A red dress attached to the 44 km marker of the Morice River Forest Service Road, where a Wet’suwet’en clan has erected a gate. The dress represents missing and murdered women. (Gitdumden Clan photo)

Gate south of Houston remains in place

Wet’suwet’en chief says the purpose of the gate is “safety”

A gate erected south of Houston by a Wet’suwet’en clan remained in place last week.

The gate, located at the 44 km mark of the Morice River Forest Service Road, belongs to the Casayex (Grizzly House) of the Wet’suwet’en [Gitdumden clan], according to the Ministry of Forests.

Ministry officials did a site visit to the gate on June 27, delivering a letter requesting the gate be removed because it is an unauthorized structure.

Jeremy Uppenborn, a ministry spokesperson, said last week that ministry staff have since received a response from the Wet’suwet’en.

Although ministry staff and Wet’suwet’en representatives had a” preliminary, introductory conversation” about the gate, Uppenborn said the intended purpose of the gate remains unclear to the ministry.

“In the coming weeks, ministry staff will be exploring the possibility of working with the Wet’suwet’en to address their concerns,” said Uppenborn, noting there are plans to have “deeper conversations” about the gate in the near future.

In the meantime, the gate will remain open, he said.

Wet’suwet’en Chief John Ridsdale (Na’moks) told Black Press last week the purpose of the gate is “safety”.

“Coastal GasLink workers are speeding by, and there are children and adults there,” said Ridsdale, adding the company is not properly monitoring workers.

Coastal GasLink spokesperson Suzanne Wilton said nothing matters more to the company than safety, including the safety of the public.

“We encourage anyone with concerns to bring them forward to us,” said Wilton, adding their employees and contractors are expected to adhere to the rules of the road set out under provincial legislation.

Ridsdale said last week there are no plans to remove gate.

A statement from Coastal GasLink in July acknowledged the gate, stating company vehicles and contractors had not been impeded from accessing the construction sites.

RCMP are also aware of the gate, said Corporal Madonna Saunderson in July.

Saunderson said a court injunction granted last year to Coastal GasLink preventing interference with work along the pipeline’s right of way remains in place, and that police will respond to calls for service regarding any actions that are contrary to the court’s direction.

RCMP officers in early January enforced that injunction, arresting 14 people at another location, a gate erected by the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en. Those people were subsequently released with no further court action and Coastal GasLink has been continuing work since then.

The Morice River Forest Service Road – used by the public, industry and government – is a key access route for Coastal GasLink’s contractors to the natural gas pipeline’s right of way, where pre-construction activity has accelerated leading to construction of the pipeline beginning next year.

– With files from Rod Link

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