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

Dining moose a welcome distraction at Salmon Arm campus

Pair feast on willows, unperturbed by onlookers at Okanagan College

Woman convicted in Salmon Arm love triangle murder granted escorted temporary absences

Monica Sikorski was 17 when she plotted shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Myers

Shuswap’s water rescue crew preparing for frigid temperatures

New training follows Dec. 9 mission to help a man suffering health problems at remote cabin

Shuswap outdoor skating rinks open to public

Rinks in Celista and Silver Creek ready for outdoor fun

Slight drop in annual Salmon Arm bird count, seed sales spike

Shuswap Naturalist Club bird spotters excited to see several owls

Older Canadians highlighted in Kelowna film project to fight ageism

The project is part of a campaign to combat ageism

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Princeton – a Prince Town in waiting?

The Town of Princeton has been waiting 160 years for a Royal… Continue reading

Group builds shelters for Vernon’s stray cats

Twenty insulated cat shelters were constructed by volunteers and delivered around town

UBCO partners with Boeing to test new anti-ice coating technology

The coating could one day be applied to all airplanes to prevent ice buildup

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

True Stories: Okanagan memoir-writers, reading

Reading with local North Okanagan writers Art Dalton, Patti Shales Lefkos, Raven Dahl, Janelle Hardy

Kelowna’s last video store, Leo’s Videos, to remain open despite failed sale

Kelowna’s last video rental store will remain open and under its namesake’s ownership

Most Read