cancel approvals previously given to fossil fuel projects such as the LNG export facilities and pipelines proposed for Wet’suwet’en Territories and the northwest B.C. region. The cancellations would kick in if it becomes clear that Canada will fail to meet its Paris global warming commitment.
The Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (Chiefs) wholeheartedly oppose the CNG project, which aims to blaze a trail through Wet’suwet’en territory and turn pristine forests and salmon streams into a fossil fuel corridor. Coastal GasLink has already bulldozed through Wet’suwet’en territories, destroying archaeological sites and occupying their land with industrial man-camps.
If CGL were to be built and become operational, it would irreversibly transform the ecology and character of northern B.C. It would also lock in decades of fossil fuel extraction at a time when scientists are warning of untold suffering unless all nations rapidly scale down production of fossil fuels.
About the pipeline: Coastal Gas Link is proposing a 670-km pipeline carrying fracked gas from Dawson Creek to a proposed LNG facility in Kitimat. The pipeline is owned by TransCanada, the same corporation funding the Keystone XL and Energy East Pipeline projects.
Coastal Gas Link is part of a recently-approved $40 billion LNG Canada project which is the single largest private sector investment in Canadian history. The Malaysian company Petronas, which abandoned its own Pacific NorthWest LNG project when faced with First Nations opposition (link to victories page), has a 25% stake in LNG Canada.
According to the Pembina Institute, LNG Canada’s carbon footprint would be 8.6 million tonnes (Mt) by 2030, making it impossible to achieve even the targets mandated BC’s recently-weakened climate legislation. Another concern is the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) used to obtain the gas, which pollutes groundwater and causes large amounts of methane to escape into the atmosphere, which has a serious impact on our climate and public health. The pipeline will cross hundreds of salmon-bearing streams, terminating in an LNG liquefaction and export facility in the Skeena River estuary.
Read the statement of claim of Likhts’amisyu clan: https://raventrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Likhtsamisyu-SoC-Feb-10-2020-signed-1.pdf