First Nation waits on logging road at centre of pipeline dispute in northern B.C.

First Nation waits on logging road at centre of pipeline dispute in northern B.C.

HOUSTON, B.C. — About a dozen supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs arrived to help set up a new camp on the side of a snowy logging road that’s at the centre of a disputed pipeline route in northern British Columbia on Thursday.

They brought with them new supplies, including two-by-fours and wood pallets, and began work erecting a second canvas tent on the site just outside the first of dozens of trees that have been felled across the road leading to a natural gas work site.

Coastal GasLink has provincial approval to build a 670-kilometre pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export terminal in Kitimat, but the chiefs say they won’t allow anyone on the First Nation’s traditional territory without their consent.

Cody Merriman, who is ‘Namgis and also goes by the name Mona’gila, said the supporters are there to ensure an eviction notice issued by the chiefs to Coastal GasLink over the pipeline it is building is respected.

“They made a decision and we’re here to support them in that, to make sure Wet’suwet’en law is enacted and respected,” he said.

They’re also eyes on the ground in case the RCMP begin to enforce an injunction granted to Coastal GasLink against the pipeline opponents, he said.

Coastal GasLink says it’s committed to resolving the dispute through negotiation as long as that is an option, although the hereditary chiefs say they will only meet with provincial and federal government leaders.

The company posted an injunction order online Tuesday, and a copy is pinned to a tree that was felled across the logging road by the Wet’suwet’en, blocking the RCMP and the company from access to the work site.

The RCMP said trees along the Morice West Forest Service Road are a safety hazard because some were partly cut and the wind could cause them to fall without warning.

Officers also found stacked tires covered in tarps and trees with jugs of gasoline, diesel, oil and kindling underneath. The Mounties have started an investigation under the Criminal Code for traps likely to cause bodily harm, they said.

“We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved,” the Mounties said Wednesday. “We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”

Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer called the findings extremely disappointing in a statement Thursday.

“Our primary concern is the safety of all users of this public forestry road, including those who wish to protest our activities. Unlawful actions that put people at risk for serious harm are dangerous, reckless and unacceptable, and do not reflect peaceful protest,” he said.

Company spokeswoman Suzanne Wilton said Wednesday that posting the order, which gives the defendant 72-hours to clear the way before the company is authorized to remove any barriers along the road, was a procedural court requirement.

“This does not indicate a request for enforcement whatsoever. As we have stated, we believe that dialogue is preferable to confrontation while engagement and a negotiated resolution remain possible,” she said in an email.

There was already an enforcement order in place prior to the new posting, she said.

Merriman said Thursday he had no knowledge of the partially cut trees, tires, accelerant or fuel-soaked rags.

Some of the supporters who joined him Thursday drove from neighbouring communities, while others hiked in from camps beyond the felled logs.

Luke Pitzman, who lives about an hour away in Telkwa, said he came to help out at the camp after running into an old friend who is involved.

“I happily volunteered because I care for the environment and I think we’re messing it up,” he said.

Elisa Tomassini, who comes from the Adriatic coast of Italy near Bologna, said she has learned about the conflict since coming to northern British Columbia last year to work as a tree planter.

“I understand it’s important to be here and try to save the environment and the community has a right to stay here,” she said.

An RCMP vehicle patrolled past the site but did not stop.

Officers are stationed at what the RCMP calls a community-industry safety office. An officer declined an interview.

Merriman was part of a group last year that set up an encampment at the 44-kilometre mark on the road where the RCMP enforced a previous injunction granted to Coastal GasLink.

He was there until he saw RCMP officers coming down the road and then he left. His partner Molly Wickham was there too and the couple, who have two children, couldn’t risk two arrests, he said.

Wickham, who is a spokeswoman for the Gidimt’en, which is one of five Wet’suwet’en clans, was among 14 people arrested Jan. 7, 2019.

The fight over territory and land has been going on for hundreds of years, said Merriman, and the process for resolving disputes has to change.

“Unfortunately it’s that time again and I don’t see this fight going away any time soon,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2020.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Pipeline

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

Just Posted

(Black Press file photo.)
Red Deer city council holds closed-door discussion about proposed aquatics centre

Recommended design, cost and location won’t be made public until next spring

A community gathering space was created in front of the new Red Deer Culture Services Centre before the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer’s Culture Services Centre to get additional $4.6 M in renovations

It’s one of many capital projects approved by city council

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, reported an additional 1,307 COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Mayor
Mayor Veer appointed as Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer has been appointed an Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel by… Continue reading

Const. Jason Tress
Mountie testifies another RCMP officer sexually assaulted her at 2012 party

Former Mountie on trial for sexual assault in connection with incident in northwestern Alberta

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

President Donald Trump participates in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump headed to Georgia as runoff boost, but also a threat

Trump headed to Georgia as runoff boost, but also a threat

Flames and exhaust trail behind a Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang'e 5 lunar mission after it lifted off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province, early Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back material from the moon's surface for the first time in more than 40 years — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
China spacecraft lands on moon to bring rocks back to Earth

China spacecraft lands on moon to bring rocks back to Earth

FILE - In this March 16, 2020, file photo, vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19 rest on a lab table at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. An influential scientific panel on Tuesday, Dec. 1, is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: When the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots? (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

This image released by Paramount Network shows, Gil Birmingham, from the series "Yellowstone." Native American tribes and coalitions are condemning “Big Sky,” a Montana-set ABC drama, for ignoring the history of violence inflicted on Indigenous women and instead making whites the crime victims. Native Americans are used to being routinely ignored by American popular culture, with their presence on TV barely a blip as just a handful of shows. Paramount Network's “Yellowstone" includes them. (Emerson Miller/Paramount Network via AP)
‘Big Sky’ producers recognize Native American criticism

‘Big Sky’ producers recognize Native American criticism

This combination photos shows Weixi Chen, left, and Hao Wu, co-directors of the documentary "76 Days." The film, shot in four Wuhan hospitals, captures a local horror before it became a global nightmare. Given the constraints at the time on footage and information from Wuhan, it's a rare window into the infancy of the pandemic. (MTV Documentary Films via AP)
In ‘76 Days,’ a documentary portrait of lockdown in Wuhan

In ‘76 Days,’ a documentary portrait of lockdown in Wuhan

FILE - Elliot Page arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "The Umbrella Academy" on Feb. 12, 2019. Page, the Oscar-nominated actor of “Juno”, “Inception” and “The Umbrella Academy” came out as transgender on Tuesday in an announcement greeted as a watershed moment for the trans community in Hollywood. The 33-year-old actor from Nova Scotia said his decision came after a long journey and with much support from the LGBTQ community. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘All my love, Elliot’: Actor Page comes out as transgender

‘All my love, Elliot’: Actor Page comes out as transgender

This cover image released by Quadrille shows "Pizza: History, recipes, stories, people, places, love" by Thom Elliot and James Elliot. (Quadrille via AP)
Brothers write a love letter to a food we all love – pizza

Brothers write a love letter to a food we all love - pizza

Most Read