Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale) speaking at a rally with chiefs from around B.C. who support hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Northern B.C. First Nation looks ahead after court sides with natural gas company

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wasn’t surprised that the court granted Coastal GasLink an interim injunction

A hereditary chief with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation says the community is expecting further police action after the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in favour of a natural gas company that wants to build a pipeline through its territory.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he wasn’t surprised that the court granted Coastal GasLink an interim injunction against members of the First Nation and others who oppose the pipeline.

The Dec. 31 ruling came just under a year after the RCMP enforced an injunction granted by the same court that drew international attention with the arrest of 14 people on Jan. 7, 2019.

“We do expect the RCMP to bring it to another level. They did it last year, they’ll do it again this year,” he said in a telephone interview.

The RCMP said in a statement that it respects the ruling and the judicial process, but it would not say if or when police would enforce the latest injunction.

“The RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe protest and we are committed to facilitating a dialogue between all parties. We are impartial in this dispute and it is our hope that this can be resolved peacefully,” Corp. Madonna Saunders said.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport natural gas across 670 kilometres from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.

The company has said it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the path, however five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suweten First Nation say the project has no authority without their consent.

Na’moks said the First Nation is also exploring options for court action, including an appeal of the decision and a constitutional challenge.

“We have a number of avenues open to us that we’re looking at right now.”

The latest ruling expands the existing interim injunction.

READ MORE: Injunction granted vs. opponents of Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

Following police enforcement last year, the hereditary chiefs reached an agreement with RCMP that Na’moks said at the time was to ensure the safety of local members. Under the agreement, the company must give the First Nation 24-hour notice of workers entering the site, he said.

The agreement did not represent consent for the project and Na’moks said members remain firm in their opposition.

“Our stance hasn’t changed,” he said Thursday. “Our people have said no to this, so we’ve said no.”

Over the past year, Coastal GasLink has begun what it calls “pre-construction” work at the site, drawing criticism from members of the First Nation who say that work threatens or destroys historic artifacts, trails and hunting grounds.

The company issued a statement following the court ruling saying its work is approved and permitted.

Coastal GasLink will continue trying “to engage with any affected groups to ensure public safety while (its) field crews continue to progress their critical activities,” it said.

Unist’ot’en spokeswoman Freda Huson, who is named in the injunction, said the court decision fails to recognize the authority of Wet’suwet’en law even though the First Nation has never ceded its territory.

According to the decision, Indigenous laws do not become an “effectual part” of Canadian common law or domestic law until there is a means or process to do so that is already recognized by Canadian law, such as through treaties, Aboriginal title declarations in the courts or statutory provisions.

That has not occurred in the Wet’suwet’en case, it said.

Wet’suwet’en title claims have not been resolved by either litigation or negotiation, the decision said.

The court also said some of the constitutional questions posed by the Wet’suwet’en go beyond the scope of the injunction application. It said those questions would have to be determined in a trial.

Huson has lived on the land in question for a decade and what started as a camp now has several permanent structures, including space that is used as a healing centre, which she said she will keep running.

“We’ll continue to exercise Wet’suwet’en law, it’s what has sustained us,” she said.

“We’re not feeling defeated because we know what we’re doing is right.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay teams heading for curling provincials

Team Buchy and Team Nichols won the senior playdowns.

Latest winter storm prompts West Kootenay travel warning

20-30 cm of snow expected overnight and into Thursday

PLACE NAMES: Valley of the Ghosts

A ghostly nickname haunts the stretch between Kaslo and New Denver

Biologist and loggers disagree over Slocan Valley bear den tree

Wayne McCrory wants industry to move a planned road

Downed trees, snow and wind cause headaches across West Kootenay

Almost 40 cm of snow fell over the weekend.

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

B.C. offers $5 million equipment loan program to help ailing forest contractors

Local politicians in Port McNeill and Campbell River says local economies are struggling

Vancouver Island distillery wins award for best Canadian rye whisky

Shelter Point cleans up at Canadian Whisky Awards

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read