Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en say they expect the enforcement of a Dec. 31, 2019 B.C. Supreme Court injunction related to their dispute with Coastal GasLink (CGL) is imminent.
Meeting with supporters and members of the media at an encampment just past the 39 kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road on Feb. 5, hereditary chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) said it was unfortunate that talks between the hereditary chiefs and the Province came to an end.
“There was a message sent to the government and [CGL] stated because there was no progress on the discussion that … B.C. walk away,” said Na’Moks.
He said the decision was made when it became clear the chiefs would remain steadfast in their opposition to CGL development on their unceded territory.
“It’s because we will not grant access,” he said. “They wanted access to the land and we said you’re not getting access, you’ll never get approval, not from the hereditary chiefs and not from our people.”
On Feb. 5 the RCMP asked supporters to vacate the area, seemingly in anticipation of enforcing the injunction.
The RCMP have said if supporters do not leave they will be arrested but added if arrests are made there are “peaceful options that will require a minimal use of force.”
Despite these calls, there was an air of positivity at encampments located near the 27 and 39-kilometre points of the road as supporters shared laughs, stories and conversation throughout the day.
Speaking to a number of supporters sipping coffee and tea around a campfire Na’Moks said it was ironic that they were still so embroiled in an issue of rights and title with a province that his flaunted itself as the first place in Canada to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law.
“The Premier of this province said that this project was pre-UNDRIP and yet they tout themselves as standing up for Indigenous rights, for human rights?” said Na’Moks.
He said while the injunction comes from a Canadian court, it does not supercede Wet’suwet’en law.
“The law that they follow with this injunction is an introduced law,” said Na’Moks. “Our law is thousands of years old, it is strong, it will remain and it will always be there.”
Na’Moks also expressed disappointment in Justin Trudeau for not agreeing to meet with the chiefs.
“When they say that they’re going to have the best relationship with Indigenous people and then they ignore the Indigenous people, that is not fair, that is not proper and it most certainly is not respectful.”
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have maintained their opposition to the project is rooted in a deep respect for the land they call home and a fear the CGL development could have irreversible impacts on what Na’Moks called one of the few places left in the world that is an example of pristine, untouched wilderness.
“We’ll never put a price tag on our land, our air, our water, our rights and title nor our future generations,” he said.
“There are places on this planet that should not be touched, and this is one of them.”